Monday, March 19, 2012

Roads and apples in Mustang

Here is how road connectivity spurs local economy and production in rural areas. We have comparative advantage in the production of apples from Mustang. In fact, we have monopoly on it and producers could rake in supernormal profits as the willingness of consumers to pay relatively high prices for apples produced in Mustang is high.

Although Mustang´s apple had carved a niche for itself in the domestic and international markets a long ago, unavailability of road network meant many farmers saw their produce go wasted unable to find market. As a result many farmers simply lost interest.

But after construction of the road in the district couple of years ago more and more farmers have started adopting apple farming as a profession once again and more land in the northwestern district is being converted into apple farms. This year alone farmers grew apple in 255 hectares of land. These farmers can earn up to Rs 1.5 million per year by selling their produce. “Traders arrive at our doorstep to collect the produce and we have no problem marketing them,” said Indra Bahadur Tulachan, a farmer from Tukuche.

According to the Mustang Agriculture Office, people who stopped apples farming because of difficulties in transportation have once again started growing apples. As more people returned to apple farming, the district faced a shortage of apple sapling this year. The demand for saplings hovers at around 20,000 units per year. However, the demand went up by around four folds this year. “To fulfill the demand we had to get the saplings from Jumla,” Meghnath Timilsina, senior official of the Mustang Agriculture Office, said.

As income from the apple business tops hundreds of thousands of rupees each year, farmers have now started running group apple farms in the district. To attract more people toward apple farming, the district agriculture office has also started providing subsidy on apple saplings, packaging and transport of apples. The office also conducts free training sessions to acquaint farmers with various technical aspects of apple farming.

Currently, around 2,000 farmers are involved in apple farming in the district.