Cyclone Tauktae pushes mango farmers a quarter century back

  • | Monday | 24th May, 2021

Cyclone Taukatae has been harsh on the farmers but the Mango farmers have been severely affected because of the season. The market unlike previous years isn`t flooded with mangoes and the crop damage is so huge that farmers have been predicted to go back to how the earnings were 25 years ago. Last year, Covid had affected the sale. 

Until last week, 42-year-old mango farmer Vallabh Patoliya, who owns a 23-bigha orchard in Ankolwadi village in Talala of Gir-Somnath district, was counting the golden eggs he had steadfastly been collecting in his basket over 25 years now.

The calculations, hinged on the hope of getting another good harvest from his orchard this season irrespective of climate changes and unseasonal rains, included marrying off his daughter Trupti this year, and helping his son Prabhat graduate in science in another two years from Rajkot.

But in all this, he had discounted fate, which too, was silently doing its own maths — of throwing the biggest curve ball in the form of Tauktae that left Patoliya’s basket totally ravaged. In a matter of 20-odd minutes, two and a half decade’s of relentless toil was swept clean on that fateful night of the cyclone.

“I had 300 mango trees, each 20 years old, standing on my farm. High winds at 150 kmph speed uprooted half of them in front of my eyes. I was in my orchard when the storm struck and my life’s dreams too got uprooted with my trees,” standing amid the ruins, said Patoliya.

“I started planting mango trees 20 years ago soon after I had passed my Class XII exams. I had decided to grow Kesar mangoes in my orchard, an investment that I had thought would would pay me off in later years. Today, I feel as if the cyclone set my clock 25 years back,” said the farmer while his moist eyes scanned the barren vastness that lay yawning in front of him.

He’s not the only one. Kesar mango farms across the Kathiawar peninsula, especially from Mahuva to Madhavpur, display the cyclone’s destructive trail. Farmers rue that hundreds of orchards have been swept away, and the trees that Tauktae could not destroy have been rendered useless as their branches are no longer able to provide flowering.

The worst affected Kesar mango farms are from Bhavnagar’s Ghogha, Mahuva, Rajula, Jafarabad, Una, Gir-Gadhada, Talala, and Kodinar among other coastal areas of Saurashtra.

Patoliya said that that saplings cost around Rs 1,000 a piece, while the cost of nurturing these to full grown trees is around Rs 800 annually per plant. “I have adopted an organic farm with no pesticides. It takes years to grow a quality mango orchard. Each fully grown tree was giving Rs 5,000 return every year. Two and a half decades later, today I can’t think what I will do next,” Patoliya said.

The pain for the mango farmers does not end with uprooted dreams. Removing the waste is also posing as a serious issue as this would cost them more than Rs 800 per fallen tree. “Earlier, we used to earn Rs 1,500 for 50 kg of dead wood. But now, dead wood are lying across farms. Who would pay us for it?’’ a farmer asked.
Sosiya village of Talaja taluka of Bhavnagar, lying adjacent to Alang ship-breaking yard, is known for its Kesar mangoes. Today, its lush-green mango orchards have, however, all gone with the wind.

Bhagvatsinh Gohil, farmer from Soliya village told, “Trees as old as 35 years fell to the ground due to the high velocity winds. Mango farmers too will not be able to stand on their feet for the next 10 years from this irreparable catastrophic loss. Over 100 mango trees got uprooted in my farm which were more than 20 years old.’’

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