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Warm winter pushes down this year's litchi output, leading to a price hike

By ZHENG CAIXIONG,LI WENFANG in Guangzhou and CHEN BOWEN in Haikou | China Daily | Updated: 2024-05-28 07:09
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The output of litchi in Guangdong province, one of its major production bases, is predicted to hit 876,400 metric tons this year, down 51 percent year-on-year.

That has led to a price hike in markets in the western part of Guangdong.

Litchi prices in the city of Maoming have risen by between 30 percent and more than 100 percent compared with last year.

Litchi from western Guangdong usually ripens earlier than fruit from other places.

Chen Houbin, a chief scientist with the National Litchi Longan Industrial Technology System, said the predicted output of litchi across the country this year will be 1.78 million tons, down 42.5 percent from the previous year.

The Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region is projected to harvest about 410,000 tons of litchi this year, a year-on-year reduction of 59 percent, while Hainan province is expected to produce about 200,000 tons, a year-on-year drop of 15 percent.

Chen, also a researcher at South China Agricultural University, attributed the reduction to a warm winter, which prevented mid- to late-maturing varieties from flowering properly.

Continuous extreme weather, including storms, hailstones and tornadoes, also affected the harvest, he said.

Guangdong enjoyed a bumper litchi harvest last year, causing the litchi trees to become weak, and their vigor has yet to return to its optimal state. And litchi harvests typically occur in alternating years of high and low yields, Chen said.

He urged related departments to rely on technology to promote high-quality development of the litchi industry.

"More litchi varieties with better temperature requirements should be cultivated through seed selection, hybridization and biotechnology methods," he said.

Targeted measures should be taken to strengthen the trees, and manage nutrition and plant protection, while promoting soil improvement technology, nutrition diagnosis guidance, and modern agricultural equipment in litchi orchards, he added.

Earlier this month, the Litchi Meteorological Service Center was launched by the Guangdong Meteorological Service and Guangdong Department of Agriculture and Rural Affairs, providing special meteorological services to local orchards and litchi growers.

Zeng Zong, deputy director of the Guangdong Meteorological Service, said the center will accelerate the automation of litchi meteorological observation, the digitization and intelligence of services, and the integration of scientific research and business services, to enhance the scientific and technological capabilities of meteorological support for the high-quality development of the industry.

Huang Yun, a litchi grower in Lingshui, Hainan, said a good harvest would not be achieved without good planting management.

Litchi trees often bear fruit in the rainy season, and disease and insect prevention, as well as drainage, are particularly important for a good harvest, said Huang, adding that he usually uses organic fertilizers to improve soil quality and builds ditches to ensure good drainage before the rainy season arrives.

Lin Changzhen, director of the Caixianyuan Fruit and Vegetable Cooperative in Gaozhou, Guangdong, said her cooperative has been using multiple methods, including expanding e-commerce platform channels, training professional talent and enhancing industrial technology to help expand litchi sales, stabilize the market and increase income growth.

Logistics and services are also important, as litchi is a highly seasonal fruit, she added.

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