Asia’s biggest mango market loses sheen

Disturbing trend:Workers grading mangoes at a shop at Nunna mango market in Vijayawada.—Photo: V. Raju  

The Nunna Mango Market here is said to be the biggest mango market in Asia with consignments accounting for 2000 metric tonnes being dispatched to different metros daily.

Mango farmers from Krishna, West Godavari and even Khammam district (now in Telangana) bring the king of fruits to the Nunna market to get a better price. But this year, both farmers and merchants seem unhappy with recent trends.

During the season, merchants came from all the major metros in the country and purchased fruit, mostly Banginepalli, Totapuri and the locally popular variety, Chinna Rasalu, in auctions.

Once purchased, the fruit was packed in bamboo baskets (plastic crates are being used now) and sent in trucks to Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata, where there was considerable demand for it. The raw mango was ripened en route with carbide being sprinkled in the fruit baskets.

Unfortunately conditions at the market turned adverse to the farmers over time. The merchants who were from other states evolved a “secret handshake” system to keep the farmers in the dark in the so-called open auction. With the traders exploiting the farmers, several of them preferred to sell of their produce at the garden itself. Some farmers, who became debt ridden, initiated the trend of taking advances. In this system, the farmers have no say about the price. The merchant and farmer decide a price and some advance is paid even before the flowering stage. When the crop is ready, the merchant harvests the fruit and pays rest of the amount. So the entire profit went to the merchant.

While things began getting sour for the farmers from a few years ago, the business turned bitter for the merchants with the government banning the use of carbide and the secret handshake system just last year.

There is nothing open in the secret handshake auction system. Two merchants bid for the fruit, but the bids and counter bids are known only to the merchants. At the end of the auction, the farmers are simply told the price they would pay for the fruit.

At the behest of Water Resources Minister Devineni Umamaheswara Rao, the secret handshake auction system was banned. This year, the officials announced zero tolerance to carbide.

A Delhi-based merchant, who preferred anonymity, said if fruits were ripened before transportation, they would be damaged while in transit. Losses would be heavy if fruit was ripened after transportation. Carbide ripening was crucial for the mango export business.

Mango farmer C.T. Srinivasa Rao, who waged a battle against the secret handshake auction system, ironically sold his fruit while it was on the trees this season. “It is a losing battle. The merchants still have the upper hand. And the government does not seem to be interested in doing any thing. The maximum commission that a merchant should charge was 4 per cent, but the traders were taking up to 11 per cent.

The secret handshake auctions still continue on the sleigh,” he lamented. Marketing department supervisor Venkateswara Rao said another reason for the merchants staying away was the poor arrivals. A little over 2,000 tonnes had been received and shipped from the market in 15 days after the season began on April 6, he said.

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Printable version | Jul 21, 2021 11:14:01 AM |

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