Sour deal

The price of the to­ta­puri mango has crashed due to low de­mand for its pulp, leav­ing farm­ers to dump pro­duce on roads

Down to Earth - - CONTENTS - G RAM MO­HAN @down2earth­in­dia

Prices of to­ta­puri man­goes have crashed this sea­son, leav­ing Chit­toor farm­ers to dump their pro­duce on the roads

MANGO CUL­TI­VA­TORS of Chit­toor in Andhra Pradesh’s Ray­alseema re­gion have been badly af­fected this sea­son. The prices of the king of fruits have crashed in the dis­trict, which along with the bor­der­ing ar­eas of Nel­lore and Kadapa, is a ma­jor global mango pro­duc­ing re­gion. Most farm­ers here grow the to­ta­puri va­ri­ety, which has high de­mand in the in­ter­na­tional mar­ket for its pulp. Ac­cord­ing to the hor­ti­cul­ture de­part­ment of­fi­cials, the es­ti­mated yield this year is about 40 per cent less as a re­sult of un­sea­sonal rains. But more than the low pro­duce, what’s wor­ry­ing farm­ers is that pulp in­dus­tries are not re­cep­tive in lift­ing stocks.

Dis­tressed cul­ti­va­tors, many of whom ditched other crops in favour of mango due to surg­ing in­ter­est in hor­ti­cul­ture and gov­ern­ment sub­sidy, have hit the streets and at many places dumped their pro­duce on the roads to protest against prices dip­ping as low as `4.5 for a kg. This has come as a shocker as in the month of May this year, man­goes sold at `12 a kg, and last year, the prices stood at `20 per kg. To tide over the cri­sis, Chief Min­is­ter N Chan­drababu Naidu an­nounced in

the first week of July that pulp-mak­ing in­dus­tries would have to pay a min­i­mum sup­port price of `7.50 per kg to the mango grow­ers, out of which the gov­ern­ment will of­fer `2.50 di­rectly to the farm­ers. The move has brought cheer to about 60,000 farm­ers. Pulp fac­tory own­ers have also been asked to lift pro­duce from the dis­trict and not take or­ders from out­side.

Slump in de­mand

The prob­lem is acute as to­ta­puri, of­ten re­ferred to as the Ban­gal­sora va­ri­ety, dom­i­nates 50 per cent of the acreage under mango cul­ti­va­tion, ac­c­cord­ing to sta­tis­tics avail­able with the dis­trict ad­min­is­tra­tion as of 2017-18.

Ex­plain­ing the sit­u­a­tion, S J Anil Ku­mar, a trader at the Chit­toor mar­ket yard and owner of Sri Man­ju­natha Foods—a pulp man­u­fac­tur­ing unit at Mad­di­pat­la­palli—says, “Our or­ders are only 25 per cent of last year. The con­flict in Ye­men is play­ing a ma­jor role be­hind fall­ing ex­ports of pulp. Our old stock is ly­ing idle. Ye­men is one of the top im­porters in West Asia, along with Saudi Ara­bia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emi­rates. Also, the crop com­ing from Kr­ish­na­giri in Tamil Nadu and Srini­vas­a­pu­ram in Kar­nataka has led to this sud­den fall in de­mand.” Sim­i­lar is the story with al­most all the 42 pulp pro­duc­ing units.

Agents and farmer lead­ers say that a com­bi­na­tion of fac­tors have con­trib­uted to the glut in the Chit­toor mango mar­ket this year. “There is in­creas­ing acreage under man­goes across the rest of In­dia, es­pe­cially in Ut­tar Pradesh, Gujarat, Odisha and Ma­ha­rash­tra. There is also lack of suf­fi­cient pur­chasers from out­side the state lead­ing to a sur­plus,” says Y Yash­want Rao, the sec­re­tary of Tirucha­nur mar­ket yard. Sadly, this is not the first time when Chit­toor’s mango mar­ket prices have slumped. In 2005 too, mango pro­duc­tion had dipped by 20 per cent com­pared to the last sea­son.

Cola-Cola’s with­drawal from the mar­ket is also re­spon­si­ble for the cri­sis. Once a ma­jor buyer of mango pulp for its fruit drink Maaza, the com­pany has now stopped procur­ing man­goes from the farm­ers. It now buys pulp from agri­cul­tural prod­ucts maker Jain Ir­ri­ga­tion Sys­tems, ac­cord­ing to Man­gati Gopal Reddy, the pres­i­dent of the Andhra Pradesh chap­ter of the Fed­er­a­tion of Farm­ers’ As­so­ci­a­tions. “No doubt, a big pur­chaser go­ing out of the mar­ket will have an im­pact on the prices,” he says. The only spe­cial eco­nomic zone set up in the dis­trict with 75 per cent central as­sis­tance and 25 per cent pri­vate par­tic­i­pa­tion, the Srini Food Park, has also not pro­cured lo­cally, he adds.

Chit­toor also lacks cold stor­age fa­cil­i­ties. Ow­ing to the lack of this, mango farm­ers take their pro­duce to the fac­tory gates and some­times wait for 48 hours. Farm­ers Down To Earth spoke to pointed out that this added to their cost, as many of them do not own trac­tors and hire them on a per day ba­sis. Of­ten, man­goes over­ripen dur­ing this time. Cur­rently, mango or­chards are spread over 70,000 hectares in the dis­trict. But af­ter the dis­tress sit­u­a­tion, farm­ers are think­ing of aban­don­ing mango cul­ti­va­tion.

Is there a way out?

Chit­toor’s mango grow­ers are vul­ner­a­ble to price volatil­ity and weather vari­abil­ity even though the gov­ern­ment is help­ing farm­ers by pro­vid­ing a sub­sidy of `35,000 per 0.4 hectares over a five-year pe­riod. Its ef­forts are ev­i­dent from the fact that the area under mango cul­ti­va­tion has in­creased by 30 per cent over the past 10 years. Ac­cord­ing to re­ports, the state is plan­ning to bring more ar­eas under hor­ti­cul­ture, es­pe­cially man­goes.

Of­fer­ing a so­lu­tion, K M Yu­vraj, pro­fes­sor at the Acharya N G Ranga Agri­cul­tural Univer­sity in Tiru­pati, says that di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion of hor­ti­cul­tural crops can solve this present cri­sis as farm­ers now eco­nom­i­cally de­pend on mango cul­ti­va­tion only. The state gov­ern­ment should also pro­mote

to­ta­puri just like the alphonso and de­clare a min­i­mum sup­port price for the fruit, Yu­vraj says.

Of­ten un­favourable state­ments deepen the cri­sis. Re­cently, in­dus­tries min­is­ter N Amarnath Reddy said he had to sell his own pro­duce at `5 a kg when con­fronted with queries on low prices. “This served as an ex­cuse for the pulp man­u­fac­tur­ers, who are not keen to in­crease prices,” ex­plains Reddy. Chit­toor is drought-prone. Faced with wa­ter short­age, many farm­ers turned to man­goes ex­pect­ing rich div­i­dends. But the present cri­sis has left them with a sour taste.

A farmer shows the to­ta­puri mango va­ri­ety in his or­chard in Chit­toor

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