NEW DELHI: Mango season is eagerly awaited in India, where no other fruit can sweeten the long summer days and rejuvenate the soul. But not this year after unprecedented heat waves devastated crops.
The fruit figures in Indian poetry, it is also a tool of diplomacy, a status symbol and an object of gustatory passion.
The mango season lasts around 100 days, traditionally from late March to June, and is a time of bustling markets and festivals celebrating the king of fruits.
Mangoes are grown on 1.2 million hectares of land across India, which grows more than 1,500 varieties of fruit and accounts for around 55% of global production.
However, this year an estimated 80% of the harvest was lost after scorching heat waves during the hottest March and April in decades damaged mango blossoms, while erratic rainfall helped pests breed in the orchards.
“I have never seen such a drop in mango production in my entire life,” Insram Ali, chairman of the Indian Mango Growers Association, told Arab News.
“Each alternate season there is a marginal decrease in mango production, but this time it is unusual.”
Ali’s region, Malihabad, in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, is famous for Dussehri, a variety of mango prized for its sweet flavor and juicy, smooth flesh. But only a fraction of annual production will increase this year.
“Uttar Pradesh annually produces 4-5 million metric tons of mangoes, but this time we expect no more than 700,000 tons,” Ali said. “Mango cultivation has become the victim of climate change.”
His family has been growing mangoes for generations, but if extreme weather conditions persist, the tradition may come to an end.
“The income from mangoes is not increasing,” Ali said. “I would not like my son to exercise this family profession.
In the neighboring state of Bihar, also a major producer of mangoes, climate change has also wiped out crops.
“This time, only 15-20 percent of the crop will grow,” Randheer Choudhary, head of the Bihar Mango Growers Association, told Arab News.
“Even the fruit quality is not so good this time.”
The effects of extreme temperatures in March and April combined with other factors that damaged orchards and fruit.
“There were very high temperatures followed by high humidity in May due to continuous and intermittent rainfall – this was a contributing factor to the development of pests in the mango crop,” said Abdus Sattar, a scientist from Dr. Rajendra Prasad Central Agricultural University of Bihar. , said Arab News.
The pest, known as the red-banded mango caterpillar, tunnels through the flesh of mangoes and feeds on the seed, causing the fruit to spoil and drop early.
This year’s extreme weather was probably not an isolated climatic incident.
“I think such climatic conditions will become normal in the years to come,” Sattar said. “Not only people’s livelihoods, but also the quality of mangoes will also be affected.”
The impact on farmers is already severe.
Rajendra Verma, a 73-year-old man who has grown mangoes most of his life, said it was “a sign of concern for thousands of people whose lives revolve around growing mangoes”.
Families traditionally plan their biggest events around harvest times, when they can earn enough for larger expenses.
“This time, some families are postponing their weddings to next season. Mango cultivation controls our socio-economic activities,” Gulfam Hasan, who owns 700 mango trees in Malihabad region, told Arab News.
“I haven’t seen this kind of situation in my entire life.”