Khasakha farmers see good apple season
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.