Mango productivity has been hit in the district due to prolonged drought conditions, according to growers.

In only a matter of few years, the productivity had come down to 30 per cent of the original yield due to water shortage, said V. Vaideeswaram, president, Erode District Mango Growers' Association. Alphonso, Bangalora and Imam Pasand varieties are mostly grown in Erode district.

Mangoes have started arriving in large quantities from Salem and other parts of the State to the markets in Erode. Though the mango season has begun, it will take a month more for fruit-cutting to begin in the district.

Due to the low productivity, there is no compulsion for the growers in the district to ripen mangoes in bulk by artificial means, Mr.

Vaideeswaram said. The stocks kept in the market come under periodic scrutiny of the Food Safety department. Mangoes ripened with calcium carbide stones are confiscated.

Farmers say artificial ripening of fruits is not unusual the world over. For, ripe fruits cannot be transported. The raw fruits, after harvest, are first transported and then ripened at places close to consumption. But, ripening of the fruit with calcium carbide, a chemical material made of limestone, is illegal in India due to health risks, reflecting in vomiting, diarrhea, and burning sensation. The Food Safety Department, sources said, confiscates mango stocks if it is found that only the outer skin of the fruit has ripened while the flesh remains firm and more fibrous. Such fruits, the sources said, are more acidic and have shorter shelf life. "In Erode district, growers use doses of ethylene to induce ripening. This method of ripening is legal," Mr. Vaideeswaram said.