Patna:  Widespread rain in the past few days in Bihar has saved the litchi crop from withering, reviving hopes of a normal supply of the succulent fruit to the rest of the country.

Bihar contributes 255 metric tonnes, or 45 per cent, to the national output of around 575 metric tonnes of the fruit.

The fruit is grown over 32,000 hectares of land out of a total 84,000 hectares under cultivation in the country.

S D Pandey, principal scientist (Horticulture) of Muzaffarpur-based National Research Centre for Litchi, said, “Around 15 to 20 per cent of litchi crop in Bihar was damaged because of no rain from December 2013 till the last week of May this year.”

“The weight of the fruit was reduced from the standard 23-25 grams to 17-18 grams each. But the recent rains have benefited the crop immensely. It has given back life to the dying crop,” he told PTI.

The late pre-monsoon rain has saved the ‘Shahi’ variety of litchi, which is specific to Bihar and is considered the best in taste. It is the first to hit the market during the fruit’s season, and NRCL scientists say that around 70 per cent of it has survived after the recent rain over the state.

Gopal Ji Trivedi, former vice-chancellor of Rajendra Agricultural University and currently a litchi-farmer, says, “The prices are very good this time ranging from Rs 80 to 120 per kg in Patna and Rs 200 per kg in New Delhi. It is another matter that the middlemen will benefit the most, but it will also trickle down to litchi growers.”

Trivedi, who is a member of various committees constituted by Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), says that the demand is also very good and that it is high time proper transportation facilities replete with air-conditioned vehicles, train coaches, air cargo, cool chambers as well as marketing measures were provided to the cultivators.

Litchi season roughly stretches from mid-May to June-end.It has a very short shelf life of just four days after plucking if not stored in refrigerated conditions.

So litchi lovers are in for a good time. The heart-shaped fruit is not only rich in taste, but also possesses high levels of vitamins B, C, calcium,  phosphorus,magnesium, potassium and several other minerals. It has anti-ageing properties too.

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