Lucknow: 'Aam' or the mango - the summer delight for millions across India - might finally be a 'VIP' this season. This, as unseasonal rains have wreaked havoc on the harvest and production is likely to dip by over 30 percent. While heavy and gutsy winds have brought down most of the 'baur' (mango flower), much of the remaining has been hit by fungal attack due to moisture.
Mango growers in Uttar Pradesh rue the fact that unseasonal rain, hailstorms and inclement weather could actually spike the harvest further, leaving fewer mangoes and out of reach of commoners. The prices, they warn, are going to rise steeply. The western belt of mango orchards and the Mallihabad belt have taken the brunt of the rain over the past few weeks.
In Saharanpur, 70-75 per cent of the mango crop has been damaged, leaving growers haunted with the spectre of "very poor yield". The crop damage becomes more worrying as last year, the extreme heat of June had damaged the mangoes. With the temperatures comparatively low in April, mango growers point out that the fruit will take time to ripen and could miss the domestic and export markets.
Shabi-ul-Hasan, a major mango exporter from Saharanpur, said he is keeping his fingers crossed for the next few weeks, adding that "as of now, the crop has been badly hit" owing to the rains.
The western belt of UP - Muzaffarnagar, Baghpat, Shamli, Saharanpur, Syana in Bulandshahr, Shikarpur and Gulawathi - export more than 200 tonnes of various mango varieties to the Gulf countries, Europe and the US.
In 2014, the crop damage was not as bad as this year and the exports had dropped to a mere 40 tonnes. Mango exporters are worried that this year could "render a body blow" to the harvest.
The Rataul mangoes, which make Baghpat a favoured export centre, has also witnessed extensive damage. The situation is similar in Mallihabad, neighbouring state capital of Lucknow, where the famous Dussehri variety comes from.
Haji Qalimulla, an eminent mango grower referred to as 'Mango Man', feared that the cost of Dussehri, the commom man's 'darling fruit', could cost an additional Rs 10-20 this time round. He also said that making any more predictions on the mango harvest could be dicy as rains have been unseasonally coming and going. Any further rain could further scale-up the prices.
The situation is the same for the Chaunsa, Safeda and other varieties grown in the state.
Mango is grown over almost 300,000 hectares and the yield varies from 3.5-4.2 million tonnes. While a sizeable chunk is exported, the rest is consumed domestically. So, brace up for the sweet mango season to be slightly bitter and out of reach!