Bhutan’s drop in cash crop production puts export targets at risk

Bhutan’s production of the top three cash crops, apple, areca nuts and mandarin orange, has declined.

Apple, mandarin, and areca nut are the leading cash crops among the fruit crops grown in Bhutan. According to the 2022 Integrated Agriculture and Livestock Census report, a total of 38,086 tons of fruits were harvested in 2022. Of this, 31,796 tons consisted of major fruits such as apple, mandarin orange, and areca nuts. The remaining 69 tons were newly promoted fruits such as watermelon, kiwi and dragon fruit.

In 2022, total of 2,223 tons of apples were harvested, which was 101 tons less than in 2021. Paro harvested 1,558 tons of apples (47 tons more than in 2021), while Thimphu harvested 465 tons (112 tons less than in 2021).

The decrease in apple production in 2022 was attributed to a reduction in bearing trees, totaling 119,688 (14,316 fewer trees than in 2021), with Thimphu alone accounting for 9,231 in reduction. However, the number of apple growers increased from 5,262 households in 2021 to 7,390 households in 2022.

Mandarin orange
Mandarin orange is one of Bhutan’s largest fresh fruit exports to India and Bangladesh, contributing significantly to the economy. However, mandarin growers continue to face numerous constraints despite support from the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock in terms of orchard management, diversification of varieties, and the development of processing and nurseries.

In 2022, total of 18,467 tons of mandarins were harvested, an increase of 2,500 tons compared to 2021. The major mandarin orange-producing counties —Dagana, Samdrup Jongkhar, and Tsirang—harvested 3,487 tons, 2,638 tons and 3,056 tons, respectively.


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