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Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Maharashtra mango traders hit by time, lockdown-like restrictions

In view of the rising number of Covid-19 cases, Maharashtra has imposed severe restrictions under which all shops and establishments dealing with non-essential commodities have been closed.

Written by Partha Sarathi Biswas | Pune |
May 5, 2021 11:59:43 pm
Maharashtra lockdownIn Valsad district, there are five APMCs where mangoes are sold -- Dharampur, Kaprada, Pardi, Valsad and Nanaponda. All the markets are presently flooded with mangoes of different types and grades. (Representational)

Time restrictions have caught the mango trade unaware with traders demanding an extension of the present time slot to ensure smooth sales. Some farmers have, however, made use of direct marketing chains they experimented with last year for better sales.

In view of the rising number of Covid-19 cases, Maharashtra has imposed severe restrictions under which all shops and establishments dealing with non-essential commodities have been closed. Sale of essential commodities, including milk, vegetables and fruits, have been allowed to be open from 7 am to 11 am. Barring milk and medical shops, all other establishments are closed over the weekend to stop the chain of transmission. Recently, the state government has allowed the sale of mangoes, eggs, chicken and meat during the weekend, given their highly perishable nature.

For mango traders, this slot has come with a new set of challenges. They said the four-hour window was non-conducive as most buyers were unable to get to the market on time. Ashok Hande, a trader operating out of the Vashi market in Navi Mumbai, said retail sales were hit given limited sales window. He said stocking up mangoes in retail shops could pose a problem, as the fruit was highly perishable. “Retailers are picking up less from wholesalers like us, who, in turn, are staggering our purchase from the farmers,” he said.

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Hande made a strong plea for extension till 2 pm instead of 11 am. Since the start of lockdown, prices of mangoes from Ratnagiri district have seen a correction of around Rs 1,000 per dozen. “The Vashi market gets around 50,000 dozen per day and, thus, per day loss to the trade is around Rs 50 crore,” he said.

During the previous lockdown, Hande said there were no movement restrictions on sale of perishable commodities. Also, a parallel marketing chain was set up by the state government that helped farmers get direct access to retail markets and, thus, housing societies were able to order directly from farmers.

This year, however, with the disease affecting mostly housing societies, such sales have tanked. Narendra Pawar, whose company Green Acres sources mangoes directly, said housing societies were unwilling to provide space to set up of stalls. “We are facing problems of sales — unlike last year, the window is constrained,” he said. Salil Damle, a farmer from Ratnagiri, who maintains an orchard of 100 acres, also complained about the time slot. Frequent police checks on vehicles that transport the fruit to markets also pose another challenge for him.

However, the absence of structured market has not deterred some farmers and traders to build upon last year’s experience. Satyajit Jogalekar, director, Vishwa Kalyan Gurukul Seva Foundation, had, last year, sold over 10,000 boxes of five dozen mangoes each to 42 housing societies in the city. While markets remain shut, Jogalekar and his team have continued their sales sourcing mangoes directly from Ratnagiri. “People interested, put their orders on WhatsApp and we try to send them the required quantity through the best possible channel,” he said. This year, they have sold around 1,000 dozens, so far, with Jogalekar saying they accepted payment in all forms.

Another experiment of alternate marketing is underway by Rohan Ursal and his partners Sachin Paigude, Sarang and Sagar Tapkir. Ursal and his partners, who operate in the wholesale market of Pune, have tied up with Coldman Logistics to launch a platform called ‘Coldman Fresh’. At present, delivery is restricted to certain pockets of Pune. Ursal and his partners, during the previous lockdown, tied up with food delivery platform Zomato to deliver fresh fruits and vegetables in and around Pune. “We will explore such a tie-up again,” he said.

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