The usual scene of the markets flooding with the Ulavapadu variety of mangoes in the summer is missing this time. Prolonged dry spell has taken a toll on the plantations at Ulavapadu village in Prakasam district, shooting up the prices of one of the most sought-after variety of mango.
Mangoes are grown in more than 18,000 acres in and around Ulavapadu.
Drought condition prevailing for the fifth consecutive year coupled with late flowering has put paid to the hopes of the farmers of getting a good harvest. Productivity has plummeted to 20% of the normal average yield of 4 tonnes to 5 tonnes per acre, says a group of farmers from Ulavapadu. The farmers are hoping against their hopes for summer showers in the wake of the formation of conducive weather system in the Bay of Bengal so that the yield can improve.
The market prices of the Ulavapadu variety has shot up to ₹40,000 per tonne when compared to the ₹25,000 per tonne last year. “Yet, we have no good quality fruit to take the advantage of the market condition,” lament the growers who have pressed service water tankers into service to provide the life-saving irrigation to their orchards.
“Average farmers will incur losses this year as the productivity has dipped to as low as one tonne per acre in many areas when compared to the average production of 5 tonnes, owing to severe water scarcity,” Assistant Horticulture Officer P. Adi Reddy says.
The mango orchards which usually come to flowering in December and January every year is not the case this year. It has been delayed.
However, organic farming methods have come to the rescue of the progressive farmers in and around Ulavapadu. They have adopted organic farming technique to sustain themselves by getting a premium price for their fruits, which have a high total soluble sugar (TSS). They have also adopted Israeli micro-irrigation technology, ensuring every drop of water and soluble fertilisers are sent to the roots.
“Organically-grown fruit fetches up to ₹50,000 per tonne,” says an organic farmer S. Subbaramaiah from Chaki Cherla village, who has tied up with International Competence Centre for Organic Agriculture to ensure a better price for his produce.
Organic farmers who religiously follow the Zero-Based Natural Farming techniques popularised by Subash Palekar so that they can woo the health-conscious customers by putting shops on the the Chennai-Kolkata national highway.
“We are getting a tremendous response to organically-grown mangoes,” says V.V.Raju, another organic farmer from Veerepalle while operating the waste decomposer to produce his own organic fertiliser. “Fortunately, there has been no pest infestation this year,” he adds.
The best quality fruits are exported to cities such as Chennai, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Bengaluru and from there to the U.S.A. and European countries.