POST-MONSOON unseasonal rain has wrecked havoc on the crops in Palghar, as they have in other parts of the state. In Vasai taluka, several pockets produce banana and its related products, which are then exported and also sold across the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR). Almost 30 per cent of the banana crop has suffered since August, said local farmers.
For Sylvester Lopez (71), an ex-banker, the unseasonal rain resulted in not just lost fruit, but damage to trees. “I expect a 50 per cent loss in this year’s collection,” he said.
The elaichi bananas, smaller than regular bananas, grow in various belts in Vasai. The bananas are exported and also sold locally across Mumbai.
“The banana farm has been a family occupation for generations now. Not once in my memory have we faced so much loss,” said Lopez, who devoted himself to the banana trees after he retired as general manager of the Bassein Catholic Bank. “For us these trees are like family. It’s sad to see them destroyed by nature this way,” he said.
Banana farmers in Vasai have been cultivating the fruit for generations but the rain seems to have been merciless this year, they said.
“It is not just that it rained a lot. It rained continuously, without any sun. Plants have decayed because of too much water and no sunlight,” said Reuben Rodriguez (38), another cultivator, adding, “the rain last year was bad, but this year it was worse. It is a clear sign of climate change. We can see the changes now.”
Sukeli, a sun-dried variety of the banana made by some families in Vasai, has also faced severe damage. “For sukeli, we need the sun, otherwise the produce decays and goes to waste. Despite us trying, the entire stock of these few months has gone to waste,” said Richard Rodriguez (50), one of the few sukeli producers left in the region.
“Only in Nandakhal village do we still make sukeli. But now, the entire stock of banana has gone to waste. This has made us rethink if we can stop the production after May,” he said.
The Palghar district administration has been quick in surveying the damage, even as cultivators have rejected the money. “We don’t want to send an application. It’s just that the damage doesn’t cover anything for us. However, for smaller farm holders it might be useful,” said Hamish Santosa (64), another cultivator.
Palghar collector Kailash Shinde said the survey of crop damage in the district had recently been completed. “The compiled report has been submitted to me and we will start working on the amount to be paid for the damage,” he said.