Calcium carbide is a reality that all mango lovers will have to face, going by its rampant use for ripening the fruit at the Gaddiannaram Agricultural Market Yard in Kothapet Fruit Market.
Carbide is skillfully packed into small sachets and scattered into the piles of mangoes at the market, ready to be exported to various destinations.Sporadic media furore and official action against the use of this chemical compound with proven carcinogenic properties, has not deterred commission agents, who are visibly irritated at its mere mention.
“Is the government acting against alcohol, or cigarettes, or other harmful substances? On the contrary, it is deriving its income from such addictions. Why act only when it comes to farmers’ interests?” questions an irate Venkateshwarlu, commission agent, Sainath Fruit Company.
However, it is not farmers’ interests alone which explain the continuing use of carbide, but a whole market dynamics associated with the fruit’s perishable nature.
Mango needs three months to mature on the tree, only after which it can be plucked and kept for natural ripening. However, if such a process is to be allowed, the market will be flooded with the fruit all at once, leading to price crash. Hence, the early lot cannot be ripened without using carbide, assert the agents.
“If allowed to ripen naturally, all the fruit will arrive after May 20, leading to a glut. Further, mango is very unpredictable, and farmers will have to give up the whole crop if the fruit begins to drop before it is plucked,” says Mr. Venkateshwarlu.
However, Radhakrishna, a farmer from Tiruvuru mandal of Krishna district begs to differ. Farmers bring the crop early on, only in the hope of a better price, while the schemes of the commission agents revolve around forming a cartel to evade higher prices to farmers. Early arrivals ensure a farmers’ market, while the later glut is only for the agents to benefit.
“Use of carbide can be curbed effectively only by offering Minimum Support Price (MSP) to the mango farmers. Assured of MSP and insured against commission agents, the farmer can then allow the fruit to ripen on the tree before harvesting,” he says.