Farmers in a few Gewogs of Tsirang ventured into growing hazelnuts about eight years ago. But the hazelnut trees have not yet started bearing fruits. This has frustrated the hazelnut growers. The issue was also raised during the recent Dzongkhag Tshogdu.
Kharka Bahadhur Chuwan from Dangreybu Toed Chiwog of Dunglagang Gewog in Tsirang is one of the first hazelnut growers in the district. He has planted more than 300 hazelnut trees on his 75 decimals of land in 2015. But not a single tree has started bearing fruits so far.
“Initially we were told that one tree would bear fruits of a minimum of seven to eight kilogrammes after three to four years. But even today, the trees have not yet started bearing fruits. All our efforts and expenses have gone in vain.”
17 other farmers in Dunglagang Gewog have also planted the trees. They are still waiting for the trees to bear fruits.
“It has been like eight years since we have planted hazelnut trees. But there is no hazelnut even today. It is of no use to plant hazelnut trees. We could have planted other fruit trees so that farmers can make some income for their families,” said Suraj Man Chhetri, a farmer.
The issue was also discussed during the recent Dzongkhag Tshogdu. Dunglagang Gup said farmers in his gewog are now planning to cut down all hazelnut trees to grow other fruit trees.
Moreover, the local leaders said seeking technical assistance related to hazelnuts is very difficult since the district currently does not have the field staff.
“Farmers have planted trees on acres of land without the trees bearing any fruits. These days, our farmers get fruit saplings through the million-fruit tree plantation project. So, the farmers were saying that they want to grow other fruit trees,” said K. B. Pradhan, Dunglagang Gup.
“Sixty per cent of the farmers in one of the chiwogs in my gewog have planted hazelnuts. The hazelnut trees have started bearing a few hazelnuts. But the harvest is only a kilogramme from one acre,” said Leela Raj Sunwar, Rangthangling Gup.
Meanwhile, an official from the Mountain Hazelnuts office informed the house that, the problem is caused mainly due to wrong choice of hazelnut tree varieties and lack of pollinizer. He said the wrong hazel tree varieties mean the trees which should be grown in low-altitude regions were planted in high-altitude places.
The official said the company has completed carrying out orchard conversion which includes grafting, and rectification works in seven eastern districts to address such problems.
He said similar rectification works will be also carried out in Tsirang and other remaining districts in the next few months.
“The company has found out that the present variety of hazelnut trees which are planted below 2,400 metres above the sea level are wrong varieties and not planted as per the altitude. Therefore, the grafting works are currently being carried out in all orchards, which are below 2400 metres with the variety that is suitable for that region. For orchards above 2,400 metres, we have started rectification works. For this, we are increasing the pollinizer to 15 per cent from the existing 10 per cent,” said Jamyang Tenzin, Head of West Operation of Mountain Hazelnuts Venture Limited.
He added that the company will also deploy a field staff each in Tsirang, Dagana and Chhukha after the recruitment of 15 new employees next month.
According to the Mountain Hazelnuts, except Samtse and Sarpang, farmers in eighteen districts have ventured into hazelnut production on a commercial scale.