Favourable weather conditions during the flowering season (in November-December) and the prevailing “good weather” at the time of harvesting is likely to push up mango production in West Bengal by nearly 25-30 per cent this year. The production is estimated to be close to ten lakh tonnes (lt) this year, as against 7.5-8 lt in 2020.
However, mango growers fear that the unavailability of labour during the crucial harvesting time due to the lockdown and fear of the pandemic could impact production, both in terms of quantity and quality, and also the prices.
Lockdown, labour shortage
According to Ujjal Saha, President of Malda Mango Merchants’ Association, the flowering has been very good this year as against last year when there were untimely rains during the flowering season followed by hailstorms in the months of March-April, which is typically the period when fruits mature and ripen. So, typically it can be expected that it would lead to bumper production this year, however, there has been a shortage of labour to carry on the most critical task of ensuring that no pest attacks the crop.
“This is the time when mangoes mature and there is a possibility of various pest attacks so we need to constantly spray medicines to ensure that they are not affected and for this we need skilled labour. However, there has been a shortage of labour due to the fear of pandemic and this is likely to impact production,” Saha told BusinessLine.
Malda, one of the key producing districts and accounts for nearly 40 per cent of the State’s total mango crop, is expecting 40 per cent higher production this year at around 3.5 lt (2.5-3 lt). The lower production last year was mainly on account of heavy rains and occasional hailstorms in March, April followed by the cyclone Amphan in May.
Lack of buyers
Growers are also worried about the news of cyclone Yaas and its probable impact on mango producing region of the State. Heavy rainfall at the time of harvesting may impact the quality of the fruit and lower its shelf life.
According to Krishnendu Nandan, deputy director, Horticulture, Malda, there has been fewer buyers in the market this year due to the lockdown. Lack of transport availability has also impacted the movement of mangoes from Malda to the north-eastern States of Assam and Tripura among others.
West Bengal, which sells its Himsagar and Langda varieties of mango in the neighbouring Assam, Tripura and Bihar among others has hardly received any enquiries for trade so far.
Naturally, there is expected to be a glut in the market which would then exert pressure on prices.