Hailstorm blankets a farm in Jumla.
© Kathmandu Post
Hailstorm blankets a farm in Jumla.
A hailstorm and continuous rain that lashed parts of Jumla last week damaged apple crops in many places, wiping out a large number of farmers' income.

Apple growers in Patarasi Rural Municipality said hardly any fruits were left on the trees. The agriculture office said that around 95 percent of the apples had been ruined by the hailstorm in most parts of the district.

Municipality officials said that details of the damage were yet to be ascertained. However, farmers who have insured their crops will not be affected much. In 2016, apple crops in Jumla were insured for the first time allowing farmers to receive compensation if their harvests fail due to bad weather.

Apart from loss due to lack of rainfall, the insurance policy covers damage to crops by hailstorms. This year, apple farmers in Jomsom, Mustang got their crops insured for the first time.

Shikhar Insurance, in association with Sakchyam Access to Finance initiative funded by UK Aid, launched the weather insurance index (WII) last Sunday, a new insurance plan designed to protect farmers from weather afflicted damage to crops. As of April 2018, Shikhar had issued more than 1,500 WII policies to apple farmers, insuring more than 41,397 apple trees worth Rs89 million.

Jumla district in western Nepal has been seeing rain from last week. The hailstorm on Tuesday was so severe that a large number of apple trees were destroyed, said apple producer Min Bahadur Buda of Patarasi. "I lost all the apples on more than 90 trees in my orchard."

According to him, the apples in the orchards of many farmers have got stain marks on them. Buda said that the hailstorm not only damaged the fruits but also the leaves on the apple trees. "The trees look like skeletons."


Farmers who make a living growing apples are greatly worried. "It will be difficult for us to manage the family expenses this year," said farmer Purna Bohara. "We were expecting a good income from the apples this year, but all our hopes have been shattered."

Bohara said that the loss would force them to travel to India to look for seasonal labour jobs. Like Bohara, hundreds of apple growers are worried as they rely on the income from their apple crops to feed their families.

Chaudhabish is another area that was hard hit by the hailstorm. Thousands of apple trees have been destroyed. Farmers said Chaudhabish will not see any apples on the trees this year. The hailstorm has not only affected apples. Farmers said that their maize, potato and wheat crops had also been destroyed. "As crops and fruits have been damaged on a large scale, Jumla is likely to face a food shortage this year," Bohara said.

Laxmi Ram Mahat, agriculture coordinator of Patarasi Rural Municipality, said that the hailstorm had damaged 95 percent of the apples in Patarasi. "In Chaudhabish, apple output will be zero this year." The hailstorm has not only affected farmers, it has also hit the district's income.

Last year, the Karnali region produced 14,000 tonnes of apples. The output in Jumla, Mugu and Kalikot amounted to 3,990 tonnes, 2,923 tonnes and 5,115 tonnes respectively. Likewise, Humla and Dolpa produced 1,438 tonnes and 532 tonnes of apples respectively.