Organic Apples Can Keep Poverty Away

<br>Umesh Lama

Sept. 3, 2010, 5:45 p.m. Published in Magazine Issue: Vol.: 4 No.-07 September 3-16, 2010 (Bhadra 18, 2067)

Jumla is one of the remotest and economically poorest mountain districts in west Nepal. But its climatic conditions are very rich for growing fruits like apple.

Nepal government introduced apples in Jumla in the 1970s.  They were brought from the Himachal Pradesh of India.

There are now about 10 varieties being cultivated in the district: they are mostly from the Delicious Group; Red, Royal and Golden Delicious, which make around 70 per cent of the total plantation. Other major varieties found here are Jonathan and Macintosh types, which altogether contribute 10 per cent.

Jumla accounts for the largest apple production (5425 Mt/season) in Nepal followed by western mountain district of Mustang.The climate of Jumla is considered highly favourable for deciduous fruits such as apple, walnut, pear and plum. Among these fruits, apple is the most important crop in terms of area coverage, production and household economy in the district. In 2007/08 apple was cultivated in around 548 hectares and the total production was estimated at 5,425 metric tonnes.

Thanks to urbanisation and income growth of urban population, apples are in great demand. The commercial demand for apples in Nepal is estimated to be more than 20,000 metric tons, taking stock of possible storage loss and other losses. Presently 90 per cent of the deficit demand for apple in the country is being met from imports, with China being the biggest import destination for apples in Nepal.

This means that there is a big prospect for earning money if Jumla produces premium quality apples by adopting organic principles to fetch a premium price in the market. Organic apples will ultimately benefit the Jumli farmers and the nation’s economy. For this, however, the present apple orchards should be managed better by improving harvesting and post harvesting practices. Improvements also need to be made in terms of appearance and colour of the apples.

Apples produced in Jumla at altitudes in the range of 2200 to 3000 meters are popular in the market. They are considered excellent for their juiciness and crunchiness, compared to currently available Chinese and Indian apples. Further, a little amount of acidic content along with its sweetness is considered an advantage among certain target consumers.

The main apple season at the retail level, in terms of quantity sold, is between the months of September to December. Jumla apples are available for limited number of months whereas apples from China and India are available throughout the year.In 2008, Jumla was declared as an organic district by the government of Nepal. Further the apple farms of the district are certified by Organic Certification Nepal (OCN), a pioneering certifying body in the country and a member of an international network; the Certification Alliance. The market promotion of Jumla organic apples have been handled by an eco social private enterprise, Organic World and Fair Future (OWF).

In view of the significant and potential contribution of apples to the economy of Jumla, the First Five Year Plan introduced a slogan “Employment through Apple and Tourism.” This still applies.Projected as a potential high value product, apples can provide the much needed income-generating avenue for reducing poverty in pursuit of improving the living conditions of the poor people in this remote district.

The author of this article is the chairman of Organic World and Fair Future (OWF) Pvt Ltd and can be reached at ; organicworld@ntc.net.np

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