Although it is peak mandarin season, orchards in Tsirang are already empty. Most farmers have sold their produce.

But for those who continue to sell, prices have dropped to less than Nu 4 an orange. The reduced yield resulting in lower price left many farmers disappointed.

Farmers say they fetch less because the exporters’ depot in Gelephu is closed and the Food Corporation of Bhutan (FCB) auction yard is the only market.

A farmer Bedha Nidhi Koirala, has about 170 trees in his orchard. The orchard until last year was sold at not less than Nu 170,000.  This year, he sold at Nu 90,000.

He said with reduced yield, his mandarin couldn’t fetch a good price this year.

Mandarin farmers were however expecting a better price given the drop in yield.

Farmers suspect that it could be the size and colour of the fruit that reduced the price.

Another farmer, Bal Bahadur Subba received a slightly better price, as he waited until the last moment.

Bal Bahadur has about 110 orange trees in Kilkhorthang. The orchard fetched him Nu 125,000 this year, Nu 15,000 lesser than last year.

“Although the price is better than others, it’s disappointing since mandarin is our only source of income,” he said.

One of the reasons farmers cite for the reduced price is the size and quantity of the produce from old fruit-bearing trees.

Most trees in Bal Bahadur’s orchard are more than 40-years-old. He tried planting new trees a few years ago but they did not survive. “Old trees give better fruit than new ones but the quality is deteriorating,” he said.

Farmers take their produce to FCB auction yard in Gelephu besides selling it to agents who come to book the orchards.

A farmer, Manju Pradhan from Gakidling in Sarpang, brought her oranges for sale at Gelephu FCB. She had 5,400 pieces of orange and sold for Nu 27,900. ‘‘It is my fourth time and Nu 6 is the highest an orange fetched,” she said.

Nu 9 for an orange was the highest price recorded so far in Gelephu auction yard.

Auctioning began in November where 3,370kgs of orange were auctioned. In December, sale increased to 317,616kgs. This month 154,128kgs have been sold.

Officials at the auction yard in Gelephu say few farmers are still bringing oranges to auction but the quantity has dropped compared to the past. A comparative figure on quantity production will be available when the mandarin season is over.

Nirmala Pokhrel | Tsirang