The king of fruits might not flood markets in the city this summer. The severe drought in the State has adversely impacted mango yield this season, with farmers estimating that the yield could be as low as 30% of the average annual yield this year.
Mango growers were awaiting rains during the Ugadi week, which is critical for fruit formation. However, mango growing areas — spread over 17 districts in two clusters: Kolar and adjoining districts in the south and Dharwad and adjoining districts in the north — have not received adequate rains. Northern districts are relatively better off.
Some pockets, such as Chintamani and surrounding areas of Kolar, received rains accompanied by hailstones, which ended up damaging the fruits. “Most areas in Kolar belt have seen fruit falls. Our last hope was the Ugadi rains, but with that failing too, the situation got worse. Leave alone fruiting, the trees have themselves dried up,” said Srinivas, president, Chickballapur Mango Growers’ Association. “The lack of adequate rains and high temperatures impact the size of fruits. In places which got some rains accompanied by hailstones, there have been fruit falls. The situation is relatively better in the northern belt around Dharwad than in the south. But the yield will be lower in both areas,” said C.G. Nagaraj, managing director, Karnataka State Mango Development and Marketing Corporation Ltd. (KSMDMCL). Most of the mangoes currently available in the city’s markets are from North Karnataka, said a senior procurement official of a leading retail chain. While Mr. Nagaraj said 70% crop loss which is the estimation of farmers may be on the higher end, he refused to quantify the crop loss.
However, farmers say that any rain now will help the crop. “The mango season ends by mid-August. Several varieties like Neelam and Totapuri come in the latter half of the season. Any rains now will help farmers growing these varieties,” said Mr. Nagaraj.
But farmers are worried about fruit-fly infection that is beginning to infect the crop. The KSMDMCL has conducted widespread campaigns in the mango-growing areas to use pheromone traps in the fields — organic traps that attract male houseflies in a pouch preventing infection of the crop.
“We are using six to eight such pheromone traps per acre. The number of houseflies trapped in each of them ranges between 80 and 650, indicating a high chance of infection, leaving us worried,” Mr. Srinivas said.
With the low yield, mango growers are expecting big losses this year too. They suffered from losses last year due to the late onset of the mango season and later a glut of mangoes in June and July, leading to a price crash.
The condition worsened to such an extent that following protests, the government announced a support price of ₹2.5 a kg, which did not make up for the losses, leaving growers in distress.