With the monsoons finally over, the November sun is out and it’s time to get back to working at the orchards. While earlier monsoons along the Konkan coast started in June and ended in September, the ongoing climate change has pushed them to begin in July and continue to the end of October. Guess we’ll have to settle for Wyclef Jean’s ‘Gone Till November’ as the unofficial soundtrack for warm sunshine in the region.
This change inevitably delays the entire flowering and fruiting process and pushes the harvesting season further away.
By the end of the monsoons, grass and wild bushes grow a few feet tall. The return of summer starts the transformation of the landscape from lush green to yellow and red and carries the sound of buzzing grass-cutting machines across the region. The buzzing of the grass-cutting machines is accompanied by the buzzing at the local wood mills which go into overdrive to prepare wooden boxes for the upcoming season. Sourcing these in advance is essential to ensure your produce finds its way to the market. However, in the recent past, wooden boxes have begun to be replaced by single-use corrugated paper boxes.
This is also the time when fruit merchants and traders travel across the region to assess the potential crop, strike deals and dole out advances to local orchard owners. Doing this ensures that they have locked in a steady supply of mangoes during the season, besides providing the grower with capital to invest in the processes leading to harvesting.
While this sounds like a win-win situation, the lack of transparency with the sale and pricing process results in the orchard owners being at the mercy of whatever is offered by the fruit merchants. Orchard owners just about break even, with or without a profit, despite the high retail price of mangoes, thus negating the effort employed in harvesting the crop. Much like insurance policies offer a substantial amount at the end of the payment tenure in the case of assured returns. But if you were to work on the calculation, it would amount to no more than 4-5% returns, much lower than most investment options available. For food growers to flourish, they must save themselves from these debt traps.
At Beforest, we try to break free of the market cycles and grow food forests that turn into self-sustaining ecosystems over the years.