Nepal boasts of itself as an agricultural country. Ironically, it has been unable to meet the domestic demands of cereal crops as well as fruits and vegetables on its own. There are various reasons behind this situation, including the inability to exploit available potential and declining competence against advancing India and China. Everyone knows that a significant quantity of tasty apples is grown in the western mountainous and hilly districts of Nepal like Manang, Mustang and Jumla. Until some years ago the villagers were either compelled to feed their produce to the cattle or let the fruits decay locally in absence of transportation facility. But lately things are changing for the better. As per a news report in this daily, the local youths are engaged in the collection of apples and their supply across the country while the traders themselves have started reaching the remote villages with construction of roads linking the distant districts. Consequently, the farmers have started getting benefits from what they produce. Yet, there is still a lot more to do to fully exploit the potential of apple farming.
The mountainous and hilly regions of the country hold huge potential for the production of high quality apples and make the country self-reliant in the supply of this fruit. Three years ago the government declared fruit decade with a view to cash in on the opportunity. And Jumla was developed as apple super zone under Prime Minister Agriculture Modernisation Project as the district holds a reputation of producing tasty organic apples. These steps, combined with increased awareness among the locals, have resulted in significant growth in apple farming in the region. The country currently produces about 30 thousand tonnes of apples annually which amounts to only around one-third of the total demand. So the nation is still spending up to Rs. 5 billion every year to import apples from India, China and other countries.
Amid this scenario, some groups of people are trying to collect apples and other fruits and vegetables from these and other districts and sell them in urban centres across the country. For example, a company named Apple Garden has been collecting apples produced in Jumla and supplying them to the cities for some years now. Meanwhile, Green Growth Group Private Limited has been selling apples brought from Jumla and Mustang online inside the Kathmandu Valley. However, the domestic apples turn out to be more expensive than imported ones due to higher transportation cost. There is no doubt that apples from Karnali region are tastier and healthier than imported apples, but higher cost discourages many consumers from buying them. This dimension must be addressed to make domestic apples more popular.
The huge gap between the total domestic production and demand indicates that there is huge scope in apple farming. However, there are still significant challenges in this regard. So the government needs to come up with exclusive schemes to promote apple farming which will save a lot of money going out of the country for importing the fruit. For example, the government needs to promote education in horticulture and encourage youths to take to commercial farming of cash crops and fruits. At the same time, the government should build adequate number of cold storages to store the fruits after harvesting. Besides, adequate amount of investment should be made to build agricultural roads for the smooth supply of agriculture produce from the rural areas to urban centres.