Sindhuli, January 13, 2017:Â Sweet orange prices have doubled despite this being the prime harvest season with middlemen getting involved in the trade.
The citrus fruit now costs Rs60-70 per kg while it was sold for Rs30-35 per kg during the same time last year.
Locals said that middlemen had been visiting orange groves and buying the entire crop in advance. This has allowed them to set their own prices for the fruits.
â€œThis is the harvest season, and normally fruits become cheaper during this time,â€ said a local consumer Nilhari Dahal.
Sindhuli is the key pocket area for sweet oranges. The fruit is harvested during the December-January period.
Consumers said that middlemen buy sweet oranges for Rs3-4 apiece, and when they reach the market, the price increases three- to fourfold.
â€œFarmers work hard but the benefit goes to the middlemen,â€ said Dahal. â€œWe have to pay Rs12 apiece when buying sweet oranges from retailers. It would be acceptable if farmers made more money, but middlemen have been pocketing the markup.â€
â€œTraders from the Tarai come to buy sweet oranges directly from my farm,â€ said farmer Hasta Bahadur Magar. â€œDepending on the quality, they pay as much as Rs4 apiece,â€ he said. Magar added that even if he had to buy the fruit from the village, it would cost him Rs5 each.
However, retailers cite high transportation costs as the major reason behind the jump in prices when the shipment reaches the market. â€œAlmost all of Sindhuli is connected by roads, so the claim about high freight charges is absurd,â€ said Achyut Dhakal, a consumer rights activist.
Ratanchura village is one of the top sweet orange producing areas, but prices in the nearby market are high too. Local consumers said that authorities had not taken any action to control prices fixed by middlemen.
The district produces 15,000 tonnes of sweet oranges annually on 1,500 hectares of farmland, according to the Sweet Orange Development Association.
ByÂ Raj Kumar Kari