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HomeEconomyWorld awaits Alphonsos, but the mangoes are stuck in Konkan lockdown

World awaits Alphonsos, but the mangoes are stuck in Konkan lockdown

Apart from Alphonso mango, the lockdown in Konkan region has brought the cashew harvesting season to a standstill due to lack of labour.

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New Delhi: Alphonso mango farmers in the Konkan region of Ratnagiri-Sindhudurg are facing a triple whammy this season due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The global nature of the crisis has shut off export markets and also left the farmers with no means to access export-related treatment and certificates. The sanitary checks and certificates are mandatory for the export of mangoes so even if the global markets open, farmers will not be able to sell their crop in countries in the European Union, Japan, Australia and the US without them.

The situation has been worsened by soaring transportation-related costs due to the Covid-19 lockdown across the country.

Farmers say that as a result, prices have crashed.

“Every year a box of Alphonso mangoes, which usually have 5-7 dozens of mangoes, sell for at least Rs 3,000 a box. It was Rs 800-Rs 1000 in initial weeks of the lockdown and has now risen to Rs 1,500,” said Hanif Seth, an Alphonso farmer in Ratnagiri.
“It is sold to customers for as high as Rs 8500 a box domestically.”

Seth grows the breed popularly known as ‘Haafus’.

He added that the problem has been compounded as the Vashi mandi, the regional transit point for mangoes, has not been fully functional during the lockdown.

“The partial closure of Vashi mandi has created a sales problem on the domestic front,” Seth said. “But it’s the export treatment and thrice as normal transportation cost, which has gone up to Rs 18,000 a truck, that have really hampered our business prospects.”

He further said that until now, he has only been able to sell 800 boxes as against the 2,000 boxes in the same period last year.

The farmers also say that even before the pandemic, unseasonal rainfall in November had destroyed almost half of their expected produce.

Satish Ugale, an Alphonso farmer with an orchard of 120 trees in Ratnagiri, told ThePrint, “A heavy downpour in November withered away 50 per cent of the flowers. Normally, winter continues until late February but this time, it was over soon so pea-sized mangoes fell due to the rise in temperature, leading to a further dip in produce.”

Also read: Fishing industry suffers another blow as workers are stranded on boats, debt is piling up

Mango market in trouble

Maharashtra’s mango market, including the world-famous export variety Alphonso, garners an annual income of at least Rs 250-300 crore for the farmers, according to Vidyadhar Joshi of the Konkan Alphonso Mango Producers and Sellers’ Association.

“The best variety from the Konkan arrives towards the end of April,” he said. “But due to the pandemic, losses to mango crop have been immense as main markets such as Europe and the US are struggling with Covid-19.”

“The farmers in each tehsil are struggling to even make Rs 100 crore, which is not even half of their total input cost,” he added. “By the end of April every year, we used to sell over half of our produce but so far, we’ve just sold 30 per cent of the crop. Farmers are not harvesting the rest of the crop as it will rot in trucks and mandis due to the low demand.”

According to APEDA (Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority), India exported 46510.27 MT of fresh mangoes, worth Rs 406.45 crore, in the 2018-19 fiscal year. Maharashtra is the largest mango exporting state in the country and accounts for over 80 per cent of the total exports.

But it’s not just the fresh fruit sale that has been impacted due to Covid-19 lockdown.

Various other related processing businesses like those of sweets, pulp and bottled juice have also taken a hit.

Jalal Kazi, the owner of Kazi Agro Products in Harchiri, Ratnagiri, said, “Even if the farmer brings the products to the factory somehow, we cannot procure it due to a lack of labour in the lockdown. This has been worsened by dwindling stock of packaging material such as tetra packs, plastic wrapping and cartons.”

“At this time of the year, we used to process at least 300 tonnes of mangoes a day but now it’s all closed because if we buy the mangoes, they will only rot in our godowns,” added Jalal Kazi.

Maharashtra State Agriculture Marketing Board officials, however, expect the sales to pick up when the lockdown ends on 3 May.

An official told ThePrint that the state had estimated that around 39,500 tonnes of mango would be exported from Maharashtra this season, which would be a 15 per cent increase from last year’s export of 34,500 tonnes.

That target, however, is unlikely to be even remotely met due to the pandemic.

The official though added that the state will facilitate the export by providing various treatments so that the mango crop conforms to import-related requirements of other countries.

For example, the official said, mangoes meant for the US will be irradiated at the BARC (Bhabha Atomic Research Centre) in Mumbai.

Also read: No labour, no transport, no demand: UP small farmers’ troubles pile up under lockdown

Cashew produce hit by lockdown

Apart from world-famous Alphonso mango, other produce of Konkan farmers such as cashews have also been severely impacted due to lockdown.

The lockdown has brought the cashew harvesting season to a standstill due to the lack of labour and led to the closure of processing units and retail markets.

“The raw nut prices have declined by 50 per cent to Rs 70/kg from Rs 150/kg during this time last year. This is due to a lack of demand in the market and at processing industries,” Giridhar Salve, a cashew farmer from Sindhudurg, told ThePrint

“In Ratnagiri- Sindhudurg districts, around 3 lakh acres is under Alphonso cultivation whereas 3.5 lakh acres is under cashew. Farmers of both the crops have been destroyed this year,” he added.

Also read: Normal monsoon forecast is just what battered Indian economy needs


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