MANU SOLANKI, a farmer from Garal village of Una taluka of Gir Somnath district has been a busy man since cyclone Tauktae wreaked havoc on his five-hectare mango orchard on May 17. Almost all of around 450 mango trees in his orchard were either uprooted by the cyclone or heavily damaged and may require to be replaced by new saplings. While cutting of branches of uprooted trees and restoring the trees in upright position is still going on, the farmer has been trying hard to lay his hand on good quality planting material.
“As advised by officers of the state horticulture department, I am restoring trees in the hope that they will rejuvenate. But rejuvenation can take time and therefore, as plan B, I have decided to plant around 525 samplings between rows of damaged trees and convert my low-density plantation into high-density. I have been trying hard to source plants prepared by side-grafting method as they are suitable for our area. I have enquired with nurseries in Sosiya village in Bhavnagar, Talala taluka in Gir Somnath and even in Kutch etc but without success. They are quoting prices as high as Rs 700 per graft. In normal times, good grafts would cost Rs 250 to Rs 300 a piece,” Solanki says.
Horticulture officers say that there are around 30 registered private nurseries in Junagadh, Gir Somnath, Amreli and Bhavnagar districts of Saurashtra which prepare approximately 20 lakh mango grafts annually. Besides, the Centre of Excellence in Mango established in Talala with the help of Israel also produces around 20,000 high-quality grafts.
Two government nurseries in Kodinar and Una and Junagadh Agricultural University also produce some grafts.
Ashwin Patel, a farmer from Kalsari village in Visavadar taluka of Junagadh, agrees with Solanki.
His mango orchard spread over four bigha and having around 100 mango trees was destroyed by the cyclone and the farmer has decided to develop a new plantation in their place.
“Every nursery I contacted offered to sell me 50 or 60 grafts against my demand of 120 saplings. But for maintaining uniformity in quality of fruits, it is imperative that all grafts come from a single nursery. After much effort, a private nursery from Talala has agreed to supply me 120 grafts at Rs 450 apiece,” said Patel.
At Deepak Vaja’s orchard in Nagadiya village of Gir Somnath, around 600 of 1,000 mango trees were uprooted and he has planted 700 new grafts in their place. “Nurseries were not willing to supply me grafts in such big numbers. I had to source it from three different nurseries,” says Vaja.
Nurseries agree the demand is higher this season. “We have nursed 1.20 lakh grafts, mostly of kesar variety of mangoes this year and 80,000 of them have already been booked. As our order book kept swelling, we had to stop accepting orders from individual farmers for more than 50 grafts each from June 15 onward as we need some buffer stock,” said Sanjay Vekariya, owner of Visavadar-based Sumit Baug and Nursery.
Hemanshu Usdadia, Deputy Director of horticulture (DDH) of Junagadh, however, asserts that prices are stable so far. “There are 15 private nurseries in Junagadh which have accreditation from the National Board of Horticulture besides government nurseries in Talala, Kodinar, Una and JAU nurseries. They have enough planting material,” said Usdadia.
Arun Karmur, deputy director of horticulture in Junagadh said that central and state governments give a cumulative subsidy worth Rs 55,000 per hectare for developing a mango orchard. “This subsidy is available to even those farmers who may have to do planting due to damage caused to their orchards by the cyclone.”