Mango crop in Pakistan hit by water shortage

mango farmers in Pakistan says production of the prized fruit has dropped by 40 percent in some areas due to high temperatures and water shortages in a country considered one of the most vulnerable to climate change.

The onset of the mango season in Pakistan is eagerly awaited, with about two dozen varieties of mangoes arriving in the hot and humid summer.

This year, however, temperatures rose sharply in March – a few months earlier than usual – followed by heatwaves that damaged crops and lowered 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 as he counted the sacks on display at his farm.

“We are cursed.”

The country is among the top mango exporters in the world, harvesting about two million tons annually from the southern parts of Punjab and Sindh.

The overall harvest has yet to be measured, but production in most areas is already at least 20 to 40 percent short, according to Gohram Baloch, a senior official in the agricultural department of the Sindh provincial government.

Umar Bhujio, who owns orchards outside Mirpur Khas, known as the Mango City, said his crops received less than half the usual amount of water this year.

“This year, mango growers are facing two challenges: the first is an early rise in temperature, and the second is a lack of water,” he said.

Pakistan is one of the countries in the world suffering from water scarcity, a problem exacerbated by poor infrastructure and inefficient resource management.

It also ranks eighth among the countries most vulnerable to extreme weather due to climate change, according to the Global Climate Risk Index compiled by the environmental NGO Germanwatch.

Floods, droughts and cyclones in recent years have killed and displaced thousands of people, destroyed livelihoods and damaged infrastructure.

“The early rise in temperature increased crop water consumption. It has become a competition between different cultures for water consumption,” said food security expert Abid Suleri, head of the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI).

A rise in temperatures is typically expected in the mango belt in early May, which encourages fruit to ripen before harvest begins in June and July.

But the arrival of summer as early as March has damaged mango blossoms, a key part of the reproductive cycle.

“A mango should weigh over 750 grams, but this year we have harvested very small fruits,” Elahi said.

Known in South Asia as the “king of fruits”, the mango originated in the Indian subcontinent.

The most prized variety in the country is the golden yellow Sindhri, known for its rich flavor and juicy flesh.