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Changes in the weather spoil Egypt’s long-awaited mango harvest | Future Planet

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Amr Kadah, an Egyptian agronomist with 15 years of experience in the fruit world, was confident that 2021 would be a great course for mangoes, Egypt’s king of summers. Last season, Kadah collected about 250 tons from his fields in the Ismailia governorate, caressing the Suez Canal, and in the desert between Cairo and the Mediterranean city of Alexandria. And following with the increase in production in Egypt in recent years, he now hoped to even exceed that number.

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But disaster was not long in looming. And as the season draws to a close, Kadah laments a precipitous 50% drop in production. “The reason for the poor harvest this year is the climate in the ripening stage of the fruit,” explains the agronomist, who is now turning his attention to pomegranates.

Kadah was not the only one to experience the crash. Despite the country’s commitment to mangoes, this year the national production has suffered a fall of between 30 and 80% depending on the place and the account, which has caused an economic calamity for thousands of growers. Last year, around the same time, the season was at its peak.

The main responsible for the setback in the harvest have been irregular temperatures and an increase in humidity, attributed by most to climate change. Some areas have experienced two heat waves this season, one in winter and the other in March. The latter was especially aggressive in the east, where a very significant part of this fruit is concentrated, and increased evaporation from the soil, dried up the roots and caused many mangoes to fall prematurely, according to the head of agriculture of Ismailía, Kamal. Fathi, to the Egyptian newspaper Al Ahram. The spread of a disease caused by two bacteria in the form of black mold and the use of ineffective pesticides have intensified the severity of the crisis.

Those responsible for the setback in the mango harvest have been irregular temperatures and an increase in humidity, attributed to climate change

“This year the harvest has gone through a very serious crisis due to unfavorable climatic changes and the spread [de bacterias], which caused the disease that wiped out most of the plantations in Ismailia, ”says Hussein Abu Saddam, president of the Egyptian Farmers’ Union. “This is a great loss for farmers.”

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An Egyptian farmer prepares mangoes in the village of al-Qata, Giza governorate, on August 27, 2018.
An Egyptian farmer prepares mangoes in the village of al-Qata, Giza governorate, on August 27, 2018.MOHAMED EL-SHAHED / AFP

With about fifteen types and very particular shapes, sizes and colors, the mango is one of the most popular fruits in Egypt, whose climate and soil have long been considered ideal for its cultivation, and they are abundant, particularly in its hot summer, in the picturesque greengrocers and busy juice shops of Cairo.

Outside the country, the variety of Egyptian origin also enjoys a special reputation, especially in Europe, the Persian Gulf and Russia, and is among the most exported agricultural products: last year it ranked eighth and was the fourth fruit. , although in 2021 it has fallen to a fortnight position, according to the Ministry of Agriculture.

Climate change could have dangerous consequences in the future in countries like Egypt that depend on agriculture

Hussein Abu Saddam, President of the Egyptian Farmers’ Union

One of the regions that has been hit the hardest has been Ismailia, especially affected by the heat wave in March, it is one of the main producers and is home to some of its oldest plantations, making it more vulnerable to the spread of the black mold. There, the crops cover an area of ​​about 117,000 hectares, according to Abu Saddam, who assures that more and more producers are choosing to plant types of mango from abroad because they are more resistant to climate changes and against some diseases.

Egypt is a country highly exposed to the effects of changes in the climate caused by humans, especially due to its extreme dependence on the agricultural production of the Nile Delta, which is one of the areas of the planet most vulnerable to its impacts. , according to the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The agriculture sector, moreover, is especially sensitive to erratic temperatures and seasonal changes, as this year’s poor harvests have starkly shown.

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“Climate change could have dangerous consequences in the future in countries like Egypt that depend on agriculture,” warns Abu Saddam, who explains that the union is trying to get the state to intervene to minimize the effects. “We are waiting for the Government to create an agricultural solidarity fund to compensate farmers in the event of a natural change that affects mango or any other crop,” he says, complaining that “no one asks [por ellos] except when prices go up ”.

The union president of the union also stresses that the situation can become especially unsafe, as the case of many growers this season has relieved. “They can even go to jail,” he slides, “since farmers make the annual season from the debt they contract with merchants, and which they pay back after cultivation, at the end of the year. If the harvests do not arrive, their risk increases ”.

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