Khasakha farm­ers see good ap­ple sea­son

Bhutan Times - - Home - Lhakpa Tsh­er­ing

The ap­ple sea­son this year has started on a hope­ful note. The qual­ity of the fruits has im­proved, the de­mand is in­creas­ing, and the price is good.

And the mood of the farm­ers of Khasakha vil­lage in Thim­phu who de­pend on ap­ple as their main source of in­come is all up­beat.

Ap Sangchu, an ap­ple grower from the vil­lage says he doesn’t have many trees but, since pro­duc­tion is bet­ter this year, he ex­pects to sell more than 100 boxes this year. He sold only 80 boxes last year.

In 2015, a box of ap­ples fetched Nu.700. This year, a box is sell­ing for at least Nu. 950. Some get even Nu. 1,100 a box, ac­cord­ing to Ap Sangchu who as­sumes that this year’s high price is ow­ing to a lower ap­ple pro­duc­tion in Kash­mir in In­dia.

Bhutan’s ap­ples com­pete in the mar­ket with those from Kash­mir each year. When the pro­duc­tion in Kash­mir is good, the Bhutanese ap­ples get edged out.

Ap Dendup, 76, an­other farmer from Khasakha vil­lage, also hopes to in­crease his in­come from ap­ples. He has about 80 ap­ple trees but some trees don’t bear fruits.

The ma­jor ex­port mar­kets for the Bhutanese ap­ples are Bangladesh and In­dia. The ap­ples are trans­ported by trucks to Phuntshol­ing and sold to con­trac­tors from out­side who give them the high­est price.

Ap­ple pro­duc­tion re­quires many hours of labour, de­pend­ing on the size of the or­chard. The or­chard also re­quires wa­ter sup­ply a min­i­mum of three times in a year for good fruition.

The short­age of run­ning wa­ter and la­bor is a big chal­lenge for the peo­ple liv­ing in Khasakha. And Ap Dendup faces this chal­lenge every year.

And wa­ter short­age is com­pounded by short­age of la­bor. Ap Sangchu said the Bhutanese hands are few and far be­tween and ex­pen­sive. Each has to be paid Nu. 300 per day which is higher than the na­tional wage rate. If they are not served meals, the wage has to be in­creased to Nu. 350.

Kin­ley, 18, a class VI grad­u­ate from Tala, has been pick­ing ap­ples in Khasakha vil­lage for about a week. He, how­ever, doesn’t know how much he would be paid be­cause it would de­pend on the out­come of his work.

The peo­ple of Khasakha vil­lage ex­pect the gov­ern­ment to main­tain the three­k­ilo­me­ter farm road for bet­ter trans­porta­tion. The road was built by vil­lager them­selves.

Ap­ple has been the vil- lage’s eco­nomic main­stay.

Apart from ap­ple pro­duc­tion, a few farm­ers from the vil­lage sup­ple­ment their in­come through the sale of veg­eta­bles, rice, gro­cery and taxi.

Khasakha is one of the big­gest chi­wogs in Me­wong Ge­wog. Home to about 600 peo­ple liv­ing in 130 house­holds, they de­pend on ap­ple and veg­eta­bles for cash in­come.

His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo granted land kidu to the Ti­betan refugees who set­tled in the vil­lage.

Khasakha vil­lage, which mea­sures 41 acres in to­tal size, was started in 1967. It is 20 kilo­me­ters from Thim­phu city on the Thim­phu-Phuntshol­ing high­way.

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