The season of the king of fruits — Alphonso mangoes — has finally arrived, but not with a bang. This year, varying weather conditions have led to a loss of at least 60 per cent crop, say farmers. But the customers may not feel the pinch till the end of May, as the peak season is to begin only next month.

“I expect the prices to come down next month,” said 55-year-old Anubhash Sikandar at the city's Crawford market. Right now, one dozen mangoes cost between Rs. 600 to Rs. 1,200 in the retail market.

Alphonso mangoes start arriving in the market as early as in November. “At that time, the prices are very high. We sell a dozen mangoes for nearly Rs 8,000. There are buyers who don’t mind paying that much. But the mangoes that arrive so early are not of very high quality. They are produced by using lot of fertilizers,” said Ashok Kokane, a vendor.

By January, the supply starts trickling in. “The fruit is still quite expensive in January, as it is not peak season. The price for a dozen is around Rs. 4,000 then,” said 79-year-old Baban Dagdu Gundal, who has been in the business since 1967.

This year, the peak season for the fruit will last only for a month, causing distress among the farmers. The ban on Indian mangoes by the European Union (EU) will further decrease their revenues, they say.

No sustained flow

“Generally, fruits ripen at different times in different parts of coastal Maharashtra. For example, the Rajawadi mangoes may hit the market in March, Devgad mangoes ripen by April. Thus the market gets a sustained flow, and the farmers get a good price. But this year, whatever little crop we got will all hit the market between 10 April and 30 May. It will affect the cost, hitting the farmers hard,” Vivek Bhide, a mango-grower from Ratnagiri and office bearer of a mango-growers’ co-operative society, told The Hindu.

Considering only 10 per cent of the Alphonso mangoes from the State are sent to the European market, experts say the availability of fruits will not be affected. “The ban will hit the exporters the highest,” said Sanjay Pansare, director of Mumbai Agriculture Produce Committee.

Mr. Bhide explains that although very small quantity is exported, it is this export which decides the price-band of mangoes in the domestic market. “When the best fruit is sold at a high cost in the European market, the second-best mango fetches a comparable price in the domestic market,” he says.

Farmers and traders rued the large-scale destruction of crop due to poor weather. “There was clouding in January. Then, due to unseasonal cold, pollination did not take place. Drastic climate changes have led to the loss of around 70 per cent crop,” Mr. Bhide said.

Moreover, crops were also attacked by pests. “Whatever remains is not of the best quality,” Mr. Pansare said.

Mr Bhide said, generally, the turnover of Alphonso mangoes in the coastal belt is around Rs. 2,500 crore. “This year, it might be hardly Rs. 1,500 crore,” he said.