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Thursday, June 24, 2021

Cyclone impact: Kutch mangoes get a boost as orchards in Saurashtra suffer major damage

The mango belt of Saurashtra, mainly comprising Junagadh, Gir Somnath and Amreli districts, is known for its Kesar variety of mangoes.

Written by Gopal B Kateshiya | Rajkot |
Updated: June 7, 2021 1:54:06 pm
Cyclone impact: Kutch mangoes get a boost as orchards in Saurashtra suffer major damageNaran Chauhan on his mango orchard, in Dujapar villages in Mandvi taluka, in Kutch on Sunday. (Express photo)

After Cyclone Tauktae caused wide-spread damage to mango orchards in Saurashtra and south Gujarat, traders and exporters have turned to Kutch for sourcing the juicy fruit, pushing the price to a record high this season.

The mango belt of Saurashtra, mainly comprising Junagadh, Gir Somnath and Amreli districts, is known for its Kesar variety of mangoes. The cyclone made a landfall between Una and Mahuva in Bhavnagar just when the harvesting season that formally started on May 4 was peaking.

Gusty winds and torrential rains uprooted trees and caused fruits to fall, disrupting the supply. Similar damage was reported in Valsad and Navsari districts in south Gujarat. However, Kutch, another key belt of Kesar mangoes in the state, is mostly unaffected.

The disruption in supply from other sources came just when harvest was about to begin in Kutch and cooperative leaders say due to this, markets opened high.

“Before harvest starts in Kutch, mangoes from Saurashtra start arriving in our markets. But this year, supply from Saurashtra has been negligible due to the cyclone. Traders from all parts of Gujarat and even from Maharashtra are coming to Kutch to purchase mangoes,” said Sahdevsinh Jadeja, a fruit trader in the Anjar Agriculture Produce Market Committee (APMC) — the biggest wholesale market of mangoes in Kutch.

Valamji Humbal, chairan of Anajr APMC, said high demand has jacked the prices up. “Compared to last year’s range of Rs 30 to Rs 70 per kg, this year, the price is Rs 40 to Rs 100. In Kutch, harvest starts in the last week of May and peaks around mid-June. At present, Anjar APMC is recording arrivals of around 25,000 boxes (around two lakh kilos) of mango. The arrivals will peak over the next one week,” Humbal said.

“Maharashtra is emerging as big market for Kutch Kesar mangoes. For the past five days, traders have been sending around 20 tonnes of mangoes to Maharashtra,” he added.

Approximately 10,500 hectares of land in Kutch is under mango cultivation, says Kuldip Sojitra, assistant director of horticulture in Kutch. Mandvi, Anjar, Nakhatrana and Bhuj talukas account for most of the mango orchards in the district.

“Orchards in Kutch have not been hit by cyclone or hailstorms this year and the yields are expected to be normal. The benefit of higher prices due to damaged crop elsewhere may make this a very good season for mango growers in Kutch,” said Sojitra adding that flowering in mango orchards in Kutch happens later than in Saurashtra due to micro climate variations and hence harvest also begins couple of weeks later.

Farmers are already reaping the benefits. “Strong winds damaged around 20 per cent of fruits in my orchard but overall yield is very good and high prices will help… Compared to average price of Rs 40 per kg last year, I am getting Rs 70 this year. The rally is likely to continue for the next five years, the time Saurashtra farmers may take to cultivate new trees,” said Naran Chauhan, who owns a 65-hectare mango orchard in Dujapar village of Mandvi taluka, Kutch.

“Never have I realised such good price for my mangoes. I have harvested around 12,000 boxes (each containing 10 kg mangoes) so far and the average realisation has been Rs 50 to Rs 60 per kg against average Rs 30 to Rs 35 in previous years. I am expecting to harvest around 38,000 boxes more and prices are touching Rs 80,” says Jayanti Chande, owner of a 25-hectare orchard in Reldi village of Bhuj.

Exporters say the higher price is affecting competitiveness of Indian mangoes in overseas markets. “Harvest in Maharashtra gets over by April and in Saurashtra and south Gujarat, it ends in early June. That leaves Kutch as the only source of Kesar mangoes. Due to disruption of supply in Saurashtra and south Gujarat, Kutch mangoes that we used to get at Rs 50 costs Rs 70 this season. On the other hand, supplies from Pakistan are comparatively cheaper. Therefore, my exports last week was 30 metric tonnes, as compared to around 70 metric tonnes this season in 2019,” said Abhijeet Bhasale of Rainbow International, a Pune-based firm, which has been sourcing mangoes from Kutch and exporting them to the European Union, UK and the US.

Bhasale said that Kesar variety of mangoes are popular in overseas markets due to its aroma and longer shelf-life and is mostly consumed by the Asian diaspora.

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