… yield infected by fruit fly larvae

Choki Wangmo | Tsirang

Mandarin growers in Tsirang and Dagana reported a bumper harvest after three years. However, a disease outbreak a month before the harvest season damaged most of the produce.

According to farmers, a maggot-like worm infected the fruits after which they fell to the ground and became inedible.

Sangay Sherpa from Gangzur, Tsendagang in Dagana dumped 5,000 infected fruits. He said that if not for the disease outbreak, he might be able to earn one million from his more than three acres of mandarin orchard.

“Compared with the last three years, the harvest improved this year and the prices were good too,” he said.

He earned Nu 400,000 from the harvest compared with half the earnings last year. Lockdowns, labour shortages, and challenges in transporting mandarins to border towns affected businesses in the last three years. “The yield was also bad.”

The harvest season, he said will be completed by this month’s end.

Dil Kumar Das from Tsirang said that most of his harvest rot on the ground. The outbreak since last year, he said, affected the yield.

“I harvested a DCM truck full of mandarin in 2021 but only a Bolero pickup full this year,” he said.

There was a slight increase in the produce harvested compared with last year but the produce was infected by diseases.

He said that it could be a result of changing environmental conditions but there were visible signs of a decline in production. “We sprayed chemical fertilisers twice a harvest season in the past but this year we couldn’t get the fertilisers at the agriculture extension office,” he alleged, adding that the farmers were even willing to buy fertilisers to save their harvest.

Upon the advice of the agriculture officials, he carried out management works such as grafting that helped revive the cash crop for a few years but was unsustainable.

He has more than an acre of an orchard at Pemashong, Mendrelgang.

Dhan Kumar Neopani from Gosarling said that the production and prices had improved this year. He sold his three acres of the mandarin harvest to contractors for more than Nu 300,000. “During the pandemic, it was difficult to get Nu 200,000 even.”

Dil Bdr Limbu from Dzomlingthang said that not many in his chiwog are into citrus cultivation due to disease outbreaks. “Most of them had cleared their orchard.”

An agriculture extension officer in Tsirang said that the infection was caused by a pest called fruit fly larvae which affects production. To control the infection, he said that the farmers should collect the infected fruits and bury it. “But our farmers do not practice that.”

Another method of control is through a chemical spray, he said.

The price , however, was lucrative this year, Dil Bdr Limbu added.

The mandarin exporters, however, said the export price has decreased this year. They could sell a box of mandarin at Nu 1,500 to Nu 1,600 compared with Nu 1,800 a box last year.

This, they attribute to the fall in the dollar exchange rate in Bangladesh.