TODAY -
Nungba orange plants wilting
Source: The Sangai Express

Imphal, August 21 2010: Orange growers of Tamenglong district particularly Nungba sub-division are caught at their wits end as orange plants which used to fetch them lakhs of rupees every year have wilted and died extensively this year.

Besides being a mainstay for the livelihood of hundreds of families, orange cultivation was also a reliable source of earning extra income for many families to send their children to study in different cities outside Manipur.

Strangely, a training programme on orange rejuvenation was held yesterday at Mantripukhri Horticulture complex where horticulture equipment were distributed to orange growers of Tamenglong district.

The training programme jointly organised by Tamenglong District Horticulture and Soil Conservation Officer and the Tamenglong Orange Growers' Federation under Technology Mission was after thousands of orange plants have died extensively.

It is reported that the Horticulture Department and relevant offices were informed about the wilting and dying of orange plants which started two/three years back.

Yesterday's programme was graced by Horticulture and Soil Conservation Commissioner K Moses Chalai as chief guest and Horticulture Director K Ngachan as president.

Around 55 orange growers from Tamenglong district attended the programme.

Taking due notice of the woes of the orange growers, Ngachan said that Department officials and experts would make field assessment of the damages done to orange plants in order to devise effective disease control measures.

He, however, advised the orange growers to take due care of orange plants by supplying adequate soil nutrients and applying insecticides in time and regularly.

He remarked that orange growers have been only waiting to harvest orange while neglecting necessary care that should be given to orange plants.

The Horticulture Director exhorted the farmers to pay due attention to the health of orange plants and consult with relevant officials on how to increase orange yield.

Talking to this reporter, three orange growers from Leishok (Shoubunglong) village of Nungba sub-division who attended the training programme said that Nungba sub-division may not be able to produce any quantity of oranges this season as orange plants died extensively this year.

The cause of the death of orange plants still remains a mystery to the farmers.

This phenomenon started with yongchak (tree bean) plants in 2004-05 and it started infecting orange plants by 2005-06 .

At the initial stage, orange plants were afflicted in a random year, but this year almost all orange plants were infected and died subsequently.

Even as the relevant Government offices were informed about the unknown disease in the same year when orange plants started wilting, none of the concerned authorities paid any attention, lamented the farmers.

Despite repeated appeals by the farmers, nothing concrete was done to save the orange plants or prevent the unknown disease from spreading to uninfected plants except for casual inspection by some officials once or twice, they decried.

Ruling out possibility of harvesting any orange in Nungba sub-division this year as all mature plants have died, the orange growers said that they have just started preparation of orange saplings from seeds for re-cultivation.

Village elders have been advising the farmers to cultivate orange plants after five years.

"Though late, we cannot help appreciating the training programme organised by the Department", they said.

All the 73 households of Shoubulong village cultivated orange plants.

From selling oranges, they could easily earn Rs 60,000 to Rs 2 lakhs in a season.

In addition to meeting the family expenditures, decent amounts can be separated from the income earned from orange cultivation for education of children in cities like Delhi, Bangalore etc.

The twin disaster of the extensive death of yongchak trees and orange plants in quick succession which fetched highest incomes have put the villagers in a serious trouble.

Left with no other option, villagers of the area have turned their eyes to U-morok (big chilly) cultivation in order to sustain their source of income.

But the farmers cannot make any estimate about how much they can produce the popular chilly variety.

Though the village also produces vegetables and fruits like pumpkin, banana, papaya etc, they are not profitable, largely due to bad transport infrastructure which entails higher transport costs.

Saying that they have lost hope of participating in the Orange Festival this year, the farmers said they would be attending the festival only to listen to seminar and workshops, in case any such programme is organised during the festival.

They further appealed for some incentives from the Government in view of the extensive devastation caused to orange plants.


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