POKHARA, Sept 23: Mustang´s famous apple farming, which had shrunk to less than 400 hectares of land five years ago, is once again thriving.
Behind the boom in Mustang´s apple farming is no big revival plan but just a road. When motors began to ply along the Jomsom-Beni road nearly five years ago, Mustang´s farmers saw a new potential in apple farming and they started expanding their gardens and planted many more apple trees.
Today, Mustang has virtually regained its once-lost glory of producing incredibly delicious apples.
“Now, we´re no longer worried about market,” says Nabin Kumar Gurung, who planted 1,100 new apple trees in 40 ropanis of land last year. “After the construction of Jomsom-Beni road, traders have started to come to our own villages to buy apples. Our apples don´t rot in the garden.”
Mustang produced 4,000 tons of apple this year, 300 tons more than last year, according to the Western Regional Agriculture Directorate. Traders from Pokhara and Kathmandu are now flocking to Mustang to buy apples. They are ready to pay Rs 55-60 for a kg of apples. Mustang´s farmers are likely to earn more than Rs 20 million by selling apples without bothering about transporting them to elsewhere.
According to Birendra Bahadur Hamal, Western Regional Agriculture Director, Mustang´s farmers have now planted apple trees in 708 hectares of land. “Every year, new apple trees are being planted in 100 more hectares of land,” says Hamal. “In the next five years, apple production in Mustang will grow by almost two folds.”
An apple orchard in Mustang district.
According to Khem Narayan Chapagain, agriculture extension officer at the regional directorate, the potential of Mustang´s apple farming is yet to be fully tapped. He says 2,000 hectares of land in Mustang are fertile and suitable for apple farming.
In the last few years, people who were engaged in some other enterprises have also started apple farming. Former Minister Nar Bahadur Hirachan recently invested millions of rupees in apple farming. “Till a decade ago, local farmers were frustrated as they were not able to easily transport their products to the market,” says Chapagain. “Now, the situation has changed. Traders strike deals with farmers much before apples are produced.”
Before the Jomsom-Beni road was built, helicopters were the only means to transport Mustang´s apples to Pokhara and Kathmandu. The farmers would have to pay Rs 25 for transporting a kg of apples. Since trucks started to come to Jomsom, the transportation cost for Mustang´s apples is only Rs 4-5.