The Eastern Himalaya comprising Sikkim-Darjeeling region and North-Eastern states are considered as the original homeland of citrus in India. The Mandarin Orange is one of the most widely grown and a major cash crop for farmers in the region. The oranges from the region are known for their tight skin, excellent quality, flavor, and juice and different from the oranges grown in other parts of the country.
The Darjeeling Mandarin, with its distinct flavor and quality, have a huge appreciation in the market. It plays an important role in providing energy and vitamins and is also a good source of income for the growers, especially in these challenged areas. The annual production of oranges from the Hills is approximately 148.224 metric tons with a farming area of about 930 hectares. The oranges are harvested from the first week of November to the end of December in the Hills.
However, today the Darjeeling Mandarin Orange is declining both in terms of quality and proportion due to various pathological, entomological and nutritional stresses. Major pests like trunk borer, fruitfly and citrus psulla are predominant insect pests that affect Darjeeling mandarin. In the low elevation orchards of Darjeeling hills and Sikkim, citrus psylla has been reported to cause greening disease. Using scientific farming and effective management can really help to uplift the farmers’ economic condition to a great extent. You can read more details about the diseases and its management published by ICAR-Kalimpong, here.
Another important reason for the decline of orange production is the aging trees and dying farms. As the tree ages, the quality of fruit deteriorates and there must be a sustainable way of growing new farms, rejuvenating indigenous varieties through grafting, budding, and other scientific techniques.
The Cultivation practices in the Hills are very traditional and hence the production steadily declines well as the quality and proportion of the produce. To revive agriculture and increase production of the farmers, there must be a continuous engagement and capacity building programs for the rural farmers. Most farmers today lack basic knowledge about modern farming and technical support. As the demand for food increases, it is important that the government encourages more people and young entrepreneurs to take up horticulture farming through incentivization, economic packages, and financial support.