Farmers expect orange biz boom this season

December 05, 2019

Pradeep Menyanbo, The Kathmandu Post, December 05, 2019

The eastern hilly region is seeing a 30 percent increase in production of the sweet fruit.

The agricultural market of Dharan has set its sights at wholesale transactions of orange to cross the Rs 1 billion mark this season as the eastern hilly region witnessed a 30 percent increase in production of the sweet fruit.

The market started trading oranges a fortnight ago and is witnessing a steady inflow of 35 tonnes of the fruit from orchards in Dhankuta amid growing local demand.

According to Laxman Bhattrai, coordinator of the market management committee, the market has seen transactions of 1128 metric tonne oranges worth around Rs110 million, as of Wednesday.

“The main season of orange production has yet to start and we are already seeing a spike in demand,” said Bhattrai.

“Additional consignments of the fruit from Bhojpur, Khotang, Terathum and Sankhuwasabha are yet to enter the market.”

The oranges are being sold at a wholesale price of Rs 115per kilogram and retail prices stand at Rs 150 per kilogram.

Last year, the market sold 7,519 metric tonnes of citrus fruit at a wholesale price of Rs 90 per kilogram.

Although the orange season starts from mid-November and lasts till mid-march, some farmers opt to harvest the fruit late in the season in view of higher profits.

Oranges produced in the eastern hilly region is mainly supplied to markets in Dharan, Itahari, Biratnagar, Damak, Birtamod, Rajbiraj and Janakpur.

The fruit was also exported to Bangladesh five years ago in line with the preference of Bangladeshi consumers.

“Issues pertaining to branding and packaging along with the long-winded custom clearance process on hauling oranges to Bangladesh via India completely halted the exports,” said Bhattarai.

According to Bhattarai, farmers could see good prices for their produce if the government created an environment allowing smooth export of oranges to Bangladesh and India.

Orange production in the region has increased in line with a surge in the number of farmers and orchards. Officials say that the region holds the capacity to trade oranges worth at least Rs5 billion if the government adopts a policy to incentivize farmers while clearing bottlenecks on export to third world countries.