Nipah virus has cast a shadow over the multi-crore mango trade in Rayalaseema, thanks to viral videos on social media that warn people against eating fruit bitten by bats.
The harvest of mango plants still begins in most parts of Chittoor, as planned provisionally on June 15, with a two-month delay. But some selected spots and cities now radiate with different varieties of the King of Fruits.
Until a week ago, despite the high price of Rs. 80 to Rs. 100 kg, mangoes were sold like hotcakes. The number of consumers showing interest in mango has decreased dramatically since the day Nipah-related deaths from Kerala were reported, as bats were thought to be vectors of the virus.
The threat of Nipah virus has a meaningful effect on the mango trade in the district. Some sellers expressed serious concern about dwindling sales for two days. "People who come to us now look suspiciously at the fruits, they search the fruit thoroughly and look for damage or stains or scars, even a single spot on the fruit is enough to be rejected," said a mango trader Shandy at Anjeramma Kona Toll Plaza between Vadamalapeta and Puttur.
This seasonal Mango Sunday at the toll booth is the magnet of all motorways drivers, with the display of at least a dozen varieties. Only in this place can one see the kaleidoscopic view of mangoes, with many vehicles stopping for purchases. This phenomenon has been missing since the Nipah eruption in Kerala.
Even people have started to avoid mango juice in the shops. "It's not out of fear or threat of Nipah, but somehow the idea of eating mango makes me uncomfortable," is the general response of customers choosing alternatives like grapes or orange.
Senior Scientist, Horticulture Research Station, Anantarajupeta near Railway Kodur in Kadapa district, R. Nagaraju, said bats invade the mango and guava orchards when the fruit is ripe for harvesting was a regular feature in Rayalaseema districts. "It's scientifically proven that bats are the vectors of nipah virus, and the social media contributions warning people against eating bitten bats are causing panic and we're sure that eating undamaged fruit is safe and there is no danger of viruses from them. People are strongly advised not to eat fruit with symptoms of any kind of damage, "he said.
The deputy director (horticulture) Saraswathi told
that the mango yield this year dropped to alarming levels.
"Compared with the average yield of 1