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Inclement weather sours sweetness of melons

Untimely rain causes melons to swell, thereby making them tasteless.

punjab Updated: May 23, 2018 11:58 IST
Parampreet Singh Narula
Parampreet Singh Narula
Hindustan Times, Roopewal (Shahkot)
Muskmelons on sale at Roopewal near Malsian in Shahkot on Tuesday. (Pardeep Pandit/HT)

Grown on over 10,000 acres in Kapurthala and Jalandhar, almost 35% of the muskmelon and watermelon crop (cucurbit crop) has been damaged due to rain and hailstorm this season.

Farmers in the area are staring at more losses as unfavourable weather earlier this month has reduced the sweetness of melons. Untimely rain causes melons to swell, thereby making them tasteless, say experts.

Though the state agriculture department is yet to assess the extent of damage caused due to hailstorm and rain, officials say at least 35% to 40% of the crop in Roopewal in Shahkot subdivision and its adjoining villages have been damaged.

State nodal officer for cucurbit crops Sukhdeep Singh Hundal said melon farmers have suffered losses due to unfavourable weather conditions.

Asia’s largest market

Roopewal is Asia’s largest muskmelon market from where the crop is transported to other parts of the country. Horticulture department data reveals that more than 53,500 metric tonnes of muskmelon and 22,000 metric tonnes of watermelon are produced in Jalandhar and Kapurthala belt every season.

“Farmers bring melons in tractor-trailers for auction in Roopewal in May-end. Traders from Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, Jammu and Kashmir, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka and West Bengal gather here to bid for the fruit,” said Bachan Lal, a commission agent said.

Claiming that the fruit produced in this belt is in great demand in Dubai and the UK, Hundal said they are in touch with Punjab Agro Industries Corporation Limited to start exporting of melons.

“We started growing melons in the area in 1998-1999 and used to go to Ludhiana to sell our produce as there was not market for the fruit here,” said Chanchal Singh, a farmer from Malupur village who cultivates melons on over 75 acres. Soon, more and more farmers started growing melons in this belt and a market was set up in Roopewal grain market in 2003-2004. “Farm Glory”, “Golden Glory” and “Madhu” are the common varieties of melons grown in the area, besides the exotic “Inthanon” melon.

Hundal said Shahkot and Dona area of Kapurthala is a hub of potato crop and farmers here grow melons as a rotational crop. “Cucurbit crops, a short duration crop, takes only 65 days to mature,” he said, adding that in favourable weather conditions, a farmer can earn a profit of Rs 60,000 to Rs 70,000 per acre. The input cost is just ₹20,000 to ₹25,000 per acre, he said.

Risky business

“To transport melons to other states, we pluck raw fruit to increase its self life by three-four days,” Chanchal said. The other risks include weather conditions. During sowing, the temperature should be between 18°C and 20°C. The sweetness increases as temperature rises — between 35°C and 40°C, said Hundal.

“Cloudy weather and humidity can make the crop susceptible to diseases such as blight, wilt and powdery mildew, which dries the vines of the plant and damages the fruit like it happened recently,” said Hundal.

First Published: May 23, 2018 11:15 IST