Any other summer, Gujarati homes would have been flaunting their daily portions of keri no ras. This summer, however, most are yet to get their hands on the king of fruits in view of the nationwide lockdown. Even as prices fluctuate under pressure, mango farmers in the state stare at the prospects of a truncated marketing season.
Talala Agriculture Produce Market Committee (APMC) in Gir Somnath district is the biggest wholesale market of Kesar mangoes in Gujarat. The market, which usually buzzes with activity this time of the year, now lies mostly deserted. “The crop is late; hardly any mangoes are coming these days. We are planning to start the auction around May 10, almost 10 days later than the normal beginning of the season,” Harsukh Jarsaniya, Talala APMC secretary told The Indian Express.
As per horticulture department officials, an extended monsoon has led to the delayed harvest. “It rained till October… instead of December-January, flowering occurred in February-March. Therefore, harvest has also been delayed by around two weeks.” said Arun Karmur, assistant director of horticulture in Junagadh. He added that some mangoes started arriving in the market from Una in Gir Somnath and Dhari in Amreli district, owing to relatively early flowering.
Mangoes are currently selling at much lower rates than the normal range. “Around 6,000 boxes (each with 10 kg mango) are being carted to Junagadh and Gondal. The prices are Rs 800-Rs 1,000 per box, instead of Rs 1,000- Rs 1,400 normally seen in pre-season days. Prices are under pressure as big markets of Ahmedabad, Surat, Rajkot and Vadodara cities are shut due to the lockdown and there are no takers of the fruit,” said Kapil Dodiya, a mango trader in Talala.
“My mangos will ripen and become marketable only around May 15… a month to sell my entire produce. Gujarat starts getting rain from mid-June and mango prices crash then. Due to shortened marketing season, there will be glut in market, keeping prices low,” said Bharat Dobariya, owner of a six-hectare mango orchard in Talala.
In Vadodara, mangoes are yet to be harvested. Ajit Thakor, owner of one of the biggest orchards in Kajapura village, said, “I have over 10,000 trees in my orchard… It will take minimum 20 days to be able to pluck them ,” he said, adding that the lockdown will benefit farmers close to cities like Vadodara and Ahmedabad, where the bulk harvest has not arrived from other parts of the state.
“With the supplies affected, the prices will be higher at least in Vadodara. We don’t have as much mango being grown in central Gujarat as in Rajkot and Junagadh. Exports have also been hit, so prices in areas of bulk production will be hit,” he added.
Mango markets in South Gujarat have also been struggling. “It’s a business running into hundreds of crores. The varieties of Kesar, Alpohonso, Langda come from Dharampur, Chikhli, Navsari, Vapi and Umargam to Sardar market. This year, the stock arrival will be delayed due to lockdown,” said RR Mishra, Valsad Sardar APMC secretary. “We expect the prices may go below Rs 1,000 for Alphonso, Kesar and Langda… farmers will have to face the loss.”
Sources said that traders from Uttar Pradesh, who usually come to Valsad with labourers to pluck fruits and sell to traders in Mumbai, have not arrived yet. “The UP traders rent orchards for five lakh to Rs 70 lakh, depending on the area and trees grown. They bring their labour to pluck mangoes and trade in cities like Mumbai where export to USA, UK and Gulf countries is huge. Local farmers are facing a tough time trying to pick the fruit this year,” said a source.
A mango orchard owner in Anjlav village of Valsad, Vijay Patel said a few farmers submitted a memorandum to the District collector seeking permission for labourers to travel to the farms for the “timely harvest” of the fruit.