Even as the COVID-19 lockdown eases, the continuing curbs on inter-State transport, labour shortage and shutting down of markets in North India have hit trading in mangoes and the chances of better prices for mango growers, here in the mango growing district in the State.
While the prices have remained largely unchanged from last year, COVID-19 trumped the market dictates of supply and demand in pricing for the king of fruits. Mango production this year was hit by poor rainfall and disease at the flowering stage.
The yield is reported to have fallen to below 30%, according to farmers and traders. This fall in yield did not translate into better prices for farmers.
“The biggest markets in Mumbai, Ahmedabad and Delhi are shut. Earlier, I would send 20 tonnes to 30 tonnes a day to North India, but now, it is only 10 tonnes depending on the availability of transport and labour,” says Basha, a mango trader.
This year, the three mango varieties grown in Krishnagiri are fetching the same prices as last year, when there was over production. “Alphonsa variety is going at ₹40/kg, Thotapuri at ₹13/kg, and Senthura ranges between ₹10 to ₹22 per kg. The mango supply is low compared to last year and ideally, this would have fetched bumper prices for farmers in a non-COVID time,” says Mr. Basha.
Many villages have placed restrictions on inter-village movement of labour. This has also forced traders to scale down their procurement from farmers based on the local availability of the labour on one hand, and on gauging of the transport curbs on inter-State movement of trucks carrying the loads for North Indian markets.
“We usually use trained labour. With the local restrictions on labour movement, we have to make do with available workers,” he says.
However, farmers are unenthused by the prices offered by both traders and pulp factories.
“We spend ₹28,000/tonne which excludes the harvest cost. Pulp factories and traders are giving us the same price as last year, despite the fall in production,” says Soundar, a mango farmer, even as he is aware of COVID-19 triggered factors.
Totapuri variety is cultivated across the district. This year, of the 40,000 ha under mango production, only 15,000 ha have yielded slashing down the production, says Mr. Soundar. “Despite this, farmers are being ₹12 per kg. Pulp factories increase ₹1 per kg each day, and usually by the end of the season, the prices are increased to ₹22 per kg.”
Alleging cartelisation of pulp factories, farmers have been demanding a tripartite meeting of pulp industry, growers and the administration to fix a price.
“It is the government’s responsibility to provide a minimum support price for us, at least in times like these,” he says.