Ground apple farmers rue lack of market access

Published On: June 17, 2018 04:20 AM NPT By: Mohan Gurung

SYANGJA, June 17: Farmers in Waling Municipality-3 of Syangja district are worried as they have not been able to sell ground apples due to lack of proper access to major marketplaces. 

At Majhkot in the municipality, farmers had high hopes of earning good profit from ground apple farming that would require little investment. They had put aside their regular crops – maize, wheat, buckwheat and vegetables to cultivate ground apple. 

However, now the farmers are worried that their product will simply rot at the farm as they have been unable to reach the commercial markets of Butwal and Pokhara. The reason: they do not have access to transportation services. 

“We had given up our regular professions to take up ground apple farming, seeing a good demand of the fruit in the market. However, due to inability to supply our products to the market, our work seems to have gone in vein,” said Ram Prasad Gurung, a local farmer. 

Each household in Majhkot produces an average of 10 to 20 quintals of ground apples. However, a majority of the farmers are simply letting the fruits rot in the farm. Whatever is left, is just limited to storing in sacks or sending to friends and relatives as gifts.

When they started planting ground apples, it was like a farming campaign. But now, some farmers are not even in a condition to cultivate the fruit anymore due to losses, according to Harka Gurung, a local farmer. 

“The venture into ground apple cultivation has failed to meet our expectations. Now I am looking for alternatives to ground apple cultivation although there are still some farmers who are hopeful that their produce will find market,” said Gurung. 

While farmers seem disappointed, the ward chairperson of Waling Municipality–3, Sukaraj Gurung, seemed supportive of the farmers. “We will support all types of professional farming the farmers in the ward have been involved in,” said Gurung. He added that due to rugged terrain, the ward has limited access for taking agricultural products to the market. He also pledged to properly manage marketplace for all sorts of agricultural products produced in the ward. 

“Due to the rough topography, it is hard to deliver local products to the market. We will specially prioritize the agro sector in the upcoming budget so that farmers can become economically self-dependent,” he said. “There is great potential of agriculture in our ward. I aspire to make this ward prosperous by promoting agriculture.”

The fruit that looks similar to sweet potato is said to be useful in diseases such as kidney stone, diabetes, jaundice, etc. 

Meanwhile, Mayor of Waling Municipality, Dilip Pratap Khand, told Republica that the municipality will soon be constructing an agricultural collection center so that farmers are relieved from the stress due to lack of access to marketplace. 

According to Khand, the municipality has prepared 19 indicators for the municipality to become a 'smart city'. 

“There is tremendous potential of agriculture. However, it is important to professionally develop farmers and make agriculture more technology-friendly to reap the benefits of agriculture,” said Khand. 

Ground apple seeds were first introduced seven years ago in the country, but professional farming commenced just four years ago. Ground apple is commercially produced in districts such as Rasuwa, Sindhupalchowk, Nuwakot, Dhading, Dolakha and Syangja. 

The leaf of the ground apple plant can be used to produce herbal tea while the fruit is used to produce juice, sipper brandy and alcoholic beverages.

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