| A tree laden with litchis in Muzaffarpur. Picture by Lokesh Bihari |
A dry spell of westerly winds lashing North Bihar is crushing the prospects of a bumper litchi harvest.
Traditional litchi cultivators had high hopes of a bumper crop this season, but the vagaries of nature are playing spoilsport and the production of the fruit north Bihar is famous for the world over could see a dip.
Bholanath Jha, farmer’s representative at Agricultural Technology Management Authority (ATMA), a World Bank-aided agency in the agriculture sector, told The Telegraph that because of dry westerly winds sweeping the region in the past 10 days, the fruit — including the superior Shahi variety — are getting burnt and destroyed.
The fruits are developing cracks and dropping from the trees, said Mohammad Mumtaz, a litchi grower in Malighat. Bihar’s annual litchi produce is over four lakh tonnes, but this time the production will fall, said Jha. Already, there are reports that 40 per cent of the produce in litchi orchards has got destroyed. So, the produce is unlikely to be over two and a half lakh tonnes this time.
The district horticulture department is keeping a tab on the fruit’s destruction and scientists from National Litchi Research Centre at Mushahri, with help from kisan mitras, are busy educating farmers on how to water the trees to protect the fruit. Principal scientist of the centre, Rajesh Kumar, said the dry spell has undoubtedly restricted the fruit from blossoming well and increased burn cases. Litchi growers are requested to water the orchards in case of no rainfall in their areas. Watering the orchards will help the trees get humidity through evaporation, Rajesh Kumar said.
“Such is the condition of the fruit’s produce, short in size and colourless, it would be difficult for it to find buyers even in the indigenous market,” said Mohammad Sayeed, a litchi trader. Farmers will be forced to sell it for not more than Rs 70 a hundred.
“Litchi has fixed buyers in New Delhi, Kanpur, Allahabad, Chennai and Mumbai and they purchase orchards at the time of flowering. But they are having some anxious moments following reports of the produce being smaller in size and some fruits dropping,” said Bikram Sah of Minapur, a traditional cultivator of litchi.
Dildar Singh, a buyer from New Delhi said he had asked his local helpers to water the trees extensively to protect the fruits. All buyers from big cities now plan to get the fruits plucked from May 19, to meet the market demand.
On an average, litchi buyers have 70 to 100 trucks at their disposal to take consignments from Muzaffarpur and its periphery to New Delhi, Allahabad, Lucknow, Chennai and Mumbai.
“We prefer to ferry it by truck rather than railways, except in the case of Mumbai, so that it reaches the market on time,” Singh said.