With early flowering of mango trees, Muthalamada farmers hoping for a copious season

According to young farmer and exporter Hafees J.M., the next 25 days are crucial for Muthalamada, the Mango City of Kerala.

December 04, 2022 05:47 am | Updated 10:58 am IST - PALAKKAD

Workers sorting mangoes at a stock yard at Muthalamada in Palakkad, in this file photo.

Workers sorting mangoes at a stock yard at Muthalamada in Palakkad, in this file photo. | Photo Credit: K K Mustafah

Mango farmers in Muthalamada are in a prayerful mood. With the mango orchards spread across 4,500 hectors in full flower, the farmers are hopeful of a copious season. They are praying for a normal climate. Rains in December are a matter of worry for the 500-odd mango farmers of Muthalamada.

Although Muthalamada had suffered heavily from unseasonal rains and thrips attack since 2018, this year’s climate has been favourable so far. The flowering started in November and the farmers are busy protecting them by spraying pesticides. According to young farmer and exporter Hafees J.M., the next 25 days are crucial for Muthalamada, the Mango City of Kerala.

“This is the time when we are wary of rains. It won’t be a problem when it rains for a day. But when it rains three or four days back to back, it can shatter the hopes of the farmers,” Mr. Hafees said.

The crucial 90 days

The cool-night and hot-day climate of December is beneficial for Muthalamada, where the mango season is expected to begin by the beginning of February. It takes 90 days for a tree to harvest after it starts flowering.

“If there is no major shift in the climate, we are most likely to escape from the thrips attack this time,” he said. The thrips, locally called elappen, had decimated the crops in the last four years, giving the farmers their biggest worry in recent memory.

“We have been trying everything possible to eliminate the thrips. But they are strangely surviving and increasingly becoming a threat for us,” said M. Sachindran, one of the leading farmers who has been engaged in mango cultivation for over three decades since the entire Muthalamada witnessed a crop shift from groundnut to mango nearly half a century ago. Like other famers, Mr. Sachindran is hopeful that the flowers will pass through the crucial time before the arrival of thrips in the summer.

Early flowering is the real strength and advantage of Muthalamada. The orchards flowered in November will be ready for harvest by the end of January. Last year, after rains destroyed the early flowers, thrips ravaged the trees that flowered in January.

Synonym for Kerala mangoes

In major Indian markets, particularly Delhi, Ahmedabad and Mumbai, Muthalamada mangoes are a synonym for Kerala mangoes. They are the first to hit the market when the season begins in January. About 90 per cent of the 20,000 tonne mangoes from Muthalamada reach those North Indian markets every year.

Muthalamada mangoes have a steady market in the Gulf as well, especially in Dubai and Qatar. “Because of Football World Cup, there has been a special demand for mangoes in Qatar. About five tonnes of mangoes procured largely from Tamil Nadu are being exported daily,” said Mr. Hafees.

Muthalamada has all major mango varieties such as Alphonso, Banganapalli, Sindhooram, Totapuri or Kilimooku or Kilichundan, Kalapadi, Mallika, Naduselai, Neelam, Rumani, Malgoa and Gudadath. But Alphonso continues to be the leader bringing two to three times the price of other varieties. Banganapalli, Sindhooram and Totapuri are the key varieties covering two thirds of the total crops.

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