Kathmandu, Nov. 10: The days of farmers in Jumla and other Himalayan districts of western Nepal feeding their apples to cattle have now become a thing of past. Instead, the farmers have been found selling their apples from the farm trees at or above Rs. 50 per kilogram. The sold apples are supplied to various towns and cities including Kathmandu. Until a decade ago, the farmers used to feed the apples to their cattle for lack of market and transportation facility. But now when all districts of region are connected with road networks, apple farmers have an easy access to the markets to sell their products. Traders themselves reach the apple farms of the Himalayan districts like Jumla, Mustang and Manang to buy the apples and supply them to the cities including Kathmandu, where the apples produced in the Himalayan districts are in high demand. This has led an increase in the apple prices in villages. A few groups of youth are promoting the local apples in Kathmandu by bringing them from Jumla and selling online. As the apples grown in these districts are healthier and tastier than the apples imported from India and China, the demand of Nepali apples in Kathmandu has surged in recent weeks. Dinesh Khadka of Tatopani Rural Municipality said that apples produced in Jumla were of late getting good market across the country. "With the access of road transportation in various places of Jumla, the farmers are now able to sell their products at a good price from their farms. A decade ago, they used to feed apples to their cattle in lack of market," he said. The farmers are now selling apples at over Rs. 50 per kilogram from the farms while a decade ago they used hardly get Rs 5-10 for a kg of apple, Khadka told The Rising Nepal. He, however, said a few farmers still sell their apples garden and trees months before their harvesting season fearing lack of market in the production season. According to him, the flow of traders from various cities like Kathmandu and local traders are increasing year by year which has ensured the farmers of good market for their produces. "If the government establishes cold storages to store apples, the farmers will overcome the fear and get good price for their products," he said. According to him, a group of youth in Jumla is collecting apples by establishing a company ‘Apple Garden’ in Jumla and supplying them to Kathmandu for the last seven years. Khadka said that they are collecting around 30,000 kilograms of apples annually. "Now around 80 per cent of apples produced in Jumla reach the market while 20 per cent apples grown in a few villages do not reach market due to lack of road," he said. Nepali apples being sold online Likewise, Green Growth Group Private Limited has been selling the apples brought thus from Jumla and Mustang in Kathmandu. Nischal Pokharel, operation manager of Green Growth Group Private Limited, said they were selling apples brought from Jumla and Mustang through the online. "We are delivering apples and other vegetables as per the order of the customers in the Kathmandu Valley. We charge additional Rs. 50 for delivery inside the ring road. But we are delivering free of transportation cost if the consumers order at least five kilograms of apples at a time," he said. According to him, they brought around 2,000 kilograms of apples from Dehy village of Upper Mustang and Jumla this year to sell in Kathmandu. The demand of local apples is growing in Kathmandu, but the high transportation cost has contributed to an increase in its price in the market, he added "The price of local apples is comparatively high compared to imported apples. Consumers want to purchase low-priced apples," he said. He, however, said that the consumers who had tasted the local apples once wanted to purchase the homegrown apples even by paying higher price because of their taste and quality. "We are delivering a kilogram of apples of Jumla and Mustang at Rs. 180. The unhealthy competition among
the suppliers has, however, become a challenge to sell apples," he said. The middle class families order local apples from us, he said, adding that they sold around 60-70 kilograms of apples online in Kathmandu daily. Sarala Subedi of Koteshwor, who was buying Manang apple in Bhatbhateni Super Market, said that the taste of apples produced in Manang was better than those imported from India. "We are happy to have local apples in Kathmandu. But they are not available in retail shops," she said. Nepal spending billion of rupees on apples The country is spending billions of rupees to import apples to meet the national demand due to low production, said Hari Prasad Gurung, senior Horticulture Development Officer at National Centre for Fruit Development. In Nepal, the mountainous region has a great potentiality of growing quality apple due to favourable temperature, but this potentiality has not been harnessed to its optimum level, he said. There is a high chance of making the country self-reliant in apple production by adopting systematic production, he said. Currently, around 28,885 tonnes of apple is produced in the country, he said. The apple farm covers around 10,886 hectares and the apple trees in 4,113 hectares have started yielding fruits, Gurung said. In the fiscal year 2018/19, the country imported 73,243 tonnes of apples worth Rs. 4.94 billion from China, Indian and other countries, according to the Trade and Export Promotion Centre. China is the major country to import apple. Likewise, 92,557 tonnes of apples worth Rs. 5.57 billion was imported in the fiscal year 2017/18 and 83,318 tonnes worth Rs. 4.9 billion in 2016/17. Consumption of apple has been on an increasing trend in Nepal as only 21,970 tonnes of apples worth Rs. 310 million used to imported a decade ago. The government had already declared the fruits decade from 2073/74 BS to 2082-83 BS to make the country self-reliant in fruits. For this, Jumla was developed as apple super zone under the Prime Minister Agriculture Modernization Project as it is a major district to produce organic apples. Currently, farmers of Jumla, Mustang, Manang, Humla, Kalikot, Rukum Purba, Dolpa, Mugu and Bajura districts are growing apples commercially, he said. According to Gurung, the federal government has been introducing various programmes to increase fruits production, including apples in various districts based on the production potential. "The government is working to link the farmers and traders to ensure the market of product. The joint effort of the government, traders and farmers is must to increase production and substitute the import of apples," he said.