Crisis forces mango exporters to take sea route to US

Written by Prachi Karnik Pradhan | Pune | Updated: Apr 4 2009, 04:39am hrs
Slowdown in the global markets seems to have hit Indian mangoes as well. With the export market, particularly the US, shrinking fast, the possibility of mango prices going through the roof this season owing to expected dip in production has alarmed exporters from India, who are now look at cutting costs at other ends.

Air travel is becoming unaffordable for the king of fruits, the Indian Alphonso mangoes, which last year saw high demand in the US. They are now going to take the sea route to reach markets in the US.

Air freight for exporting one dozen mangoes is around Rs 350-400 while by seas the cost is down to Rs 150-200 per dozen, according to Santosh Patil, deputy general manger Maharashtra State Agricultural Marketing Board (MSAMB).

The US is a high value market for Indias mango exports. Last season, one dozen mangoes exported from India fetched $ 20-25 as compared to $5-6 for mangoes from Peru, South Africa, Brazil and Venezuela. India exported 350 metric tonnes of fresh mangoes to the US in 2008. Indias share of mango exports is around 8-10% with exports of 80,000 mt last year.

However, the story could be different this year. Mango prices are expected to go up owing to a likely dip in production. In Maharashtra alone, production is expected to take a 35 to 40% hit to 70,000 tonne this season owing to higher temperatures during winter, which led to considerable flower and fruit drop.

Alphonso mangoes, which were priced at Rs 100-150 last year, is expected to reach Rs 300-400 per dozen, Patil said. At these prices, the Alphonso may not have many takers in the international market, said Anand Shejwal, proprietor of Bombay Exports.

Besides lower freights rates, export by sea also comes out cheaper as larger consignments of 15-20 tonne per container could be moved as against 1-1.5 mt consignment by air.

Airfreight structure in the country is not financially viable, echoed RK Mondal, AGM, Agricultural and Processed Foods Export Development Authority, Mumbai. Apeda is working on the sea protocol for bulk movement of mangoes.

However, it takes 18-20 days for a consignment to reach the US by sea while air transport takes only two days. If there were any damage in transit, 50% of the loss would be borne by Apeda, Patil said. The Indian Institute of Packaging (IIP) is working on the packaging technology for these mangoes.