Due to the lockdown perpetuated by covid-19, the mango trade in Bengal had already suffered a major hit. Social distancing and confinement to a certain degree made cultivation of mangoes extremely difficult this year. Every year, West Bengal produces around 2 million tonnes of mangoes, which is almost 40% of the gross global produce. According to the Economic Times, the major mango producing zones in West Bengal, that are the districts of Murshidabad, Malda and South 24 Paraganas, are industrially backward and highly dependent on this fruit for their living.
More than 2.5 lakh people in Malda alone are dependent on mango trade. Almost as if an on-going pandemic wasn’t enough, West Bengal was struck by a category 5 Cyclone, Amphan. Apart from massive destructions to roads and buildings and crops, the mangroves of Sunderbans and the orchards in the mango producing zones suffered a major hit.
“Storms like nor’easters are common during mango harvest season. But this cyclone is coming with high destructive power compared to nor’easters. While causing large scale damage to semi matured fruits waiting to be harvested, the cyclone will shatter many branches or uproot many trees. These heavy and long term damages are hard to withstand,” said Ujjal Saha, President Malda Mango Merchant’s Association.
Right beyond India, there are various areas in neighbouring Bangladesh that are equally affected in their mango trade due to the impact of Cyclone Amphan, majorly the areas of Rajshahi and Satkhira. Already amidst a major crisis due to covid-19, where the sale of mangoes this season was minimal because of fear of contamination, the cyclone was a double blow to the mango farmers.
Mangoes which were soon to be harvested were knocked down the trees due to heavy winds and rains that were by products of the cyclone. Farmers have been compelled to sell the mangoes at throwaway pries because their customers do not want to buy fallen fruits. A total of 4,115 hectares of land were used for cultivating mangoes with a target of 40,000 tonnes in the seven upazilas of Satkhira. However, the cyclone damaged at least 83 per cent mangoes, according to the Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE).
“I have bought twelve mango orchards after taking a loan of Tk120, 000 from the bank, But most of the mangoes fell off the trees in the orchards which will cause me to fail in paying off the loan.” said another mango trader Biplob Das in Sadar upazila. The farmers have sought government assistance for financial aid.
According to the Dhaka Tribune, of the country’s total 2, 231, 000 hectares of orchard, mangoes in about 7,384 hectares were damaged by the cyclone.
image courtesy: iStock (only for representation)