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Tripura’s Gandacherra flaunts mango orchards after small entrepreneurs’ effort

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AGARTALA, June 27 (PTI):  Prabhat Chakma of Tripura’s Gandacherra subdivision was unemployed and when the dream of bagging a government job did not materialise, the idea of a mango orchard caught up with him, helping the 28-year-old turn into an entrepreneur.

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The subdivision in Dhalai district, 130 km from the state capital Agartala, has emerged as an important centre for mango production in the northeastern state with young people like Chakma embarking on commercial cultivation of fruits, including the world’s costliest Miyakazi mango.

Rajib Ghosh, Deputy Director of the Horticulture department said, Dhalai is the ‘fruit district’ of Tripura as it produces the highest quantity of fruits in the state and Gandachhara holds promise for mango cultivation.

According to official records, 1,386 hectares in Dhalai are under mango cultivation and the annual yield of the tropical fruit is 7,055 MT.

“Tripura has a tropical climate with an average annual rainfall of 2,200 mm, extending over a period of eight months a year which is highly conducive for mango cultivation. In the gentle slopes of the uplands in Gandachhara subdivision, mango grows well”, Ghosh told PTI.

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Hundreds of orchards have come up in tribal hamlets such as Pancharatan, Tuichakma, Narikel Kunja, Gachh Bagan, and Boalkhali of the subdivision and tall trees with full-grown mangoes attract the attention of tourists on the way to the Dumbur Lake, and buyers –mostly from the state.

“Suddenly an idea struck me that I can grow exotic varieties of fruits like Rambutan, China 3 litchi, Dragon fruit, and different varieties of mangoes. Initially, the dearth of capital posed a challenge. Since we had land, getting bank loans was not a problem. I fell back on my savings and state government schemes,” Chakma told reporters.

The enterprising person could sell mangoes worth Rs 8 lakh last year.

He also runs nurseries selling saplings of different mango varieties.

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“This year I have successfully grown Miyazaki mangoes but I am not sure if it will fetch the same price as in metropolitan cities. I have heard that one kg of Miyazaki is sold at Rs one lakh. Though fruit sellers are making a beeline for my orchard to buy the costly fruit, I have doubts if I will get the price”, Chakma said.

Union Minister of State for Social Justice and Empowerment and MP from West Tripura district, Pratima Bhowmik, visited some places in Gandachhara on Sunday and was amazed to see the landscape dotted with so many fruit trees, Ghosh said.

“She also requested us to arrange for 5,000 saplings of high-yielding varieties of mangoes as the local tribal youths are showing interest in the cultivation of the king of fruits. We are preparing to distribute those saplings”, …. said.

Superintendent of Agriculture, Gandachhara subdivision, Chandra Kumar Reang said, at least 125 hectares are under mango production in the subdivision and it is gradually increasing every year.

“The orchards were developed on private initiative. The government provides irrigation facilities, and distributes insecticides for the plants besides giving technical know-how to the growers,” Reang said.

An official said around 25 people had taken the initiative and planted mango saplings in over 50 hectares five years ago.

“Now all the trees are mature and we expect mango production to increase substantially in the coming years,” he said.

State Agriculture Minister Ratan Lal Nath said the soil and climate of Tripura are favourable for mango cultivation. Currently, 10,357 hectares are under mango cultivation in the entire state, yielding an average of six metric tonne per hectare.

Varieties like Amrapali, Himsagar Ambika and Arunika grow abundantly in the Gandacherra subdivision of Dhalai, and Gomati districts of the state, the minister said.

Nath said high-yielding varieties of 13 conventional varieties and 22 exotic varieties of mangoes are cultivated in the Horticultural Research Centre at Nagicheera, near here and saplings are distributed to the growers free of cost.

Officials of the state Horticulture department said exotic varieties of mango like Miyazaki, BARI-4, Taiwan-Red, Chakapat, Katimon, Yellow Banana, Japanese All Time, Q-Jai, Red Ivory, Red Palmer, and Thai Himsagar are now being cultivated in the state, and growers are already reaping profits.

They said that the department has taken the initiative to motivate more tribal youth into fruit cultivation since they have land.

Sirajul Islam of Kakrabon block in Gomati district, who has developed a mango orchard on about 16 ‘bighas’ on the bank of the river Gomati, earns about Rs 15 lakh from the cultivation of the summer fruit annually.

“I was unemployed and started my venture with a government grant of Rs 3 lakh and worked hard for four–five years and also engaged daily wagers. Now I am happy because I can live a decent life”, he told a group of visiting journalists.

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