Horticulture boost: Litchi cultivation has expanded to 19 Indian states, according to officials

Muzaffarpur-based National Research Centre on Litchi is providing technical help, plants and training to farmers with the sole aim of expanding the fruit’s cultivation across India

By Mohd Imran Khan
Published: Friday 29 December 2023
Representational photo from iStock

Litchi, the sweet and juicy fruit of India’s hot summers, is no longer restricted to Muzaffarpur in Bihar. It is now being cultivated across 19 Indian states, an official has told this reporter.

“It may sound ambitious but is true. Litchi cultivation for commercial purposes is going on in 19 states. We are providing technical help, plants and training to farmers with the sole aim of expanding the fruit's cultivation across India,” Muzaffarpur-based National Research Centre on Litchi (NRCL) director Bikash Das told this reporter. 

He said farmers in other states have been taking the lead to cultivate litchi for commercial production. This was not the case a few years ago. “NRCL scientists are visiting farmers and boosting their confidence to go ahead with litchi cultivation. This is resulting in the expansion of litchi cultivation,” Das said.

Litchi cultivation for commercial production has started in Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Manipur, Assam, Punjab, Maharashtra, Jammu and Kashmir, Gujarat, Arunachal Pradesh, Rajasthan and Mizoram. More than 0.1 million hectares of land are under litchi cultivation in India as per latest official data.

The NRCL is preparing thousands of litchi saplings at its nursery each year. It is doing so to supply them to farmers in different states. The centre provides saplings of its famous Shahi litchi, besides popular varieties like China, Gandki Lalima, Gandki Sampada and Gandki Yogita, to farmers in other states.

Das said the litchi cultivation expansion plan was based on a scientific study that found suitable soil and climate for the fruit’s cultivation in other states.

Read more: Not-so-sweet climate impact: Heatwave in Bihar affecting litchi, mango harvest

NRCL scientists pointed out that litchi is considered to be a very sensitive fruit as far as temperature, rainfall and humidity are concerned. Besides, it require soil suitability as well. Variations in temperature and unfriendly climatic conditions have badly hit litchi crops in recent years as the fruit can crack, becoming smaller in size and less sweet and juicy.

Litchi cultivation may have expanded. But it will take some time for this to transform into fullscale commercial production, Das said. Saplings planted in orchards take a few years to bear fruit.

The fruit mainly grows in the foothills of the Himalayas in Uttarakhand, Bihar, West Bengal and Jharkhand. Litchi cultivation is spread across over 32,000 hectares in Bihar alone. This accounts for nearly 40 per cent of India’s litchi production. Bihar is followed by West Bengal (12 per cent of the total) and Jharkhand (10 per cent).

Litch was sporadically cultivated earlier in Odisha, Chhattishgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Assam. But this was not for commercial production. NRCL scientists introduced litchi cultivation on a small scale in a few pockets of Karnataka and Kerala some years back. But it was not expanded on a large scale. In Karnataka, litchi hatvest takes place in the winter, unlike summer in north India.

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