Connoisseurs of litchi may enjoy the choicest variety of the luscious fruit this season without having to step out of their homes and exposing themselves to the risks associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. The 'Shahi Litchi', a speciality of the north Bihar district of Muzaffarpur which earned the GI tag a couple of years ago, stands apart from other varieties by virtue of its unique fragrance and extra-juicy pulp which gives way to a smaller than usual seed.
It is now all set to be delivered to people's doorsteps thanks to a joint move by the Bihar government and the postal department.
"From May 25 onwards, people can place orders on state horticulture department website horticulture. bihar.gov.in," district horticulture officer Arun Kumar said.
The facility will initially be available to consumers in Patna, Muzaffarpur and Bhagalpur and may be extended to "all districts of Bihar" if the response is favourable, he said.
"The postal department will ensure free delivery within 24 hours. But only orders of two kg and above will be accepted," Muzaffarpur postmaster general Ashok Kumar said.
The measure has been hailed by litchi cultivators who had been in a state of despondency since the fruit has a very short shelf life and transportation has become a challenge in view of the nationwide lockdown.
"Litchis have started ripening but a lower than normal demand had been a problem. The cultivators hope that the online delivery facility will help them bring back their 'ache din' (good days)," remarked Jayapraksh, the CEO of Muraul Farmers Producers Company, with which 750 cultivators of the fruit, 50 of them dealing in 'Shahi Litchi', are associated.
"Farmers can now look forward to earning some decent profit by this new market that may spring up as a result of the online facility.
"Because of the lockdown, litchi cultivators have been finding it difficult to carry their produce to the markets. Moreover, the markets too are shorn of the usual hustle and bustle because of people staying indoors, resulting in lesser demand," he said.
The district collector had issued a communication earlier this week ordering that places identified as loading points for litchis or having processing units be allowed to carry out their operations beyond 6 pm the deadline for most economic activities across the state.
The communication noted that the 'Shahi Litchi' is supplied to far-off places like Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru, Jaipur, Chennai and Agra and unless supplied within a certain period of time the quality starts deteriorating causing the prices to fall.