Farmers that grow watermelons on a large scale are finally seeing their cash income grow from the sale of the crop. They say growing watermelons is easier than the other cash crops, like chilies and potatoes, since watermelons are less damage by wild animals and also remain unaffected by major pests and diseases.
Further, with the technical and material assistance from the Research and Development Centre (RDC), Wengkhar under Ministry of Agriculture and Forests, many eastern farmers are now enrolled in mass cultivation of watermelons, first introduced about two years ago in Woongringmo village under Ramjar gewog in Trashiyangtse.
771 saplings were nurtured in Research and Development Center Sub-station, Lingmethang under Mongar and distributed to the farmers. RDC provided assistance from the planting of the new crop until its harvest.
The commercial production was started in order to take advantage of the increasing demand for home grown agricultural produce. The aim was to meet the self-sufficiency goal of producing food within the country and to curb the import dependency.
According to the research officer with RDC Lingmethang, Sonam Tashi, the farmers are keen on taking up watermelon production in the next season while some of the farmers even intercropped watermelons with potatoes to increase crop intensity.
He said that in a market trail conducted in Doksum town, it was found that watermelon production helped farmers generate net returns of Nu 40 per kilogram where each melon weighed more than 9 kilograms.
Last year the agriculture ministry recorded 3 metric tons of watermelon production. Encouraged by such success, the farmers are further planning to bring more farm land under watermelon cultivation. This, they hope, will help to generate more income, besides contributing to the ministry’s goal of boosting local produce to substitute imports.
According to the Khamdang Gup, Ugyen Wangdi, the farmers are interested to take up watermelon production once they receive the water supply from the irrigation channel as growing watermelon requires plenty of water.
“Most of our farmers are encouraged to cultivate watermelons,” Ugyen Wangdi said.
On the marketing front, the farmers say they face challenges in marketing the melons as harvest of local melon coincides with the melons readily available from India.
Sonam Tashi said that since the watermelon production in Woongringmo was successful and to encourage more farmers to take up melon cultivation, RDC Wengkhar has plans to help market the melons produced by the farmers with assistance from the regional marketing office in Mongar.
He said a total of six acres of farm land in the east is under watermelon cultivation and the production is expected to be high as compared to that of last year.