The king of summer fruits, litchi, is no longer the sole dominion of Muzaffarpur, Bihar. In a delightful twist, this juicy delight is now gracing orchards across 19 Indian states! This exciting expansion is courtesy of the dedicated efforts of the National Research Centre on Litchi (NRCL) in Muzaffarpur, playing a pivotal role in providing technical expertise, plants, and training to farmers nationwide.
“It might seem ambitious, but it’s true,” declared Bikash Das, Director of NRCL, with infectious enthusiasm. “Litchi cultivation for commercial purposes is thriving in 19 states. We’re determined to make this beloved fruit a pan-Indian treasure, and we’re actively supporting farmers with every step.”
A remarkable shift has emerged – farmers in other states are now proactively taking the reins, embracing litchi cultivation for commercial gains. This wasn’t the reality just a few years ago. “NRCL scientists are on the ground, boosting farmers’ confidence and hand-holding them through the process,” Das explained. “This hands-on approach is fueling the litchi revolution across the country.”
From the sun-drenched plains of Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu to the verdant hills of Himachal Pradesh and Manipur, litchi trees are now proudly dotting landscapes across India. Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Assam, Punjab, Maharashtra, Jammu and Kashmir, Gujarat, Arunachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Mizoram are all joining the litchi party, with over 0.1 million hectares dedicated to this sweet delight.
The NRCL plays a crucial role in this expansion, meticulously nurturing thousands of litchi saplings in its nursery each year. These saplings, including the renowned Shahi litchi variety alongside popular favorites like China, Gandki Lalima, Gandki Sampada, and Gandki Yogita, are then distributed to farmers across the country, empowering them to cultivate this precious fruit.
But this expansion wasn’t a whimsical decision. It stemmed from a thorough scientific study conducted by NRCL, meticulously identifying regions with suitable soil and climate conditions for litchi cultivation.
While litchi thrives in specific temperature, rainfall, and humidity ranges, it’s also quite the diva when it comes to soil preference. Unfriendly climatic conditions and temperature fluctuations have, in recent years, posed challenges for litchi crops, leading to cracked fruits, reduced size, and compromised sweetness.
However, Das assures us that while cultivation has expanded, full-scale commercial production won’t happen overnight. “It takes a few years for saplings to mature and bear fruit,” he explains. “But the seeds of a sweet future have been sown, and we’re confident that soon, litchi’s juicy goodness will be enjoyed by all corners of India.”
For centuries, litchi has reigned supreme in the foothills of the Himalayas, with Bihar, West Bengal, and Jharkhand boasting over 32,000 hectares of litchi orchards, contributing nearly 40% of India’s total litchi production. While these states remain major players, the emergence of new litchi havens across the country adds a delightful dimension to the story.
Earlier attempts at litchi cultivation in Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, and Assam were primarily sporadic and not commercially driven. However, NRCL’s intervention has changed the game. Their small-scale litchi cultivation initiatives in pockets of Karnataka and Kerala a few years ago have now blossomed into full-fledged ventures. Interestingly, Karnataka even boasts a winter litchi harvest, adding a unique twist to the fruit’s seasonal rhythm.
The journey of litchi from Muzaffarpur to 19 Indian states is a testament to the power of collaboration, scientific research, and unwavering passion for agriculture. As litchi trees take root in diverse corners of the country, one can’t help but imagine the vibrant future where this juicy treasure becomes a cherished part of India’s culinary tapestry, enjoyed by all, from bustling city markets to quiet village homesteads. So, the next time you bite into a luscious litchi, remember, it might just have traveled a fascinating journey, carrying with it the dedication of farmers and the vision of scientists, all working together to weave a sweeter story for India’s fruit basket.