Read also: Growing apples on a war-footing, Mukesh Pokhrel
Now, his son’s apple orchard is spread over 37 hectares of land in Manang. Gurung obtained the plot when his Manang Agro Company won an open competition six years ago that allowed him to lease the land by paying a yearly sum of Rs5.8 million.
Gurung’s orchard is crammed with apple trees, saplings of which were brought from Italy and Serbia. And the yield is plentiful, with 600,000 kgs of apples expected to be harvested this year. Over the next three years, Gurung’s target is to produce 1.7 million kgs of apples annually.
Nepal spent Rs243 billion in food imports in the fiscal year 2019/20, an increase of Rs19 billion from the previous fiscal year. Two-thirds of Nepalis depend on agriculture, but Nepal’s annual food imports are increasing exponentially due to a growing population and rising income.
Of total food imports, Nepal spends upwards of Rs13 billion annually on apple imports. Which is why Gurung believes that there is a huge domestic market for Manang’s apples, provided supply can meet demand and there is access to markets. If the fruits themselves do not sell, there is significant demand for products like apple juice, wine and candy.
In fact, the demand for apple seedlings from other mountain districts of Jumla, Huma, and Mugu has gone up ever since Gurung began buying better quality saplings that resulted in higher yields.