President Pranab Mukherjee, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and several other dignitaries will not savour the succulent ‘Shahi litchis’ of Bihar, famed for their sweetness, aroma and smallest of kernels across varieties in the world. The culprit is not any political manoeuvre, but a sudden and widespread infestation of tiny worms in the litchi crop.
Anupam Kumar, the district magistrate of Muzaffarpur, where the famed Shahi litchis are grown, said, “There has been a tradition of ending parcels of this variety of litchi to the President, Prime Minister and other dignitaries every year, but we are unable to follow it this time due to the infestation of worms in the crop.”
“The quality of Shahi litchis has also suffered due to hailstorms and unseasonal rains in March and April this year. So we have decided not to send the fruit to the top dignitaries of the country. We have informed about this to the state government,” Kumar said.
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The officer said the decision was a hard one to make and he consulted scientists from National Research Centre on Litchi (NRCL) located on the outskirts of Muzaffarpur city on the issue. “The scientists suggested that the quality was bad this time and sending them to dignitaries will not be a good idea,” he added.
As per tradition, the choicest of this variety of litchi, are neatly packed and sent to Bihar Bhavan in New Delhi from where they are dispatched to the residences of the President, Prime Minister and other VVIPs. Meanwhile, farmers and businessmen engaged in growing litchis and its trade are ruing there fate.
They are just hoping that the impending financial crisis will ease a bit following the state government’s assurance that those who have lost 33 per cent of their crop will be compensated. Litchi growers in the district are even blaming the recent earthquake and pesticides for the damage.
“The earthquakes shook the soft feeder roots of litchi trees due to which this has happened. Moreover, pesticides suggested by scientists this time also did not work and worms attacked the crop,” said Bhola Nath Jha, a litchi grower of Muzaffarpur.
Reacting to the allegations, NRCL director Vishal Nath said had earthquake been responsible for the problem, other fruit crops like mangoes would also have been affected. “As far as pesticides are concerned, it should be probed whether they affected the crop and did the farmers spray them in the required measure,” Nath said.
Around 6 lakh tonnes of litchi is produced in the country annually, out of which 3 lakh tonnes in Bihar. Muzaffarpur district leads in the state contributing 50,000 tonne of the fruit per year which includes its Shahi variety and over a dozen others.