Tamil Nadu

Cyclone damage sours mango farmers’ dreams

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Cultivators now have the additional burden of clearing the broken trees

R. Pakkirisamy, a mango farmer, and his wife, Maheswari, were waiting on the main road that links to their village, Pushpavanam, in Nagapattinam district on Thursday. He was desperately hoping that someone would come to assess the losses he has suffered in the aftermath of Gaja.

“I am not asking anything. Why don’t you make a visit to our grove. Let me talk to you at least to unwind my emotion. I am 63-year-old and for the first time in my life I am forced to beg,” Mr Pakkirisamy told The Hindu, in a voice choking with emotion.

He was one of the many farmers in Kathiripulam, Chettipulam, Chempodai and Pushpavanam, who made a steady income from the mango varieties including Senthura, Neelam, Banganapallai and local breed. They also had planted cashew, tamarind, amla, muringa and many cash crops and the cyclone had destroyed almost 90% of the trees and thrown the farmers on the streets seeking relief.

“A well-maintained mango tree will yield one tonne of mangoes per annum and one kg would cost ₹ 20. You should come here during Onam season in Kerala. Vehicles would be lined up in the entire region waiting to buy mangoes. I had married off my two daughters from the income and borrowed money. Now I don’t know how to repay it,” said Mr. Pakkirisamy.

The destruction is so vast that the farmers do not have the resource to clear the broken trees. There are not many cutting machines, and even if they are available they do not have money to pay for the labour.

Cutting machines

“You have to pay ₹700 per day as rent for the machine and you have to buy petrol for running it. Employing manual labour is beyond our capacity now,” said C. Ramachandran, a farmer from Sempodai, whose big house stands amid the destruction.

He said his income depended on the season. “One season will bring money from mango, another from cashew, another from tamarind. The single amla tree earned me ₹15,000 per month,” he said pointing to the tree that was dead and slanting inside the well in his backyard.

A view from the terrace of Mr. Ramachandran’s house explains the magnitude of the damage.

“Earlier, it would look like a forest and it was difficult to spot houses among the plantations. I may replant the tree, but I will not be in a position to see them bearing the fruit,” he said.

He and Mr. Pakkirisamy said the government should render assistance to clear the damaged and broken trees. “The wood should be preserved from the rain, though it can be used only as firewood for brick kiln,” they said. Mr. Pakkirisamy pleaded that the government should take steps to provide employment to at least one person in the family.

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Printable version | Dec 7, 2019 7:12:01 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/cyclone-damage-sours-mango-farmers-dreams/article25638434.ece

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