No shahi litchis from Bihar for president, PM this summer

Patna, June 5 (IANS) The VVIPs living in faraway in Lutyen’s Delhi would not be able to enjoy the aroma and taste of shahi (royal) litchis grown in Bihar as intense heatwave has affected the quality of fruit this season.

Owing to poor quality of shahi litchis this season, the Bihar government has decided against gifting the summer fruit to President Pranab Mukherjee, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the diplomatic corps in the national capital, officials said on Friday.

Northern Bihar, including Muzaffarpur, accounts for over 62 percent of the country’s litchi yield. Muzaffarpur district is also known as the ‘Land of Litchis’.

Both the president and the prime minister were sent organic litchis last year, as part of the initiative of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar to popularise Bihar’s agricultural produce beyond the boundaries of his state.

“Due to the poor quality of litchis which have been damaged by intense heatwave, state authorities have decided not to gift the fruit to the dignitaries in Delhi,” said Muzaffarpur district official B.P. Singh.

He said that litchi growers pointed out that hot weather conditions, followed by hailstorms, this year had prevented the fruit from getting enough flesh and juice.

Muzaffarpur district agriculture officer Sudhir Kumar said he had visited dozens of orchards in search of good quality litchis but failed.

“The best quality of sweet and juicy shahi litchis used to be sent to the president and the prime minister every year in summers as a gift from Bihar,” he recalled.

S.K. Purve, principal scientist of National Centre for Litchi Research in Muzaffarpur, said that the unprecedented heat had burnt the fuit skin, making it vulnerable to insects and bugs.

Purve said that the size of litchis this year was very small.

“Extreme weather (conditions) resulted in small-sized fruit. Each litchi should ideally weigh at least 35 gm to 40 gm. but it is only 20 gm this year. The fruit’s skin and flesh too is fragile, splitting due to direct sunlight or excessive heat, getting infected by insects in the process,” the official added.

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