There’s a supply shortfall but mango farmers and traders at the country’s largest agricultural produce market say they won’t benefit from the high prices this summer.
“Bigger is not always better.” That’s the first tip that seventh generation wholesale trader Amit Vasandani has to give for those on the lookout for quality produce at the APMC market in Navi Mumbai. The second, “If it has ripened naturally over a period of say eight days, you will get the sweetest mango.” Amit comes from a family of fruit traders who came to India during the partition and made Mumbai their home. By end February Amit and his team are busy with sorting the first batch of mangoes that arrive from Ratnagiri, Devgad and beyond. Many Karnataka farmers have switched to growing Alphonsos where climatic and soil conditions are similar to that in the Konkan belt.
Wholesale traders at the APMC market are the crucial link between producers and consumers. Traders here sort, tag, ripen and distributes the fruit to retailers. However, freak rains in December-January have meant that supply is half that last year. The 200 odd wholesale mango traders who are based here, admit that low supply means prices are high even though it’s May and hence business has been slow. Subhash Khanvilkar, a second generation trader, who shifted base from Mumbai’s Crawford market to Vashi in 1996, says, “Selling has definitely not been upto the mark. If prices were slightly lower than what they are currently then we would have got some relief.”
Even though the European Union ban on Indian mangoes has been lifted this year, traders are not very excited as exports constitute just 10% of the total business.
Costs in the mango trade have also gone up as wholesale traders have had to construct ethylene chambers—made mandatory by the Indian government to ripen produce to conform with the European standards.
Given prices are still between Rs. 700-1200 for a dozen Alphonsos , wholesalers claim they will make losses on their investment on mangoes this year.