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30pc less mangoes in Sindh feared this year

HYDERABAD, May 20: Mango production in Sindh may be 30 per cent less this year because of rains, extended winter and other factors.

The main reason of decline is destruction of mango orchards in the main mango producing area of Mirpurkhas division by last year’s devastating rains. Trees were damaged by standing rainwater in the orchards.

Prolonged winter also had an adverse effect on the crop. And unripe fruit fell from trees during Saturday’s unusual storm.

Lower Sindh and particularly Mirpurkhas division are famous for mangoes, especially of the Sindhri variety. This year the crop has been delayed because usually Saroli and Dasehri reach the market by mid-May. The weather required for the development of the fruit’s size, colour and taste is missing this year.

“Mango shedding must have taken place due to Saturday’s unusual storm. Even otherwise we have been expecting a 30 per cent loss in the crop this year,” said Imdad Nizamani, a progressive farmer of Tando Allahyar.

Growers and traders agree that hot and humid conditions benefit the crop. Wind helps to develop the size of crop which did not blow till early May.

A Matiari-based farmer Nadeem Shah said sudden climatic changes would also affect the crop.

“I feel that Sindhri of better quality will be available in the market in mid-June or in the third week. I also fear that sudden fluctuation of temperature in summer will again affect the crop. Extreme hot and humid conditions will cause the rotting the fruit,” he said.

According to Dr Atta Soomro, director of the Sindh Horticulture Research Institute (SHRI) in Mirpurkhas, when mango swings in wind it acquires proper size and shape.

Discussing the impact of last year’s, heavy rains on horticulture, he said orchards in lower Sindh were worst hit. His assessment is that 25 per cent of the orchards in Umerkot, Sanghar, Mirpurkhas and part of Tando Allahyar have been severely affected, but those in Hyderabad and Matiari districts are safe because of proper drainage of water.

Mr Soomro said heavy rains raised the level of subsoil water to the root of the tree which caused much harm.

People cut their old trees because of sudden death syndrome.

He cited extended winter season as one of the main factors affecting the crop. “Climatic conditions and temperature variation affect the fruit’s development and growth. Frost also hits orchards,” he said.

He said the average minimum temperature in February this year was recorded at 5 degree centigrade, instead of the usual nine. “We noted that on Feb 8 the mercury dropped to minus two in the mango-producing area,” he said, adding that February and March remained cold when temperature hovered varied between 20 to 25 degree. “The temperature somewhere at 35 degrees in March is beneficial for the fruit,” he said.

Mango orchards in Sindh are comprised about 51,000 hectares. Last year around 379,000 tons of mango were produced in the province.

But rains harmed orchards. Five to six feet of rainwater, at places was mixed with saline water, remained standing in orchards for three months. It put trees under severe stress and mango farmers had to get rid of them.

A veteran mango farmer of Tando Jan Mohammad, Qazi Faizullah, said that during a recent visit to the area he had to cut mango trees on his 30-year-old mango orchard of 100 acres.

“I had to do it on 100 acres of my 200 acres. The trees dried up due to standing rainwater that couldn’t be drained out for two to three months. We didn’t get any help from the government to drain out water,” he said.

By the time farmers were able to drain out rainwater in Mirpurkhas on their own or with government’s help, the damage had already been done.

The unusual weather affect flowering and fruit bearing. According to Dr Soomro, the trees were even having flushing of new leaves which should not be there now. “It would harm the fruit because nutrition will be absorbed by leaves instead of fruit,” he said.

Imdad Nizamani said he feared a drop in production in his farm by 30 to 40 per cent.

He said that even now there was no spell of hot winds which gave the taste and pulp to the fruit.

Growers said drainage system did not exist in Mirpurkhas and stagnating rainwater had badly affected orchards. In recent years, mango growers have shown a tendency to switch to other crops because they considered it a difficult job to manage an orchard because of given drainage problems and water shortage.

Now they are turning to crops like cotton and wheat that yield substantive.