Look forward to a litchi-flavoured summer, Jharkhand, if the succulent fruits can survive the Nor’westers.
Pollination of the litchi chinensis has been excellent this year, thanks to optimum March temperatures, said litchi experts.
But there is a rider.
The state, which can hope to surpass its 16,000-tonne production benchmark this year, needs to be wary of storms such as the one on Sunday. These may rip unformed fruits off the trees.
As of now, the fruit needs at least another three weeks to mature. The litchi will fully ripen for consumption only by May-end.
“We have noticed very good pollination on litchi trees. We are predicting a good production this year in Jharkhand. Good pollination is the result of congenial weather conditions in state,” said Shivendra Kumar, scientist and director of ICAR-run Horticulture and Agriculture Research Programme (HARP), Plandu.
Even the state horticulture department officials are optimistic, storms or no storms.
“We believe this will be a good year for litchi as the quantity of buds suggest. The storms, at the most, will affect 10 per cent of the fruits,” said state horticulture mission director Prabhakar Singh.
Litchi begins flowering in mid-March, pollinates around the April first week and forms small fruits, which take up to six to eight weeks to ripen fully.
Last year, Jharkhand’s Celsius climb coincided unfortunately with the flowering, which literally nipped growth in the bud, singeing flowers beyond repair.
Jharkhand’s litchi haul stood at 12,000 tonne, around 4,000 tonnes below its production average.
This year, the state is hoping for litchi production to climb beyond 17,000 tonnes. Ranchi, Hazaribagh, Ramgarh, Khunti, Dhanbad and Bokaro districts have recorded healthier pollination than usual, reasons to bolster the optimism.
However, trees in Gumla, Latehar and Lohardaga are comparatively barren.
“Elsewhere, litchi trees may have borne good fruits but not in Gumla-Lohardaga region. Our trees have very few fruits,” said Sushil Oraon, a farmer from Bishunpur block of Gumla district.
Oraon need not feel left out. Jharkhand — which claims to produce good Shahi and China variants of litchis — is not a patch on two neighbours, which produce the lion’s share of India’s litchis.
Bihar grows over 2 lakh tonnes of litchi annually, which is around 74 per cent of the country’s produce. It is followed by Bengal, which produces around 74,900 tonnes. Litchi is grown substantially in Tripura, Assam, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh.
Globally, China and India are world leaders in litchi, with large belts of sub-tropical climate ideal for the fruit.