GULMI, March 18: Heavy rains and frost since mid-January have damaged coffee plants in Gulmi and other coffee-growing districts in western Nepal.
More than 60% of plants in farms and nurseries under Coffee Research Program; Coffee Development Center, Anpchaur; and districts under Coffee Super Zone Program have been destroyed. District agricultural officials say leaves are turning yellow, and coffee fruits and plants are drying up due to cold weather.
The new disease has left local farmers worrying as Gulmi is one of the top exporters of coffee to foreign countries. "This is the first time that we are seeing such problem. Plants and cherries are drying right before the harvesting season," Mana Bhattarai, a farmer of Bhatadkuwa of Rurukshetra Rural Municipality-1, said.
Coffee farms and nurseries started under Coffee Super Zone Program of Prime Minister Agriculture Modernization Project in Gulmi, Arghakhanchi, Palpa, Syangja and Pyuthan have been affected by the unidentified disease. "The infestation is high in coffee farms and nurseries in these districts, according to
Narayan Kafle, a senior agriculture officer at Project Execution Unit, Gulmi, under the Prime Minister Agriculture Modernization Project.
"Nearly 80,000 out of 172,000 coffee plants in nurseries started under the program have dried up. As the infestation came just ahead of the harvesting season, local farmers are in despair," added Kafle.
Coffee plants in farms established at Coffee Development Program, Bhandari Dada and Coffee Research Center, Anpchaur have also dried up. "Not only the fruits, coffee plants are drying up," said Krishna Bahadur Thapa, chief of Coffee Research Program, Gulmi. He said his office has advised farmers to safely dispose of coffee beans and cut dried up branches. "We have also advised farmers to properly irrigate their farms and nurseries," he added.
Coffee Research Center has planted 39 varieties of coffee in Gulmi for research purpose. Nearly 2,000 farmers in 12 local units of Gulmi are involved in commercial coffee farming. Coffee farming is done in nearly 140 hectares of land in Gulmi. The district produces around 80 tons of coffee annually.
Gulmi is known in the international market for its organic coffee. Coffee grown in the district is exported to countries like South Korea, Australia and the United Kingdom, among others.