Mango farmers in Pakistan say production of the prized fruit has fallen by as much as 40 percent in some areas due to high temperatures and water shortages in a country said to be one of the hardest hit by climate change.
The arrival of the mango season in Pakistan is eagerly awaited, with around two dozen varieties arriving in the hot, humid summers.
This year, however, temperatures rose sharply in March – months earlier than usual – followed by heatwaves that damaged crops and depleted water levels in canals that farmers depend on for irrigation.
“I usually pick 24 truckloads of mangoes…this year I only have 12,” Fazle Elahi said, counting the sacks lined up around his farm.
The country is among the world’s leading exporters of mangoes, harvesting almost two million tons annually in the southern parts of Punjab and Sindh.
The total harvest has yet to be measured, but production has already fallen by at least 20 to 40 percent in most areas, according to Gohram Baloch, a senior official with the Sindh provincial government’s agriculture department.
Umar Bhugio, who owns orchards outside of Mirpur Khas – known locally as the city of mangoes – said his crops received less than half the usual amount of water this year.
“Mango growers have faced two problems this year: early temperature rise and water shortage,” he said.
Pakistan is one of the world’s most water-stressed countries, a problem made worse by poor infrastructure and resource mismanagement.
It is also the eighth country most affected by extreme weather events due to climate change, according to the Global Climate Risk Index compiled by the environmental NGO Germanwatch.
Floods, droughts and hurricanes have killed and displaced thousands, destroyed livelihoods and damaged infrastructure in recent years.
“The early rise in temperature increased the water uptake of the plants. It became a competition between different crops for water use,” said food security expert Abid Suleri, head of the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI).
In the mango belt, a rise in temperature is generally expected in early May, aiding fruit ripening before harvest begins in June and July.
But the arrival of summer as early as March damaged mango flowers, a key element of the reproductive cycle.
“The mango was supposed to weigh over 750 grams, but this year we picked very undersized fruit,” Elahi said.
Known as the “king of fruits” in South Asia, the mango originated in the Indian subcontinent.
The country’s most prized variety is the golden yellow Sindhri, known for its rich flavor and juicy flesh.
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