The recent panic around litchis allegedly causing sudden deaths due to acute encephalitis syndrome (AES) in Bengal and Bihar has hit the sales of the popular summer fruit.Traders and exporters of 'shahi-litchi' are worried as their sale has fallen substantially and export orders are markedly down following reports that litchis might be linked with the outbreak of a suspected acute encephalitis syndrome (AES). (More: Unknown virus affects Bengal's Malada district)Experts have collected the samples of litchi to identify the virus strain that has claimed the lives of over 70 children in Bihar's Muzaffarpur district. (More: Avoid Unripe Litchis, Says Bengal Minister)"We have witnessed nearly 40 percent decline in sale of litchis in the last three days after it was reported that AES has some connection with this sweet and juicy summer fruit," says K.P. Thakur, managing director of Litchica International. Thakur's company supplied litchis from Muzaffarpur to the southern states of the country. "It appears that the fear of AES has forced the wholesalers to cut down its demand," he added.Litchi trader R.K. Kedia further noted that exporters across the country have limited their supply requests following the reports that experts have collected samples of litchi to identify the virus strain of AES in Muzaffarpur. Unlike Thakur, Kedia smells a conspiracy behind the incident against the litchi growers. Mangoes grown in the southern part of the country are poor in taste as against litchi. "I strongly feel that people in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh prefer litchi. So the mango growers must have conspired by defaming litchi," he claimed.
Haresh Prasandani of Chandi Ram and Sons, a firm exporting litchi for several decades, said that reports linking AES to litchi have severely affected its demand recently.Earlier this week, Prabhat Kumar Sinha, who is heading a six-member team from the Rajendra Memorial Research Institute of Medical Sciences, collected samples of litchi from orchards in affected areas for a toxicology study after a number of deaths due to AES.Sinha said that the study will help to identify the virus strain of the disease that still remains a mystery. Some scientists have attributed the disease to litchis in Muzaffarpur district. But Sinha maintained that it is a subject of in-depth research.Muzaffarpur accounts for over 62 percent of the country's total litchi production and is famous for its 'shahi litchi' which has a unique flavour.
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