Cayman farmers are staring at a bitter harvest after a bout of unseasonable weather has affected Cayman’s much-awaited king of fruits, the mango.
Many of the farmers who rely solely on the sale of the fruit for income said it is the worst mango season they have seen in years.
According to Raymond Coleman, agronomist at the Cayman Islands Agriculture Department, the warm winter and unusual rainfall pattern are some of the main factor responsible for this year’s poor mango crop.
There were 5.28 inches of rain in January, more than double the 2.04 inches that represents the 30-year average.
Farmers say many of the trees have simply failed to yield half as much fruit as in previous years.
“The lack of mangoes is very noticeable from Cayman roadside and Farmers Market and everyone is talking about it,” said farmer and mango lover Kirkland Nixon.
“I went to the Farmers Market at Lower Valley last Saturday and no one had any mangoes – ‘mango morning’ is very missing at the market,” said Mr. Nixon, adding that he heard that mango crops in Jamaica are also poor this year. “It is definitely related to the weather, I am sure of that.”
Of the many different types of mango trees in Mr. Nixon’s yard, only one or two trees have yielded fruit this year, which is highly unusual, given that in previous years all would be laden, he explained.
“The absence of mangoes this year is unprecedented,” he said. “I was talking to Coolidge Connolly in North Side. He has lots of mango trees, and he said this is the first time he has seen it this bad, not even the common mangoes bearing a lot.”
Harvey Stephenson, farm owner of Lookout Gardens in Bodden Town, said the problem has been occurring throughout the Caribbean.
“Everyone is asking the same questions about the mangoes – I have half of my trees bearing and others not even putting on blossoms. They are healthy looking, well-watered, and I take special care of the trees,” said Mr. Stephenson, explaining it has not been the same with other fruits.
“I have beautiful limes, breadfruits, avocados, coconuts, but no mangoes. “Last year, mangoes were in full abundance; this year it is a different kettle of fish,” he said
Mr. Nixon thinks the rainy weather might have had something to do with the low crop.
“In November and December last year there was a lot of rain and the ground was wet for a very long time. I believe the mangoes need a dry, cool period to blossom and that might have been the reason.
North Side farmer Willie Ebanks, who owns a farm with more than 500 mango trees in Hutland, a place known for its wide variety of mangoes, said all his mango trees put out fresh growth but no blooms and when they did bloom, they quickly lost it.
According to Mr. Ebanks, this has affected his crop sales drastically. “Mangoes are my biggest seller but it will be very small this year – it just seemed like the trees were just too happy putting out new growth, rather than blossoms after the rain,” Mr. Ebanks said.
As for other fruit trees, Mr. Ebanks said he had not noticed a difference with the crops. “We had a very large crop of red plums, limes are doing OK and the avocados also. The only setback this year is the mangoes, which were in abundance last year.”
Mangoes usually blossom in November and December with harvest time in June and July.
Cayman has many varieties of mangoes. The local native is the “common” mango, which is also know to some as stringy or hairy. Other popular varieties imported in later years are Carrie, Nam Doc, St. Julian, East Indian and Keitt.