In India, where no other fruit can sweeten the long summer days and nourish the spirit, mango season is eagerly anticipated. But not this year, as the crops were ravaged by record heat waves.
The fruit is mentioned in Indian poetry and is also used as a diplomatic tool, a status symbol, and a source of gustatory pleasure.
Mango season lasts around 100 days, from late March to June, and is marked by bustling markets and celebrations honoring the king of fruits.
Mangoes are grown on 1.2 million hectares of land in India, which produces over 1,500 kinds and accounts for roughly 55 percent of global production.
This year, however, an estimated 80% of the crop was lost due to scorching heat waves during the hottest March and April in decades, which damaged mango flowers and allowed pests to grow in fruit plantations.
Insram Ali, president of the All India Mango Growers’ Association, told Arab News, “I have never seen such a drop in mango production in my entire life.”
“There is a slight drop in mango production every alternate season, but this time is unusual.”
Ali’s hometown, Malihabad, in Uttar Pradesh’s northern state, is known for the Dussehri mango, which is prized for its sweet flavor and juicy, smooth flesh. However, only a small portion of the annual output will increase this year.
“Every year, 4 to 5 million metric tons of mango are grown in Uttar Pradesh,” Ali added, “but we don’t expect more than 700,000 tons this year.” “Climate change has wreaked havoc on the mango crop.”
His family has been growing mangoes for centuries, but if the weather continues to be bad, the tradition may come to an end.
“Mango income isn’t increasing,” Ali explained. “I don’t want my son to go into this family business.”
The changing temperature has also wiped out mango plantations in Bihar, a neighboring state that is also a significant grower.
“Only 15% to 20% of the harvest will grow this season,” said Randheer Choudhary, convenor of the Bihar Mango Growers’ Association, to Arab News.
“Even the fruit quality isn’t that great this time.”
In March and April, the consequences of severe temperatures were compounded by additional variables that harmed orchards and fruits.
“In May, there were very high temperatures followed by high humidity due to continuous and intermittent rains – that was one contributory element toward the growth of pest in the mango crop,” said Abdus Sattar, a scientist from Bihar’s Dr. Rajendra Prasad Central Agricultural University.
The red-banded mango caterpillar penetrates into mango flesh and feeds on the seed, causing the fruit to deteriorate and fall prematurely.
The harsh weather this year was most likely not an isolated climatic event.
“In the next years, I believe such climatic circumstances will become the norm,” Sattar added. “Not only will the people’s livelihood be harmed, but the quality of mangoes will be harmed as well.”
Farmers are already feeling the effects.
It was a “symbol of anxiety for thousands of individuals whose livelihoods depend around the mango crop,” said Rajendra Verma, a 73-year-old who has been producing mangoes for most of his life.
Families have typically timed their major festivities to coincide with harvest seasons, when they can afford to spend more.
“This season, numerous families are deferring their nuptials to the following season. Gulfam Hasan, who has 700 mango trees in the Malihabad area, told Arab News that the mango crop “controls our socioeconomic activity.”
“I’ve never seen something like this in my entire life.”