When Awungshi Shimray Augustina left for her home town in 2015 after working with Gordon Max, a Singapore based private company in a managerial position, the decision to leave a lucrative job in a metropolitan city would seem unwise to many. Poi village, her native place with approximately 380 households bordering Myanmar wasn’t confidence inspiring to chart new beginnings.
Under the initiative of North Eastern Region Community Resource Management Project (NERCORMP) farmers in Mizoram and Manipur were trained for apple cultivation with the help of district horticulture department and district rural development agency. In the year 2019, villagers from Shokvao, Hungpung, Lunghar, Talui, Muirei, Poi among others went to attend workshop on apple cultivation at Himachal Pradesh organized by North East Council, sponsored through Council of Scientific & Industrial Research in an endeavor to reach out to Northeast villages to experiment a pilot project of apple cultivation.
Augustina was told by Madam Soso Shaiza, former member, National Commission for Women (NCW) which she readily accepted.
Two years later, the positive apple yield in Ukhrul district would practically change the way people in the district and Northeast in general would look at apple as a marketable product. Several attempt to cultivate the plant failed in the region due to many leading factors, climatic conditions being a major hurdle. However this seems to have changed over the years, as Manipur and Mizoram are how seeing good quality and quantity of apple yields.
Out of the 55 saplings Augustina planted in April 2019, 52 produced yield and three died. She has harvested 130 kilograms of apples this year and another 70 kilograms she said is yet to be harvested.
Ringphami Thingshung from Hungpung who was in the same training group with Augustina planted 90 sapling out of which 85 survived and yielded excellent amount, a positive indicator for a two year old plant.
Speaking to Ukhrul Times, Augustina explained how carefully the saplings were planted over the past two years in virgin soil mixed with pig manure extremely rich in nutrient dense. “Picking the right spot with exposure to maximum sun is ideal for planting the saplings,” she added.
The variety of apples Augustina said suitable for the climatic conditions so far are the juicy and crunchy low chilling varieties Dorsett Golden and Anna, sold for Rs 200 per kilogram.
“Two other saplings of Red Fuji, the more expensive variety and Green Spur were planted but that didn’t bear fruit” she said.
Just like Augustina many local farmers are planning to expand farm land to attain marketable quantity, but doing this will involve tons of manure, fencing, manpower and the crucial mechanism to make the produce more commercial friendly.
Demand for Himachal apple across India and abroad has been a stable source of income for 1.5 lakhs of families associated with apple farming. The apple economy in Himachal runs in Rs 4000-5000 crore a report in The Statesman said.
A good quality apples are being sold anywhere for Rs 2500 to Rs 3000 per standard box (20 kilograms) in Manipur mostly imported from Moreh. The pilot project of apple cultivation in Manipur will come as the much needed economy boost for Manipur hill districts farmers who heavily rely on rice, pineapple and banana products.