KOCHI: The harsh summer is wreaking havoc on the agriculture sector in the district with farmers, especially those engaged in cultivation of fruits and vegetables, being the worst affected. Farmers from Muvattupuzha and Kothamangalam, two of the hard hit areas, have reported damage to vegetable crops, besides coconut, pineapple, nutmeg and banana plantations.
According to Jayasree M V, principal agricultural officer, Ernakulam, the damage sustained by crops is due to poor irrigation. “With summer rains yet to arrive, the water level of irrigation sources has gone down in many places. During such situations, importance is given to preserving potable water, as a result of which, crops suffer. The farmers are helpless and nothing can be done about it,” she said.
Besides water shortage, summer also brings pests, especially sapsuckers, she added. According to her, these insects feed on the sap of fruits and vegetable plants, reducing their yield.
“Incidents of whitefly attacks have been reported from some areas in the district,” said Anita James, technical assistant, District Agriculture Department. According to her, coconut plantations have been affected by premature button shedding due to extreme heat and lack of irrigation. “In the case of high yielding coconut palms, drooping and breaking of fronds is also affecting fruit production badly,” she added.
In the case of vegetables, the heat is affecting pollination and this, in turn, is hindering fruit setting, she said. “We have received reports regarding damages sustained by nutmeg plantations in areas of Muvattupuzha and Kothamangalam,” she said. In the case of nutmeg, shedding of buds may lead to lower yield, she added. The winds that accompanied the rains on Tuesday damaged banana plants in many areas, especially in Muvattupuzha.
The situation is dire in the pineapple belt of Vazhakulam. According to Thomas Varghese, president, Vazhakulam Merchants Association, the heat has severely affected plantations that are two or three years old.
“Pineapple cultivation spans three years. The plants, in the first year, are hardy and can weather heat besides producing big and juicy pineapples. But in the case of plantations that are two or three years old, the younger plants grow higher than the mother plant, thereby getting exposed to the sun, which then results in the plant drooping before drying up,” he said.
“The fruits too are smaller in size and aren’t juicy enough. Today, pineapple is selling at `40 per fruit and the price might go up when Ramzan begins in May, due to low production,” he said. According to him, in many areas, the plants have dried up completely due to lack of irrigation. “The summer rains cheated us and we are facing a bleak season,” he added.