Lockdown, labour exodus dampen mango trade in Maharashtra, Gujarat

Export of mango, especially alphonso, to European countries has been negligible this season; shipments to the Gulf fell 40-50 per cent.

The supply chain disruption amid the lockdown and the exodus of labourers to their native states have dealt a severe blow to the already subdued market prospects of mango in Maharashtra and Gujarat.

Although Maharashtra is not a big producer like UP, Bihar, and southern states, alphonso is the most premium and sought-after variety  from the state’s Ratnagiri district.

With the annual mango season peaking in these two western states, the lockdown restrictions on the smooth interstate movement of goods, coupled with the exodus of labourers working at mango orchards and packing houses, are staring in the face of growers and traders.

Alphonso, which normally sells for Rs 700-800 a dozen at this time of the season, was sold for Rs 400-500 this year in the retail market of Mumbai, owing to the slump in export and demand.

“We expect the current mango season to translate into almost 40 per cent losses to various stakeholders, comprising farmers, traders and exporters,” said Mumbai-based mango trader Ikram.

He said the export of mango, especially alphonso, to European countries has been negligible this season; shipments to the Gulf fell 40-50 per cent.

“The flight of labourers to their native states is a big challenge for us, besides the fact that Mumbai is still in the Covid-19 red zone,” he said.

There has been a sharp drop in the arrival of the kesar variety of mango from the Saurashtra region of Gujarat, especially Junagadh.

As against 22,000 boxes of 10 kg each arriving in the first two days of the commencement of auctions last year, market yards have seen the arrival of 8,500 boxes this year.

“There seems to be an impact on production.

“Prices have been decent, ranging from Rs 250 per box to Rs 750 per box, depending on quality.

“However, arrivals have taken a hit because of the lockdown,” said Ramnikbhai Savaliya, one of the leading traders in the Talala area of Junagadh.

According to Savaliya, while production may have taken a hit, there has been no issue with transport as the district administration has ensured farmers move produce easily amid the lockdown to market yards.

Exports, too, are taking place smoothly, he added.

Meanwhile, Uttar Pradesh’s mango output is estimated at 3.5 million tonnes (MT), down 12.5 per cent as against more than 4 MT last year.

The output is expected to further dip by 15 per cent, owing to the harvest loss brought about by squall that hit large parts of UP on Sunday evening.

“We have received confirmed trade enquiries from Gulf countries for the export of about 500 tonnes of mango.

“However, unless the government raises the subsidy portion, it will be rather unviable for us, since the container and shipment costs have increased manifold compared to last year,” Nadeem Siddiqui of Shahnaz Exports claimed.

Recently, Mango Growers Association of India President Insram Ali had written to UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, demanding a slew of urgent measures to protect mango farmers in the state.

Last year, the domestic mango production stood at nearly 21.38 MT.

The advance estimate (AE) for 2019-20 suggest a nominal drop to 21.29 MT, although the acreage has increased over the same period.

Although, India is among the top mango producers, corresponding to 40 per cent of the global output, yet a major portion of the fruit is domestically consumed and only a small quantity is exported.

Pakistan, owing to its vicinity to the Gulf, has been giving a tough competition to India as far as mango shipments are concerned.

Photograph: PTI Photo

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