Lychees are cultivated for their very popular fruit and have a long history of acceptance in China and many parts of Southeast Asia. The cultivated lychee originated in the region between southern China, northern Viet Nam and Malaysia. Lychee has a long history in Southeast Asia with unofficial Chinese records going back to about 2000 BC. From about 1600 AD, the species was distributed to much of the tropical and sub-tropical world, but it is currently not widely grown as it does not flower and crop successfully over a wide range of climates.
The major production problems are irregular flowering and poor fruit retention, while alternate bearing and small fruit size can also reduce grower returns. Trees take three to five years to come into production, and will not produce substantial crops until year seven or eight. They require regular chemical control measures for pests and suffer heavy losses to birds and fruit bats in some areas if not netted. The fruits only ripen on the tree and have a very short shelf-life without refrigeration as the crop deteriorates very quickly after harvest.
It was not until the mid- to late-1960s that the first information was collected indicating the effects of climate on flower initiation, pollination and fruit set. During the 1980s and 1990s, there was renewed interest in the crop, especially the effects of temperature and water supply on flower initiation. There was also some effort to develop guidelines for plant protection, watering, fertilizing and canopy management. Various attempts were also made to improve storage and marketing. However, in spite of these efforts much more remains to be done as there is room for more production in the region, but only of the best varieties that can be grown.
Against this backdrop, FAO organized an Expert Consultation on Lychee Production in the Asia-Pacific Region at the FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, Bangkok, Thailand, from 15 to 17 May 2001. Experts from concerned countries participated in the consultation. They were able to identify critical issues needing attention. The report of the consultation was published as RAP publication No. 2001/09 in July 2001, highlighting the major recommendations. This publication collates further useful information in the form of proceedings.
Appreciation is expressed to the participants for their presentation of papers and contribution to the discussions. In particular, sincere thanks must be accorded to Messrs. M.K. Papademetriou and F.J. Dent for compiling and editing this valuable document. Also, the unfailing support of Mrs Valai Visuthi, who provided assistance in formatting the manuscript, is greatly appreciated.
and FAO Regional Representative
for Asia and the Pacific