|Jharkhand produced 4.2 lakh tonne mango last year
Ranchi, Oct. 19: Gone with the wind are Jharkhand’s fruits of labour.
The mighty peripheral current of cyclone Phailin, which tore through the state on October 12-13, has taken a heavy toll on mango, litchi and guava orchards across districts, sparking concerns that next year’s yield would plummet by 40 per cent.
Worried horticulture scientists conceded that gale winds and heavy rain had damaged nearly several lakh guava trees in Ranchi, Gumla, Lohardaga, Hazaribagh and Giridih. At least 25 per cent of Mango trees in prime growing areas like Ranchi, Dumka, Deoghar, Lohardaga and Gumla have borne the Phailin brunt, while the same percentage of litchi trees in Dumka, Deoghar, Godda, Jamtara and Ranchi need intensive care to be nursed back to health.
R.S. Pan, a senior scientist associated with the horticulture and agro-forestry programme at ICAR’s eastern region research complex in Plandu, said fruit crops were cultivated on around 72,000 hectares across the state. Forty Mango saplings, 400 guava plants and 100 litchi saplings are planted per hectare.
Last year, according to ICAR’s Bikash Das, the state produced 4.2 lakh tonne mango, 36,000 tonne litchi and 84,000 tonne guava.
“The storm and rain have wreaked havoc across 18,000 hectares. There will be late flowering, which will automatically shrink production and increase fruit prices next summer,” Pan warned.
State director of National Horticulture Mission Prabhakar Singh too expressed his concerns. “Production of fruits like mango, guava and litchi will be both less and delayed. Owing to the cylcone and rain, flowering that normally takes place in October will be seen only in January-February,” he said.
Singh added that many guava and mango trees had been uprooted and farmers would need support for fresh plantations.
ICAR fruit scientist Bikash Das said around 100 guava trees had been damaged or destroyed on their campus alone. “New leaves and flowers start showing in October. But this time, flower buds will take another couple of months to appear,” he echoed Singh.
Horticulturists have already appealed to the Hemant Soren government for a special fund so that robust trees can be planted around orchards, which will in the future act as storm barricades.
“In order to protect fruit-bearing trees, we need to have a wind break. A ring of sturdy trees can serve that purpose. But, for this, we need policy support from the National Horticulture Mission, besides funds from the state,” Pan said.
K.K. Soan, the director of agriculture, said the state was willing to lend support to farmers whose orchards had been wrecked. “We are waiting for detail reports from ICAR scientists and horticulture mission officials. We need to verify and assess certain things after which we can proceed for allocation of funds,” he added.
Das said they were in the process of preparing a detailed report for losses incurred on Plandu premises.