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Muthalamada farmers count their losses

G. Prabhakaran
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Climate change slashes yield in Mango City to half; poor quality brings down prices

Double whammy:Mango farmers in Muthalamada grama panchayat of Chittur taluk in Palakkad district face the problem of low production and low quality owing to climate change
Double whammy:Mango farmers in Muthalamada grama panchayat of Chittur taluk in Palakkad district face the problem of low production and low quality owing to climate change

Mango farmers in the Muthalamada grama panchayat of Chittur taluk in the district, famed for its high-quality mangoes, have been left with a bitter taste in their mouths.

In the current mango harvesting season, which started late by a month, the yield has come down to half. The quality too is not up to mark. The farmers put the blame on climate change.

Due to the low quality, the price of mangoes has come down from Rs.700 to Rs.300 a box (seven kilos). The demand from centres such as Delhi, Mumbai, Ahmedabad, and Indore has fallen. The mangoes were exported to the Gulf countries in large quantities. However, this year, there are no orders yet.

Mango is cultivated in more than 5,000 acres of land in Muthalamada alone. More than 15,000 acres is under mango cultivation on a commercial basis in the district.

This year, the mango cultivators have suffered huge losses owing to the low production and fall in quality, C.A. Badurdheen, a mango farmer and exporter at Muthalamada, says.

Mr. Badurdheen says mango trees need rain in the months of December and January for good productivity. This season, there was no rain in the two months. As a result, the harvest was delayed, in turn affecting the price of the fruit.

He says that mango trees on an acre of land yield six to seven tonnes of mango. But this time, it was less than three tonnes. Owing to the drought conditions, mangoes fell from the trees in large quantities before they ripened.

The farmers who spent substantial sums of money on fertilizers and pesticides are facing huge losses. The harvesting too is a costly affair, he says.

Muthalamada farmers get a good price for their mangoes because these reach the market early. The harvest starts early in January every year. There are only two other places in the world where mangoes ripen as early as in January — Peru and Bolivia. So, Muthalamada mangoes get good export orders and high price from different parts of the world because they are the first to hit the international market.

Besides the loss of internal and external markets, the farmers have lost the price advantage too.

This is the second consecutive year that the change in climate has upset the calculations of the mango farmers, exporters and consumers.

Last year, the farmers suffered owing to unseasonal rains. The flowering was delayed, pushing back the harvest by two months.

The annual yield at Muthalamada, known as Mango City, is estimated to be over 45,000 tonnes of premium varieties such as Alphonso, Banganapilly, Malgova, Kalapadi, Suvarnarekha, Sindhooram and so on.

There are more than 30 exporters and 26 semi-permanent and temporary pack houses at Muthalamada. And nearly all of them are certain that this year, they will be counting losses.

Mango farmers, they say, do not get any compensation for crop loss from the government as in the case of other crops. There is also no crop insurance scheme for mango though it is cultivated on a commercial scale in large parts of the district.

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