A BUMPER mango crop is not likely in Sindh for many reasons, mainly water shortage at a time when the crop was at crucial stage, ie March onwards.
Farm owners believe that mangoes have started reaching markets, but they are not hopeful about a good crop this year.
By April 1, Sukkur barrage had to bear with 75 per cent less water as compared to its allocated share in Water Apportionment Accord of 1991, according to Sindh irrigation department’s official figures. Until April 15, shortage varied between 68pc to 72pc. Situation improved only after mid-April and the ratio dropped to 46pc to 40pc in the first week of May.
Of all mango orchards of Sindh, around 80pc of them are fed by Nara and Rohri canals on the left bank of Sukkur barrage, which is the lifeline of the province’s farm sector. Both these perennial and major canals feed mango orchards in districts of Khairpur, Naushahro Feroze, Benazirabad, Matiari, Hyderabad, Tando Allahyar, Mirpurkhas, Umerkot and Sanghar.
“The overall loss in mango production is expected to be between 25pc and 30pc this time around,” says Sindh Horticulture Research Institute’s (SHRI) Mirpurkhas Director Mohammad Khan Baloch. The loss will be maximum, at 40pc, in areas where water flows remained unavailable.
Mr Baloch’s assessment is based on a survey conducted by an SHRI team in different big mango farms of the province, mainly in Hyderabad and Mirpurkhas districts.
It is the Sindhri variety of mangoes that is mostly grown in Sindh besides Saroli, Chaunsa, Langra, Daseri, Began Phalli, etc. Sindhri is the province’s main exportable variety.
Many progressive mango growers have adopted good agriculture practices (GAP) to get better returns from their farm. Another general trend among growers is that they lease out their farms to contractors for an annual fee.
Several farmers have been exporting mangoes themselves after learning best management techniques under foreign assistance.
Tando Allahyar’s Rais Imdad Nizamani, a GAP-certified farmer who has adopted modern practices to manage his mango and banana orchard for a long time, expects Sindhri’s production to decline this season. “I think the size and quality of Sindhri is hit primarily owing to a change in weather. Besides, water shortage at crucial time has also aggravated the situation,” he says.
Mango orchard owners generally keep mango trees dormant between November and February. They start watering them from March, the same month water shortage started affecting the province this year after storages in Mangla and Tarbela dams hit dead levels.
Growers who had been cultivating other crops in addition to mango had to use available irrigation water flows for those crops as well, thus compromising water needs of mangoes.
Mangoes, however, have started reaching markets. But it still requires Sindhri around three weeks to develop its taste, and its arrival is expected to be in full swing by the end of this month.
Currently, vendors are selling Sindhri at Rs120 a kilogram. However, orchard owners don’t rule out a steep rise in its prices in case of a considerable drop in production.
Horticulturist Mohammad Khan Baloch points out that third flowering in mango trees was badly hit, as fruit could not resist rising temperature. Resultantly, flowering could not lead to desired fruit setting in trees. Karamullah Saand, another orchard owner, subscribes to Mr Baloch’s
views, saying less mango production is on the cards and the fruit is unlikely to develop its normal size.
Mango trees often see alternate fruit bearing every year. Since mango is usually grown on a large scale, it remains available in the market despite a drop in production.
Sindh’s orchards stood at 61,943 hectares in the 2017-18 season while the production was 399,686 tonnes in the last season. Figures have recorded decline both in production and area, which varied between 62,000 and 63,000 hectares from 2013-14 to 2016-17.
Progressive growers like Ghulam Sarwar Abro and Mahmood Nawaz Shah — who export mangoes to European and other foreign markets — point out that water availability remained as low as 25pc during March-May, which is the crucial phase of orchard management. “In my view, production deficit is currently 15pc to 20pc that can potentially go as high as 30pc as season progresses,” Mr Shah says.
He says that Rohri canal was closed by irrigation authorities for a longer-than-usual period — ie 40 days — owing to an inquiry by the National Accountability Bureau into the lining project of the canal. This necessitated increased demand for other crops on the part of growers.
Published in Dawn, The Business and Finance Weekly, May 14th, 2018