Extreme weather conditions have halved the mango yield in its home districts of Junagadh and Gir-Somnath, according to findings of a survey by the Gujarat government. Union Minister of State for Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare, Parshottam Rupala, while speaking at the ‘Farm to Fashion: Indian textile global summit 2018’ in Ahmedabad, said that the mango crop in the state had been affected severely by unfavourable weather conditions this season and that the government was assessing potential crop losses.
“Due to the extreme heat, mango trees have been damaged. There is a very big loss to the mango crop this year. We have got details from some of the farmers. We are doing a survey of it,” Rupala said at the three-day event that began Friday in Ahmedabad. His comments have come around two weeks after a survey conducted by the Gujarat government concluded that mango orchards in Saurashtra were likely to produce only 40 to 45 per cent of fruits of the long-term average this year.
“Gujarat Agriculture Minister Ranchhod Faldu had visited Junagadh on April 5 and he instructed us to conduct a survey to assess the loss of crops, stating that farmers had made representations in this respect. With the help of scientists from Junagadh Agricultural University, we conducted sample survey in Junagadh and Gir Somnath districts. At the end of the survey, we concluded that the crop is 50 to 55 per cent less of the average in Junagadh district and 55 to 60 per cent less in Gir Somnath district,” an officer of state horticulture department told The Indian Express on the condition of anonymity.
The report was submitted to the state government last month and sources said it was being considered at higher level. Junagadh and Gir Somnath in Saurashtra region are known for the Kesar variety of mango. Farmers have grown mango orchards in more than 8,500 hectare in Junagadh and around 15,500 hectare in Gir Somnath. Overall, Gujarat is the fifth largest producer of mango in the country after Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Telangana. While farmers in Junagadh, Gir Somnath, Amreli, Bhavnagar and Kutch grow aromatic Kesar variety, their counterparts in Valsad, Navsari and Surat districts in south Gujarat mainly grow Alphonso variety. But this horticulture crop is highly weather-sensitive and sudden changes in weather affect the crop adversely.
The news comes just a day after the Agriculture Produce Market Committee (APMC) in Talala, one of the biggest wholesale markets of mango in the state, started auctioning the juicy fruit, marking the formal beginning of the mango season. The APMC, located in Gir Somnath district, recorded the arrival of 14,100 boxes, each containing 10 kg of mangoes, on the inaugural day on Thursday and the average price was around Rs 340 (for a 10-kg box) or around Rs1,700 per quintal. On Friday, the arrivals dropped to 8,350 boxes but the average price remained stable at around Rs 340. The highest price on Friday was Rs 650 and the lowest was Rs 210 for a 10-kg box, officers of the APMC said.
Farmers say the crop is poor this year due to unfavourable weather. “Skies remained overcast for three consecutive days in the first week of December under the influence of cyclone Ockhi. This affected the crop badly. In those days, mango trees in my orchards had started bearing fruits. But due to sudden change in the weather, the trees shed magdis (mango fruits of the size of green gram). Then again in January, the mercury soared unusually and led to khakhdis (immature mango fruits of the size of areca nut) falling down,” Bharat Dobariya, a mango grower in Madhupur village in Talala taluka of Gir Somnath district, said. Dobariya has mango orchards in seven hectares out of his total land holding of nine hectares.
Horticulture officers concur with the Dobariya. “There was heavy rain in Talala and surrounding areas in October and therefore, flowering on mango trees started late. Then, due to cyclone Ockhi, flowering was affected. At the fruit-bearing stage in early January, there was huge variation in daytime temperature and night temperature. Consequently, trees shed immature fruits. Therefore, the overall production is likely to remain only around 45 per cent of the long-term average,” said a horticulture officer in Junagadh.
Dobariya said that he was expecting his mango production to remain around 300 quintals against 760 quintals last season. “The government does not cover our horticulture crop under any crop insurance scheme. Nor does it declare Minimum Support Price for mangoes. So, we are completely at the mercy of market forces even in bad crop years,” added the 36-year-old farmer.
Incidentally, the state government had conducted a similar survey in Junagadh and Gir Somnath last year also after farmers complained of their trees bearing less number of fruit. The survey had concluded that the crop had seen an average of 25 to 30 per cent loss. But the mango growers had not received any compensation from the government.
Farmers say good prices can salvage the season for them. “I have started harvesting mangoes and a box of 10 kg is fetching around Rs 600 these days. This price is better as compared to corresponding period last season,” added Dobariya.
Junagadh and Gir Somnath together produce around 20 lakh quintals of mangoes every year. However, yields have remained stagnant at around 85 to 95 quintals per hectare. But prices have remained firm over the last few years as significant quantity of the total production is exported mainly to Europe and West Asia. The state had exported 5.32 lakh quintals of mangoes worth Rs 445 crore last year.