Lockdown, labour exodus dampen mango prospects in Maharashtra, Gujarat

Gujarat's Kesar variety of mango from Saurashtra region, especially Junagadh has seen a drastic dip in arrivals. Image via Shutterstock
The twin impact of Covid-19 lockdown and exodus of labourers to their distant native states has dealt a severe blow to the already subdued market prospects of mango crop in Maharashtra and Gujarat.

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

Maharashtra’s flagship mango variety of alphonso, which normally sells for Rs.700-800 a dozen at this time of the season, was sold at the rate of Rs 400-500 this year in retail market of Mumbai owing to the domestic and export demand slump, while traders faced insurmountable roadblocks in transporting the fruit to the key markets, such as Azadpur market in Delhi.

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

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

“The flight of labour to their native states in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Jharkhand is a big challenge for us now, apart from the fact that Mumbai is still in the covid-19 red zone,” he said adding the Gujarat harvest of kesar and alphonso varieties was also facing similar headwinds in the current season.

Gujarat's Kesar variety of mango from Saurashtra region, especially Junagadh has seen a drastic dip in arrivals.  As against 22000 boxes of 10 kg each arriving in the first two of days commencement of auctions last year, market yards have seen arrival of mere 8500 boxes this year.

"There seems to be an impact on production. The prices have been decent, ranging from Rs 250 per box to Rs 750 per box depending on the quality. However, arrivals have taken a hit due to lockdown," said Ramnikbhai Savaliya, one of the leading traders in Talala area in Junagadh known for its Kesar mangoes.

However, according to Savaliya, while production may have taken a hit, there has been no issue with transport as the district administration has ensured farmers are able to move produce easily amidst the lockdown to market yards. Similarly, exports too are taking place smoothly, he added.

Meanwhile, the UP mango output, dominated by dussehri variety, is estimated at 3.5 million tonnes (MT), down 12.5 per cent compared to 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 the Gulf countries for the export of about 500 tonnes of mango. However, unless the government raises the subsidy portion, it would 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 the state mango farmers from economic losses.

Last year, the domestic mango production stood at nearly 21.38 MT, while the advance estimates (AE) for 2019-20 suggest a nominal drop to 21.23 MT, although the acreage has increased over the same period.

Although, India is among the top mango producers, corresponding to 40 per cent of global output followed by China, Thailand and Pakistan, 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 tough competition to India so far as mango shipments are concerned.

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