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regular-article-logo Friday, 01 March 2024

Bengal horticulture department bid to revive orange cultivation in Darjeeling hills

Senior officials of the department said they had distributed around 45,000 saplings to orange growers in the districts of Darjeeling, Kalimpong, Jalpaiguri and Alipurduar

Our Correspondent Jalpaiguri Published 09.11.23, 08:48 AM
An orange plant in Darjeeling hills.

An orange plant in Darjeeling hills. File picture

The Bengal horticulture department has taken an initiative to revive the cultivation of oranges in Darjeeling hills and also in some areas of the adjoining foothills.

Senior officials of the department said they had distributed around 45,000 saplings to orange growers in the districts of Darjeeling, Kalimpong, Jalpaiguri and Alipurduar. They are also providing them assistance to get rid of other deterrents which have brought down the production of oranges of the Darjeeling variety which is grown in the region.

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“Pest attacks, reduction in fertility of the soil, and shortage of saplings of proper quality are some of the reasons which have brought down the orange production over the past 10 years or so. That is why, we have taken the task to extend all possible help to the growers and also provide them with expertise so that they can increase the yield in due course,” said Khurshid Alam, an assistant director of the state horticulture department posted in Jalpaiguri.

According to sources, oranges are cultivated across an area of 4,150 hectares of land in Bengal, including 2,500 hectares in Darjeeling, 1,500 hectares in Kalimpong, around 100 hectares in places like Totopara and Buxa hills of Alipurduar and around 50 hectares of land in Samsing and some other locations of Matiali block in Jalpaiguri district.

“Earlier, 50 to 52 metric tonnes of the fruit were produced in the region. However, because of a number of problems, around 39 metric tonnes of oranges were produced in north Bengal last year. We have set a target to increase the production,” Alam said.

Vivek Pradhan, an orange grower based in Samsing of Jalpaiguri, said attacks by pests like fruit-fly and fungal attacks are leading to the loss of premature fruit.

“Also, in a number of plantations, the plants have grown old and thus the yield is low. It is good that the horticulture department is providing us saplings of better varieties so that we can slowly replace the plants in our plantations,” said Pradhan.

Sources in the state government said the initiative has been taken to provide an opportunity for farmers in rural and remote areas of the hills to make a living through orange cultivation.

“Though oranges of Nagpur variety are available in the market, oranges of Darjeeling variety still have a good reputation like the famous Darjeeling tea. As the yield has come down over the years, a section of growers have shifted to other forms of employment. We want them to resume the cultivation of the fruit,” said a senior official.

Altogether around 1,000 people are associated with the cultivation in the region.

“If the production increased, we believe more and more people would be interested in cultivating oranges, which has a steady market in our state and across the country,” the official added.

Alam said they are also providing expertise to the growers so that they can revive the fertility of their land.

“We are also providing hands-on training to the growers so that they can carry out the entire cultivation process in a more effective manner,” he added.

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