February 23: Lately, youths of the far-western region have been attracted to new ventures in agriculture. While commercial lemon farming was initiated for the first time in the state some time ago, youths have now started farming of strawberry and dragon fruit.
Far West Hi-Tech and Biotech Agro Farm in Shuklaphanta Municipality-10 of Kanchanpur has started commercial strawberry farming for the first time in the region. Nandalal Bhatta, the manager of the farm, said that strawberries were cultivated in plastic tunnels using mulching technology with an investment of Rs 500,000.
Strawberries cultivated with a drip irrigation have started bearing fruit. He said that strawberries are easily sold in the local market at the rate of Rs 700 per kilogram.
Bhatta had brought 1,600 strawberry seedlings from Kathmandu and started farming. He said that preparations are being made to increase the production by expanding the area as the production of strawberries planted in 2 kattha land is relatively good. A nursery has been set up for the production of new strawberry seedlings as well.
Similarly, for the first time in the region, dragon fruit has been cultivated in Godawari Municipality-2 of Kailali. Entrepreneur Gokarna Oli of Bhimdatta Municipality-1 Mahendranagar planted dragon fruit near the province capital. He has planted 3,500 dragon fruits with the help of Directorate of Agriculture Development. Farm manager Oli said that more than Rs 2.8 million has been invested so far.
He said that he took one and a half bigha of land in lease for 10 years and planted dragon fruit in July 2019. "Now the plant is 5/6 feet tall," he said, "It bears fruit in 18 months to 2 years after planting." He says that it can produce fruit for 20 years.
Oli bought dragon fruit plants from Rautahat, Sindhuli and Dang. He said that 2,400 red dragon fruit plants were bought for Rs 300 per plant and 1,100 white plants were brought for Rs 200 per plant. He said that a group of youths is preparing to plant 17,000 dragon fruits in Jhilmila of Kanchanpur.
Commercial lemon farming is already done in the province. Two youths of Attaria in Godavari Municipality-4 Kailali have been involved in commercial lemon farming. Locals Pushkar Panta and Khemraj Bhattarai have set up a company called Bhumiraj Agro Service with an investment of Rs 13.2 million in an area of 8 bigha to cultivate lemon.
Realising that the demand for lemons in the local market was very high but they had to depend on India for lemons, they started lemon farming by bringing plants from Gujrat. Operator Panta said that he has been producing seedlings himself now.
Stating that more than 70 percent of the lemons consumed in the far west are imported from different cities of India, Pant said that he started commercial farming of lemon seeing the good potential in the market. "We have now planted 7,000 lemon saplings," he said, Due to the large size of the lemons we planted, there was a problem in getting the market at the beginning, but now it has become the first choice among hotels." Pant said that the products of his farm has reached the market as far as Butwal. Further, he said that they have sold 150 tons of lemons this year.