King of Mangoes may not keep date with March

Rahul Wadke Mumbai | Updated on December 30, 2020

Flowering cycle hurt by long monsoon, Alphonsos to hit market 45 days late

Mango lovers will have to wait till mid-April next year to relish the highly prized Alphonso variety, as unusual weather patterns have impacted its flowering cycle in the key producing regions of Maharashtra.

Normally, Alphonso mangoes, which carry a Geographical Indication tag and are the most expensive variety of the fruit, start hitting the market by early March. But with only  5 per cent of the trees in the  coastal districts where it is grown —  Ratnagiri, Sindudurg, Raigad, Palghar and Thane — flowering now, chances of the  fruit ripening in March look remote.

Usually, by December, about 20 per cent of the trees start flowering. According to BR Salvi, a horticulture scientist with the BS Sawant Agriculture University, the flowering has been delayed due to climate change.

This year, the rains in the Konkan belt were heavy and for a prolonged period. Further, the withdrawal of monsoon was delayed by two weeks.

Need for heat stress

For mango trees to flower, heat stress is required. Excess rain water in the soil did not evaporate as the October heat did not build up.

Plus, the uneven winter temperature has also not helped the flowering process, Salvi said.

For mango farmers who were looking forward to good pickings next year after facing a harsh summer this year, when their  produce stockpiled due to the lockdown and led to the expensive fruit rotting away, indications are that 2021 will be challenging as well.

Vivek Bhide, former member of the Maharashtra State Horticulture and Medicinal Plant Mission, said  a 45-day delay in  market arrivals will lead to a shorter season, and could affect prices as there would be an oversupply after mid-April.

Traditionally, the Alphonso  season is between March and May.  With the onset of the monsoon, consumers stop eating the fruit. During peak season, Alphonsos cost as much as ₹2,000 per dozen in the retail market.

Pricing issues

Bhide, who is also a mango farmer, is pessimistic about prices the coming season. He  described how, if the mangoes  reach mandis only after mid-April,  farmers may get desperate to encash their crop. The demand for the premium fruit lasts only till the last week of May, he pointed out.

Discerning consumers typically do not buy Alphonso  in June as, some time during the fruit setting cycle, the mangoes are attacked by fruit flies, which lay their eggs by puncturing the  skin. Later, the egg site gets covered by fresh skin. These dormant eggs hatch in June, which is why many avoid the fruit that month.

Published on December 29, 2020

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