In street lingo Sharchokpa juice refers to a variety of home-brewed alcohol often produced and consumed in excess in the eastern part of the country.
And this time round, it is not the ‘proxy juice’ but the real orange squash which the Dungsam Gongphel Tshogpa have started to produce for the first time from 2 November in Pemagatshel this year to produce orange pulp.
The tshogpa’s idea fortunately was harmonious with the potential of the dzongkhag in mandarin production. The soil and climatic condition, the altitudinal range favored the boom of healthy citrus trees which promised a good yield every harvest season.
The tshogpa members believed that such initiative could greatly benefit and help orange growers in the area to earn good money. Ultimately all factors gave birth to the farmers’ group called Dungsam Gongphel Tshogpa.
Their idea received further boost when the National Post Harvest Center (NPHC) and the Pemagatshel Dzongkhag Agriculture sector, chipped-in to establish a small fruit processing plant called Integrated Fruit Processing Plant (IFPP). The plant managed by the group, directly benefitted orange growers as they could sell farm produce to the plant rather than carry it to the market.
As planned, the plant started to function and bought small-size oranges for the purpose of pulping. The group paid farmers Nu 6 per kg for the small size oranges.
Unfortunately and unpredictably for the tshogpa things have currently started to go a bit awry.
A main reason for this was because the farmers did not on many occasions supply the small oranges to the plant and effectively it ceased to function. Rather than selling oranges to the group, farmers or orange growers in the area chose to take most of their produce either to the market or auction yards in Samdrup Jongkhar to sell in bulk to orange exporters, with whom they usually could bargain better prices.
The raw materials required to keep the plant running, became erratic and inconsistent.
The problem consequently choked the plant and it almost became a thing of the past except for the majestic building which housed the plant where there was hardly any activity inside.
In the midst of imminent despair a light at the end of the tunnel in the form of the agriculture ministry (MoAF) intervened through agencies such as the NPHC, Department of Agriculture and the Department of Agricultural Marketing and Cooperatives (DAMC).
The ministry realized that farmers could greatly enhance their cash income through establishment of such farm-based agro processing facility.
With the expertise at their disposal, these agencies came through as a savior for the plant as they started analyzing the problems and find ways to make the juice factory roar back to life.
One definite and valid solution was to link this small scale production house with the Bhutan Agro Industries Limited (BAIL) at Wangchutaba, Thimphu.
With such linking in place, the market for pulp was secured and the plant could go ahead with orange juice production. DAMC supported the farmers’ group with equipment required for orange squash production worth Nu 3mn.
This is in addition to the technical assistance provided by the NPHC.