MANANG, Oct 20: Pholden Chopang Gurung, 57, and his son Yubaraj have established a commercial apple orchard that stretches over 450 ropanis of land in Phisang of Manang district. According to officials of Department of Agriculture, the apple farm named Agro Manang is the largest apple farm in the country.
The gurung family has planted over 60,000 apple saplings in the farm with an investment of over 160 million rupees and they are planning to expand the orchard up to over 700 ropanis of land in the next two years and produce over 1800 tons of apples per year.
"Presently our apple plants are young. Each of the plants produces around seven to eight kilograms of apples. But after two years, each of the plants will start yielding over 35 kilograms of apples," Gurung said.
He said that they want to fulfill demands of apples in the domestic markets by 2021, which is currently dominated by apples exported from India and China.
"So, to replace exported apples with our domestic ones, we are making all the necessary preparations. We want to build a brand name for our apples in the Nepali market," he said, adding, that the farm's produce is presently being sold in the local markets and some in Kathmandu.
In the orchard, they have planted three kinds of apples-Gala, Golden Delicious and Fuji. All of these types are hybrid apples.
Previously, apples of Manang were perceived to be of lower quality than those produced in Mustang. But Argo Manang apples are challenging this perception, claims Gurung.
Government and the Asian Development Bank had provided Rs 22.2 million as grant assistance to Gurung for establishing the farm two years ago.
Yuvaraj, however, is concerned with the condition of the road that connects Manang with Lamjung Besisahar. He said that their plan for marketing their apples throughout the country would be seriously affected if the condition of the road does not improves by 2021.
Distance from Lamjung Besisahar to Phisang, Manang is 90 kilometers but due to poor condition of the road, it takes over 5 hours to cover the distance. And during the monsoon, the road becomes impassable due to landslides.
"Due to poor condition of the road, we are already facing tough time supplying our apples to the market. If condition of the road does not improve, we do not think we can meet our goal of supplying our apples to the national market by 2021," he said.
Elaborating further, he said condition of the road has direct effect on the prices of their apples. “If the road condition is good, transportation costs would come down and that would directly bring down the cost of our apples in the market. This would make it easy for our apples to compete against exported apples in the market.”