New Delhi, May 17: Damage to crops during the summer due to rough weather is not a new phenomenon but the recent spells of high-intensity thunderstorms have wreaked havoc for the mango growers of Uttar Pradesh, who claimed that around 50 percent of the fruit -- two to two-and-a-half million tonnes -- which was in the ripening stage, has been spoilt. Thus, not only will the production of popular mango varieties such as Dasheri and Langda decline but will also translate into higher prices.
In addition, this will have a bearing on the central government's plans to export mango varieties from Uttar Pradesh to the Gulf countries. "We have been getting reports from farmers that average 50-60 percent of fruits have fallen off the trees due to the intense hailstorm in the past few days. We are still assessing the situation but the yield this year may reduce by up to 50 percent of the total average production," said Insram Ali, President of the Mango Grower's Association of India.
According to the Uttar Pradesh Horticulture Department, annual production of mangoes in the state is pegged at 4-5 million tonnes. The government had a different story to tell, even as it said it was assessing the situation. Horticulture Director R.P. Singh told IANS that orchards in Agra were badly damaged but the situation was not serious in other mango growing districts.
"In Agra, the damage has been reported in over a 33 percent area so compensation will be given to the affected farmers. In other areas including Malihabad in Lucknow district, where five-seven per cent of the crop has been damaged. It happens every year. So it is not serious damage," Singh told IANS, adding that the situation was still being assessed to get a clearer picture.
Singh, however, accepted that the yield would be less this time. Losses would be more in the areas where hailstorm had happened, said Shailendra Rajan, Director of Lucknow-based Central Institute for Subtropical Horticulture (CISH). "It is difficult to talk about the range of damage due to the rough weather as it is not uniform across the state. But it is more in the areas where hailstorms have occurred," Singh said.
Rajan said the damage would not have been significant if the hailstorms had occurred earlier. "However, it is dangerous if the fruit is in the maturity stage." The affected fruit was in maturity stage and what had survived would hit the markets by end of this month, said mango expert R.P. Srivastava. "There were thunderstorms last year as well, which had also damaged the crop. However, the impact seems to be much worse this year. Around 50- 60 percent of Dasheri mangoes have dropped to the ground due to hailstorms," he said.
Over 100 have died since May 7 due to frequent spells of thunderstorm accompanied with dust storms, hailstorms and squalls. The hailstorms also led to the appearance of spots on the mangos that did not fall off the trees, Srivastava added. The development means a drop in the supply of mangoes in the market, said Srivastava, who retired as Director of the CISH, a constituent of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR). "In 2017, the prices of Dasheri and Langda mangoes in Lucknow were around Rs 40 a kilo. But it seems it will go up to Rs 80 in 2018. It will also lead to an increase in prices in the Delhi markets," he said. As per the first advance estimates issued by Union Agriculture Ministry, mango production in the country this year is expected to 20.7 million tonnes. It was 19.5 million tonnes in 2016-17.