Mangoes worth the wait this year
The ban on harvesting Gopalbhog mangoes, to ensure natural ripening, ended on May 20. Yet, most growers in Rajshahi division, that covers the four highest mango producing districts, are sitting idle. Their reason is that the harvest would be delayed due to the lack of heat required to ripen mangoes this summer.
Near the end of cultivation, the day's temperature is required to be above 35 degrees Celsius for the mangoes to ripen, said Dr Sorof Uddin, senior scientific officer of the regional mango research centre in Chapainawabganj. This year the temperature hardly crossed 30 degrees Celsius thus far.
Due to the lack of proper heat during the time when the mangoes are supposed to ripen, the harvest would begin at least one week later, at the end of May instead of the normal practice of harvesting in the third week. In some areas, the harvest may be delayed by two weeks, he said.
Dr Sorof calls the phenomenon a consequence of climate change. He said this year's mango cultivation witnessed a week's delay at the beginning since winter had extended its stay till the second week of February.
Rajshahi's district administration has set up a camp headed by an executive magistrate at the districts Baneswar market, usually abuzz with mangoes by the third week of May, to monitor the trade of the fruit, but it hardly has any job to do due to the lack of harvested mangoes. The situation is similar in other districts.
Waliullah took six mango orchards at Nawdapara of Rajshahi on lease this year. “None of my mangoes have matured except for some of the Guti variety,” he said, adding that it would be difficult for him to harvest his mangoes in the first week of June.
In Chapainawabganj, the highest mango producing district that is often called “the capital of mangoes”, the growers had been spending sleepless night throughout the past three months to save their fruits. They had set up watching posts in their orchards.
Some of them said the mangoes may be overpriced this year as the nor'wester and hailstorms hit the mangoes twice on April 13 and April 30.
Abu Taleb, a mango farmer of Moheshpur in Sadar upazila, said rain at the end of March and April helped the mangoes grow. “But the rain came with storms and that damaged 25 percent of my mangoes,” he said.
“I made some money leasing mango orchards last year, but this year the situation may be different because of the storms,” Hasan Al Sadi of Chhatrajitpur village in Shibganj upazila said.
He said he took around 200 trees on lease and invested Tk 7 lakh, but the storms damaged most of his orchards.
Parvez Monsur Ahmed of Shahibag said he was worried about recovering his investment of Tk 6 lakh in mango trade from the damage caused by storms and hail. “The only chance I have now is getting a fair price for the mangoes,” he said.
Agriculturists, however, have said that rainfall had helped improve the size and taste of most fruits. They said as storms and hail that came with the rain caused negligible damage, the yield would be higher than expected.
“Mangoes are going to be delicious this season. All you need to do is wait for the harvest,” Mustafizur Rahman, additional director of Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE) in Rajshahi division told The Daily Star.
The DAE is expecting a yield of seven lakh tonnes of mangoes -- 30,000 tonnes higher than last year's production in the division. The division, covering four districts -- Rajshahi, Chapainawabganj, Natore and Naogaon -- provides 60 percent of the country's total production. They are expecting at least three lakh tonnes of mangoes from Chapainawabganj, two lakh tonnes from Rajshahi, 1.6 lakh tonnes from Naogaon, and 56,000 tonnes from Natore.
To ensure natural ripening of mangoes and helping growers avoid the use of chemicals, the district administrations imposed a ban on harvesting mangoes while at the same time considering that different mangoes ripen at different times.
Other than Gopalbhog mangoes, the harvest of Khirsapat, Himsagar and Lakhna were banned until June 1, Langra until June 6, Amropali and Fazli until June 16 and Ashwina until July 1.