An unknown worm has infested lemon plants causing hundreds of farmers in Ukhrul district’s Kachai village to face crop failure this year.
Kachai village is located about some 43 km from Ukhrul town towards the extreme western corner of the district. It has around 530 households and half of its population is engaged in lemon farming as a main source of livelihood.
Popularly known as Kachai Lemon, the fruit has a unique flavour and a high content of citric acid unlike other citric fruits. Because of its uniqueness the Kachai Lemon has been accorded geographical indication (GI) registration namely, (GI-466).
The local villagers attributed the dramatic decrease in harvest of the lemon crop to an unfavourable climate characterized by excessive rains during last summer, its main blooming season.
A lemon grower H Yangmiso suspected that heavy rainfall during the last summer leading up to late autumn gave rise to the growth of a certain type of worm which has infested thousands of lemon plants in the village’s farms.
According to Yangmiso, cracks appeared on the trunks and branches of all lemon plants which are infested by this worm. “We can see a thick fluid oozing out from these cracks,” he said pointing to a cracked portion on a branch.
Such infested plants could not bear fruits as they shed most of the flowers during the blooming season, he said.
Yangmiso is the owner of the village’s biggest lemon farm called “Them-hor-shang Multipurpose Farming Cooperative Society Ltd.”
He said that he has two farms in different locations namely Farm A and B under the same registered name. “My farms have a total of 5,700 fruit-bearing lemon trees and I had expected them to produce at least around 8,000 tons this season but unfortunately, an unexpected disaster has struck this time,” he lamented.
Yangmiso was in a fix as he was unable to recover even the labour costs incurred in grooming the plants. He said that he could harvest only around 500 kg of the citric fruit this season, and he sold them off at Rs.100 per kilogramme.
Recalling a bountiful harvest last season, Yangmiso said that he earned to the tune of Rs. 3, 80,000 from selling his lemon crop in the previous year.
According to Yangmiso, all lemon farmers in the village are facing the same harvest failure and are in deep financial loss.
He said that the lemon growers in the village were on the brink of economic collapse unless the government came to their rescue.
“We appeal to the government to look into our hardships due to failure of lemon crop which is the main source of our livelihood,” he pleaded.
It is learnt that an official team of ICAR Imphal has visited the village twice this month and inspected the affected lemon plants in a few select farms there.
During their second visit, the official team injected a medicine to the affected plants to treat the unknown disease, he said.
“Some of the plants are showing some improvement from this medication and we request the government authorities to extend every possible assistance to tide us over until our situation improves,” Yangmiso said.