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Long live royal litchi!

Fresh and juicy litchis, particularly the shahi variety that was once grown only in Muzaffarpur district of Bihar but has now found progressive farmers in various parts of Jharkhand, are flooding Ranchi’s market.

Fruit vendors at Daily Market and the marts in Kutchery and Lalpur claim encouraging supply of the berry, which has great nutritional value being rich in Vitamin C and containing traces of potassium, calcium and magnesium.

“I started selling litchis a week ago. My stocks came from Gumla and Lohardaga. A kilo of litchi costs anything between Rs 60 and Rs 80 depending on both size and colour. The redder they are, the sweeter they are,” said Mohammed Shamim, a vendor at Daily Market.

Another vendor at Kutchery Market agreed. “We are purchasing litchis from farmers in Kanke (Ranchi district) where they have grown this fruit in abundance. Every day, we bring 10kg of the fruits and earn a decent living. This year, the yield has been good,” said Sita Devi.

The litchi, which is a member of the soapberry family, is grown in tropical to sub-tropical climate. In Jharkhand, Hazaribagh, Gumla, Ramgarh, Lohardaga and Ranchi districts have spawned around 50,000 progressive farmers who are cultivating the fruit over 4,500 hectares.

According to horticulture scientists, standard orchard management practices have helped improve production of litchis. “Modern farming techniques have contributed a lot. Production has jumped 5-10 per cent compared with last year, when the yield was 40 metric tonnes,” said Prabhakar Singh, the director of Jharkhand State Horticulture Mission.

“Litchi lovers will relish the fruit till the month of July owing to good production. In 2012, the production was 36 metric tonnes. So, not only were the 50,000 farmers provided training in a series of workshops, they were also given saplings and fertilisers at 75 per cent subsidy,” Singh added.

According to Singh, among all districts Hazaribagh has witnessed the maximum production, followed by Gumla, Ramgarh, Lohardaga and Ranchi. “Since both small and big growers are involved in litchi plantation, the supply will be enough to meet home requirements. We do not have to buy from Muzaffarpur,” he beamed.

As far as post-harvest infrastructure is concerned, Singh said they already had two cold storage facilities in Ranchi and Hazaribagh.