15 June 2008

India seeks Israeli technology to boost litchi output

India seeks Israeli technology to boost litchi output

India is eyeing Israeli technology to increase the life span of the litchi fruit after searing heat destroyed much of the crops in Bihar, which accounts for 70 percent of domestic production.

"Israel has got the technology that will help litchi growers as well as those engaged in its marketing to earn lucrative prices," K.K. Kumar, director of the National Research Centre for Litchi at Muzaffarpur, told IANS.

Israel, Kumar said over telephone, had an innovative technology to keep perishable fruits like litchi fresh for at least 28 days. "Access to this technology will manifold increase earnings."

According to him, the Indian agriculture ministry plans to sign a memorandum of understanding with Israel.

Experts say that the agro-climatic condition of Bihar is ideal for litchi, a huge popular fruit in summer.

The number of farmers in the state growing litchis has increased in the last decade, especially in Muzaffarpur district, 70 km away, and neighbouring areas along the river Gandak.

Kumar said that lichi production this year had been badly hit by high temperatures, followed immediately by rains. Farmers and exporters have all been hit.

"Inclement weather conditions and a fall in the water table have affected litchi cultivation, " he said. "Many farmers went for pre-mature harvesting to lessen the losses."

Exporters too were hit hard. Last year, a record 100 tonnes of litchi was exported. This year, this would not come to even half the quantity.

The quality of litchi fruit has also suffered. Many have turned sour. The export quality litchis are to be delicious and should have the diameter of six cm.
Bihar's lone exporter of litchi, Raj Kumar Kedia, said that 40 percent of the fruit had been destroyed by the excessive heat in April, followed by the rains.

"The fruit has been damaged and its quality is not fit for export," he said.

Bhola Nath Jha, a litchi farmer, said that bad weather had derailed litchi cultivation.

All this has led those in the litchi industry to look at Israeli technology. Countries that import Indian litchi include the Netherlands, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Canada, Russia and Yemen.

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