Cyclone Amphan has dealt a crushing blow to Bengal’s fruit and flower cultivators, especially mango and banana growers, as they are confronted huge losses from the widespread damage it caused to orchards and fruits ripe for its seasonal harvest.
According to reports from the Horticulture department, banana is an important cash crop in West Bengal. Around 70 per cent production comes from Nadia and the cyclone has ravaged banana orchards grown in 6.5 thousand hectare in Nadia only.
Around 90,000 families have been affected so far, said a district horticulture officer. Tissue culture banana is being cultivated over an approximate area of 700 hectares in Murshidabad and Nadia districts as part of the new project since last year, but most orchards have been ruined due to the impact of Amphan, an official said.
The horticulture officials said banana (Musa sp.) is the second most important fruit crop in India next to mango.
Its year round availability, affordability, varietal range, taste, nutritive and medicinal value makes it the favourite fruit among all classes of people. It also has good export potential.
For mango growers in Nadia, Murshidabad and Malda districts of Bengal are no different as the unfavourable climatic conditions coupled with lockdown had already led to severe losses.
“The mango production sustained severe damage due to unseasonal rains and hailstorms during FebruaryMarch, this year when the flowers were sprouting. As a result, 70 per cent of the crop got destroyed. The cyclone has finished whatever little was left. The financial crisis would have a long-term impact as it might deter farmers from mango cultivation next year. We fear that around 38,000 tonnes of mangoes have been destroyed in the cyclone,” said Basudev Biswas, a mango wholesaler at Majdiya.
In Nadia, mangoes are grown in around 10.5 thousand hectares while Malda produces around 500,000 tonnes of mangoes every year with around 4 lakh people dependent on the mango trade.
This apart, flower cultivation in the state has also been severely affected by the storm. In East Midnapore, flower beds in around 6.95 thousand hectare have been completely destroyed while in Nadia, flower cultivation on 3.75 thousand hectare has been grossly affected. In two districts, more than 1.5 lakh families have been affected, a horticulture officer said.
The cyclone barreled through the coastal blocks in East Midnapore before hurtling towards Bangladesh, has wreaked havoc across the coastal districts and left a trail of destruction as it moved inland at night generating severe strong winds and heavy rainfall.