Agri Business

Lower crop, poor prices and labour shortage haunt mango growers

Shobha Roy/ Rutam Vora Kolkata/Ahmedabad | Updated on May 15, 2020

Mango growers across the key producing States of Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Gujarat are likely to be hit hard by a lower crop and poor prices this year.

Production in some of the key growing areas is expected to be down by at least 20-30 per cent on the back of untimely rains during the flowering season (in November-December), followed by hailstorms in March-April, which is typically the period when fruits mature and ripen. The situation will be aggravated by the lockdown-induced labour shortage during harvesting.

Mango harvesting is set to begin in the coming weeks in UP, Gujarat and West Bengal.

Lower production

S Insram Ali, President, Mango Growers’ Association of India, said production in UP, the largest mango growing State of India, is estimated to be lower by around 35-38 per cent this year at close to 28 lakh tonnes, as against the average production of 42-45 lakh tonnes.

“The crop this year was already estimated to be lower at around 30-35 lakh tonne as against an average crop of close to 45 lakh tonne. The unfavourable weather condition has further impacted the crop and the production is estimated to be lower by another 15-20 per cent. Coupled with this, most growers have been finding it difficult to get labour to spray pesticides and water in a timely manner and this is likely to impact the quality of produce,” Ali told BusinessLine.

Bengal estimates

The production estimates for the whole of West Bengal was not readily available. However, Malda, which is one of the key producing districts, accounting for nearly 40 per cent of the State’s total mango crop, is likely to witness 17 per cent drop in production at around 2.5 lakh tonne this year.

“We had heavy rains in March, April and also May. We had expected a crop close to 3 lakh tonnes during the flowering season, but as per our current estimates, we have lost close to 60,000 tonnes of crop,” said Rahul Chakraborty, director horticulture of Malda district.

The crop condition in Kutch, Saurashtra and South Gujarat initially appeared to be good. However, climatic adversity during January-February damaged the flowering and lowered the crop prospects.

"Kesar mango crop is delayed by about 20-25 days due to climatic adversities. We expect about 25 per cent lower crop this year. The mandis will open on May 17. However, the trade practice has changed from wholesale buyers to bulk purchases by residential societies from big cities such as Ahmedabad and Rajkot,” said Harsukhbhai Jasaniya from Keshod mango APMC in Junagadh.

Labour shortage

The lockdown-induced labour disruption is hampering mango harvesting. Batuksinh Jadeja, a mango grower from Kutch district, said he faces acute shortage of labour after his regular farm labourers left for Uttar Pradesh and Jharkhand.

“These labourers have special skills to pluck the fruit, sort and grade it according to weight and quality and suitably pack in a box. It is difficult to substitute them with locals,” Jadeja said, adding that he had offered 30 per cent higher wages but they were not willing to stay back. This causes uncertainty for executing the export orders for mango crop.

Published on May 15, 2020

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