For the first time, 18 tonnes of Banganapalli, Kesar and Alphonso mangoes started a voyage to the United States on Friday by sea, from the Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust here. The consignment is likely to reach New York port in 22 days from where it will be distributed.
Mangoes were earlier shipped only by air to America, stunting exports. Government officials and traders see the sea route as a potential game changer. The consignment is likely to reach New York port in 22 days from where it will be distributed.
Mango exports to the U.S. have been restricted to the air-route as the fruit ripens rapidly once harvested. Following the strict norms imposed by the U.S. on import of the fruit, shipments needs to undergo irradiation, which kills pathogens and other bacteria.
Fifty-two per cent of the world’s mango production is in India. However, official figures indicate that only 2 per cent is exported. This year, around 175 tonnes of mangoes was exported to the U.S. by air. But that was more expensive compared to exports to other countries. The sea route is seen as offering better returns and is capable of handling more mangoes.
Less than half
“A box of 3.5 kg costs around $18 if sent via airplane. The sea route costs $ 8. We are keeping our fingers crossed as never before have mangoes reached a U.S. port in edible condition via sea. If we succeed, it will open up a huge market,” said Pankaj Gathani, Group CMD, Mukund Export.
The consignment was shipped in atmosphere controlled containers. As per U.S. law, chemicals or silica pouches cannot be used to control ripening. The containers are meant to slow down the ripening process. “We have also tried to cut the time between harvesting and shipping. We understand that it is a total risk, but we are hopeful,” he said, adding that insurance cover for exports would help greatly.
One of the key pre-export procedures for fruit sent to the U.S. is irradiation. Apart from Lasalgaon (in Nasik) and Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, a new irradiation centre opened at Navi Mumbai on April 15.
“This is extremely useful for exports. The government is hopeful that the consignment will reach the U.S. port without much ripening or decay,” said Prashant Waghmare, Assistant General Manager, Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority.
“Opening as many markets as possible is absolutely essential for mango producers and traders. We hope this sea route experiment becomes a success. Farmers will benefit,” said Vivek Bhide, President, Konkan Cooperative Association of Alphonso Mango Growers and Sellers. Mr. Bhide said traders’ margins would rise, and the benefits should be shared equally with farmers.