Chairman of Agro Manang
Samraj Gurung, Chairman of Agro Manang, says the inception of his apple farming business can be traced back two generations. “It started around the time there was an increase in the number of Tibetan refugees in Manang who brought apple saplings with them from China,” he explains. Gurung’s grandfather was the mayor then, and saw a business opportunity in apple farming. “The concept to commercialise apple farming in Manang was my grandfather’s idea,” he shares.
“Manang lies along the Annapurna circuit and the main livelihood focus has been tourism in the past, but now the potential and benefit of farming is being realised,” says Gurung.
Agro Manang is a family business pioneering high-density apple farming in Nepal, and aims to make Manang known for not only its beautiful landscape and trekking trails but also a hub for delicious apples.
Since the start of the project, the farm area has been expanded and Gurung has also opened a small luxury hotel in its midst. He shares that the hotel project called ‘Farm House’ overlooks the entire area of 725 ropanis. Strategically built amidst the magnificent mountains and the rolling apple orchards, perhaps the largest commercial fruit farm in the country, the hotel cannot be missed with a cosy coffee shop that caters to on road travellers.
As the farm lies on the trekking route, there is a large flow of domestic and international tourists passing through. Gurung says, “During the peak season, hundreds of people come to trek along the Thorong La Pass and Tilicho Lake areas and they stop by our farm for refreshment or to spend the night.” To add to the guest experience, Gurung also organises farm and factory tours.
Agro Manang produces four types of apples. “Fuji, Gala and Golden Delicious are the three main varieties and we are experimenting with the Jona Prince variety too,” he says. From fresh apples to apple chips and juice, also in the pipeline of products is pure apple wine.
As a student of hotel management, Gurung loves the tourism sector but agriculture has deepened his connection with the earth and he finds his work now spiritually satisfying. Gurung is also building a 70 kW hydropower project to fuel the energy needs of his ventures.
Gurung says that apple farming has huge potential in the country but production is lacking and most apples available in the market are imported. “About 90-95% of apple import comes from China, India and the United States. We grow only about 5% in the country. At Agro Manang, we have around 65,000 trees on our farm and our recent production was 400 tonnes. The production is still low but as the trees mature, they’ll start producing more apples over the years.”
Agro Manang was officially launched in 2014 and within months, the big earthquake of 2015 meant multiplied challenges in meeting infrastructural needs. Additionally, qualified manpower became a task in itself. Gurung has worked through these challenges with a determined focus on putting Manang on the global map for its apples.