Lucknow: Vijay Singh, 43, a mango farmer from Mall village in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, is worried after he could not sell even one of his mango orchards this summer due to the lockdown.
Vijay, one of the big mango growers of Lucknow, said that he is all set to witness a loss of at least 50% due to low produce because of the low temperatures, inclement weather conditions and the lockdown.
“I own about 30 acres of land in the Malihabad belt which have mango orchards. The produce is at least between 35% to 40% lesser this year because it rained till the month of March and also because the temperature remained low. The fruits hanging on the tree are also in danger because we cannot get pesticide sprayed on it due to the unavailability of labour owing to the lockdown,” said Singh.
Singh claimed that it would be difficult for him and other mango farmers to even earn the production cost they incurred this year. The mango farmer said that it was not just the low production which was a worry but other factors like labour, a lack of electricity and the unavailability of wooden boxes to store the mangoes.
“It is the end of April and by this time of the year most of the mango varieties that are grown in Uttar Pradesh begin to arrive in the market; the Langda, Chausa, or the very famous Malihabadi Dasheri variety. But this year we could not buy the orchards of small mango farmers because we cannot venture out due to the lockdown. The small mango orchard owners are also looking to sell their yield at throwaway prices due to the unavailability of pesticides and storage boxes. Soon, the mango will rot and cannot be preserved,” Singh told NewsClick.
The mango growers association of Uttar Pradesh is worried about the lockdown as it may lead to high losses in the mango trade. Insram Ali, one of the office bearers of the organisation said that there may be a loss of between 10 to 15 lakh metric tons of mangoes due to the lockdown (more than Rs 1,000 crores according to the going rate). Ali said they demanded that the government provides them electricity for irrigation and waive off the electricity bills of mango farmers for six months. He also said that the government should immediately step in and decide a Minimum Support Price for the mangoes and purchase it from the mango farmer. It worth noting that Uttar Pradesh has 15 belts where the fruit is grown and mangoes from the state are sent to the middle east and many other countries in the west.
“The government, at least for this year, should purchase the mangoes directly from the farmers and decide an MSP as this will help the small farmers. Else, the future of mango growers looks bleak in the state. The government charges us for electricity at tariff which is set for the urban areas and we demand that a subsidy should be provided on that. Proper supply of electricity should be insured for irrigation and six months electricity bill should be waived for us. The government should also issue passes to farmers and labourers so that plucking, preserving and storing activities can be started within a week, otherwise it will be too late,” Ali demanded in his letter.
Saud, another mango grower from the famous Malihabad mango belt in Lucknow is also worried as he is yet to receive orders of mangoes from the Middle East.
“I have not received even a single call from mango traders of the Gulf countries. Mangoes from the Malihabad are in huge demand there but this year the coronavirus will consume all our mangoes. Even if we start receiving orders we will not be able to sell them because of the other factors,” he said.
He added that mangoes from north India do not survive the conditions for long and start rotting within a week, so it is next to impossible to sell them without preserving them. And for preservation, factories need to be open.
“I think the government and the concerned horticulture department should come up with a strategy for mango growers. We are ready to follow social distancing and other norms to keep COVID-19 but someone should at least think of us,” he said.
India occupies the top position among mango-growing countries of the world and produces 40.48% of the total mango production of the world. Mango is grown in almost all the states of India but Uttar Pradesh tops the production list. Other major producers are Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Bihar and Gujarat.
According to a Lok Sabha query the production of mangoes in Uttar Pradesh in 2015-16 was 4512.71 metric tonnes, a number which fell to 4341 metric tonnes in 2016-17, was 4551.83 in 2017-18 and 4577.15 metric tonnes in 2018-19. The mango growers association has predicted that the production this year could be between 25 to 30 metric tonnes.