Monday, December 8, 2014

Awaiting Rejuvenation

A feature on the state of orange farms in Turuk-Ramabong GPU in South Sikkim, researched and published in the year 2013 rings as true a year later. It is reproduced below…

The Turuk-Ramabong GPU in South Sikkim is known for its oranges in the district. Roughly 350 households in the GPU are engaged in orange farming which means that orange is the main crop cultivated in the area. Although most orchards in Turuk are doing fairly well, farmers inform that orange plantations in most of the lower belt in the region which include Billing, Daragaon, Lower Ramabong, Teendharey, have been totally wiped out.

A rejuvenation programme was started in the GPU around 3 years ago, however production has been going down steadily over the years. Orange farmer, Durga Pradhan of Turuk has a plot of land measuring about 2 acres where he grows oranges. “Although I think the rejuvenation programme has been helping us, production has been decreasing every year. This year I managed to earn only Rs 12,000 while last year I had earned Rs 25,000,” says Mr. Pradhan.
According to Gupti ward panchayat, Chandra Kumar Rai, who also has an orange plantation, the fall in production is due to not just diseases but other factors like the area being a drought-prone zone, increasing pollution and environmental changes all of which adversely affect the crop.
Another orange grower, KB Pradhan informs that in earlier times, a mature orange tree would produce 5,000 oranges in a season but now the trees do not even grow to a stage where they could produce so many fruits.
Mr. KB Pradhan has also participated in an exposure visit conducted by the Horticulture and Cash Crop Development department where they were taken to Nagpur. Impressed by the farms he visited in Nagpur, he is convinced that farmers too need to put in more effort in sustaining and reviving orange production in the state.
“In Nagpur farmers invest around Rs 7 lakhs in orange cultivation and go on to earn Rs 25 lakhs from their produce. Farmers here are not that serious or diligent and only put in effort as the harvest time nears,” he says.
Durga Pradhan, in turn adds that farmers have to be reminded and urged to take the organic manure and pesticides provided under the rejuvenation programme from the storehouse.
The farmers also stated that they were not happy with the orange saplings distributed by the department. According to them the saplings distributed are too young and most of them do not survive. “The department distributed 100 saplings this season and only about 10 eventually survived. I urge the department to distribute less, maybe even just 10 saplings but older and better ones,” says Mr. Durga Pradhan.
Drip irrigation projects by the state government have begun in the area and Mr. Durga Pradhan’s farm has also been covered under the project. He, along with other farmers of the area, is very happy about it and hopeful that drip irrigation would help orange production in the area. On the orange rejuvenation programme, the farmers say that the manure, pesticides, tools etc have worked well but somehow improvements in production are yet to show.
The orange growers of Turuk complain of trunk borers, parasitic plants, fungal diseases and fruit drop that are affecting their orchards and they don’t understand why this is happening. The orchards have been here since the time of their ancestors when oranges flourished in the area. “I remember huge orange trees in the area when I was a child but I don’t see such trees anymore,” says CK Rai.
At the same time, they have not lost hope and say that they will continue to strive towards reviving the Sikkim orange. “I am not thinking of taking up any other crop on my land. I hope to continue to grow oranges and will do whatever I can to improve production,” says Durga Pradhan.

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