PATNA: Over 50000 litchi-growers in Bihar's dozen of districts including Muzaffarpur, East Champaran, Samastipur, Vaishali, Sitamarhi and others are disappointed a lot staring again unbearable loss ahead due to the coronavirus pandemic-driven lockdown.
Earlier in 2019, it was the outbreak of Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) that had wrecked havoc on them by causing huge loss in the sale of litchi ,this year again, the ongoing lockdown has panicked the litchi-growers to repeat the same, if it prolongs.
In 2019, the farmers having litchi orchards had suffered a massive loss of around Rs 800 crore, which, as they fear, may go to Rs 1000 crore in case this year's lockdown prolongs till May 3. The worst-hit would be the farmers of Muzaffarpur district,who grow 60 per cent of total production of litich in Bihar.
Ram Naresh Singh, a litchi farmer of Saraiya in Muzaffarpur, said, "The lose in litchi would be more this year than the cumulative figure of last year because of the outbreak of coronavirus pandemic. The bookings from outside the state have not picked up as it should have been and the traders from other states are scared of coming for fear of Corona infection."
Echoing the similar sentiment, another farmer Devendra Kumar of Maniyari block said, "After AES that had severely hit the business of litchi in 2019, this year corona will ruin our fate and lead to a huge loss in business. May God help us."
Bholanath Jha, a prominent litchi grower, also said that the government should look into the issue with serious consideration and make some wayouts. The orchards of Bihar's famous Shahi variety of litchi are spread over 35000 hectares of land which yields annual production of more than 35 thousands metric tonnes.
The Shahi litchi of Muzaffarpur and it's other adjoining districts are not only supplied within the country in Mumbai, Delhi, Pune, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka but also neighbouring countries including Nepal and Bangladesh. The peak season of litchi plucking and sale starts from May and continue till June last.
According to Bihar Litchi Growers Association president Bacha Singh, the cities, which were importing litchi from Muzaffarpur and other parts of Bihar, are badly under the grip of coronavirus pandemic this year and may not be in position till May-end to start trading. "As a result of this prevailing situation, altermate sufferers would be the farmers,who works for the crop and finally run into losses," he said.
Locals said that more than 15000 tonnes of shahi litchi used to be exported in other countries including France, England, Canada and the other countries of Asia and Europe. "But all these countries are still fighting against the outbreak of COVID-19 badly and seem not in position to import this fruit. So, farmers would have to cope yet another year with huge loss ,which may running into more than Rs 1000 cores at least," said Ravindra Kumar Singh, a prominent litchi grower disappointedly.
Considering the importance of litchi production in Bihar, the ICAR-National Research Centre on Litchi was established in Muzaffarpur in 2001 to promote scientific patterns among litchi farmers. According to its director, Vishal Nath, Bihar alone produces 40 per cent of total litchi production of India and occupies 38 per cent of the total areas in India.
In 2019, around 29000 matric tonnes of litchi were produced in Bihar including Muzaffarpur and other districts but was sold, as roughly estimated by farmers, not more than 15000 to 16000 metric tonnes. A rumour that the outbreak of AES had originated from the litchi had hampered the sale badly.
"In 2020, the yield of litchi is more than that of last year and may go over to 30 to 32000 metric tonnes. But the problem is more devastating in terms of this year's sale than it was in 2019," rued Mahesh Yadav of Mushahari block.
Meanwhile, state agriculture minister Dr Prem Kumar said that the government will help farmers including the litchi growers to sell their fruits and products outside the state also.
He said that the Kissan App was launched for the farmers through which one can hire trucks to send their fruits or agriculture products for sale. "This Kissan App has more than 5.7 lakh truckers enrolled to be hired for agro-transportation purposes," he said adding that the government will help the farmers in all possible ways.