Dark days for Citrus Growers
As a boy, I used to run up and down the hill, through terraces of sun-kissed citrus trees. Ever since I remember, I worked in the orchard with my parents planting mandarins in summer, picking up the fruits and carrying it for market in homemade bamboo basket. As I joined my Bachelors in agriculture, I realized that the most part of the farm in which I lived was disappearing, production was declining. Not only my farm, now whole Nepal’s citrus farm lies in peril and citrus grower’s livelihood is in jeopardy. Some of the reason behind the decline are Phypthopthora disease, citrus greening disease, citrus Tristiza disease, poor orchard management and low quality planting materials. These reasons of decline are bringing dark days among citrus growers in Nepal.
Farm, My Love
I am Madan Poudel, 23 years old citriculture entrepreneur. My farm lies in rural village located 30 KM west of Pokhara which is a favorite destination of tourists and mandarin is a major product from my district. In my orchard I have 150 mandarin plants and 50 other citrus plants spread in the 1.5 ha of land. My mandarin plants haven’t received any external fertilizers and agro-chemicals except bordeaux mixture. We have large patch of land covered with forest and we make compost manures out of collected plant leaves and debris mixing with the livestock dung.
The region in which we grow citrus is totally rain fed and different climatic stresses have been felt. As irrigation being critical part of citrus farming, last year we constructed water harvesting pond with use of local resources which helps to irrigate my farm in dry seasons. I believe that my future lies in this farm, continuing the existing family business by expanding the farm tackling the threats of citrus growers through local research and innovation.
Meeting the Increasing Demand
If we see the present context citrus shares 36 percent of the total fruit production in Nepal. (FDD, 2007/08). Among citrus, mandarin orange alone shares about 67 percent of total citrus production. Citrus cultivation in mid-hill region have now become business proposition and many pocket areas of citrus cultivation have already been developed. Syangja, which enjoys the virtue of being called an orange grove in the country, has sold mandarins worth more than Rs 260 million in the first half of current fiscal year 2015/16 grown in 1,250 hectare of land.
The benefit cost ratio of mandarin is comparatively higher than other fruits and vegetable crops which makes this business attractive besides the late return on investment. This year we harvested 6 tons of mandarins with total sale of one hundred thousand Nepalese rupees. There is a huge gap between the production and demand of mandarins in Nepal. Most of the Nepalese mandarins will not last for more than 3 months and recently Indian and Chinese mandarins are holding major market share.
The District Agriculture Development Office (DADO) of Department of Agriculture has youth entrepreneurs focused programs and provides subsidies on agriculture tools with essential technical support. Nepalese mandarins are in the process of export after sanitary and phytosanitary agreement between Nepal and China convincing farmers to follow proper Package of Practices (PoPs) and produce quality mandarins meeting quality/international standards. The construction of rural road nearby my farm and increasing local market demand add further prospects of growing mandarins.
Crafting the business plan
I am planning to expand the farm in additional 3 ha of land which we have recently leased. I would like to plant around 500 additional mandarin grafting saplings of the trifoliate rootstocks which is found to be moderately resistant for citrus greening and root rot. The additional 100 other citrus plant of different varieties will be planted which will maintain the diversity of citrus species in the farm and aids in carrying farm based research. Ginger, turmeric and coffee will be planted as intercrop for diversifying income source in initial year of orchard establishment. The rice bean will be sowed for live mulching which also increase the fertility of soil.
Our entire plan for next 2 years will be to reduce the level of infestation of different citrus diseases by planting resistant grafting varieties, removing the old/decayed citrus plants, refilling with new grafting saplings, healthy management of orchard, integrated pest management and increasing the farm income by product packaging & labelling, establishment of drip irrigation system and water harvesting tanks in the orchard. Along with extensive investments into water filter jugs for our orchard.
I need a startup fund to support the establishment cost of new orchard, drip irrigation system for irrigating existing orchard and product packaging and labelling technology for increased value addition reducing post-harvest losses.
With the funding from the YAP I am planning to invest:
300 USD on buying 300 grafted saplings for establishment of new orchard and refilling in old orchard.
1500 USD on installing drip irrigation system.
2000 USD will be used for required for establishment of cellar cold store by the use of locally available resources which can store the fruits for one month which provides competitive advantage on market.
500 USD will be allocated for the management practices for labor cost and buying organic manures and bio pesticides.
700 USD will be invested in the packaging and labelling of fruits with essential post-harvest non-chemical treatments to be marketed in the markets of Pokhara, Butwal and Kathmandu cities.
The outcome of the investment on irrigation system, construction of low cost storage house and product packaging/labelling will be on increase in the production and total sale by the value addition. The return on investment on newly established orchard will be 4-5 years but the returns can be achieved from the production of ginger, turmeric and coffee as intercrop in the initial phase of orchard establishment.
This rural entrepreneurship project creates employment opportunities for young rural peoples and strengthen the women participation with development of entrepreneurship among themselves. The project will be completed in year but will have sustainable impact. Pit digging in the month of April, planting of new saplings in the month of July, preparation of cold cellar storage in the month of September, product packaging and labeling in the month of October and establishment of drip irrigation in the month of November.
Dream for my Motherland
I believe that there is an exciting future ahead in the rural village, where I can improve the living standards of people attracting them towards the profitable mandarin business with mentorship, networking and entrepreneurship development. I have a strong desire that very soon in future I will be living my happier life in rural village connecting with global market establishing the cooperative citrus farm with increased production integrating agri-tourism and citrus processing industry and certifying the product as fully organic.
Blogpost and picture submitted by Madan Poudel (Nepal) – cashsee.maddy[at]gmail.com
The content, structure and grammar is at the discretion of the author only.
This post is published as proposal #84 of “YAP” – our “Youth Agripreneur Project”.