Covid-19 pushes up air freight, UP mangoes to reach Gulf via sea for 1st time

Covid-19 pushes up air freight, UP mangoes to reach Gulf via sea for 1st time

AGRA: The king of fruits is now a seafarer. With the pandemic pushing up air freight charges, mango exporters from UP will send consignments of Dussehri, Langra and Saroli — popular mango varieties in the Gulf — via sea for the first time.

On Wednesday, the first shipment of 26 tonnes of mangoes left Lucknow for Gujarat port. It will leave Indian shores for Oman four days later. For the delicate fruit, it will be a seven-day journey covering several hundred nautical miles.

Nadeem Siddiqui, president of the Mango Export Association of UP, said the decision to export via sea was taken this month since air freight has nearly tripled. “Air freight charges have gone up from Rs 45-Rs 55 per kg to up to Rs 150 per kg since the pandemic disrupted air and cargo services. Comparatively, shipment by sea is now much cheaper at Rs 27 per kg,” he said.

The rise in air freight prices led to mangoes being transported by sea
To ensure the varieties maintain the quality, aroma and taste that they are known for, the Indian Council of Agricultural Research 

(ICAR)-Central Institute for Subtropical Horticulture has lent technical support.

A senior official from the Agriculture & Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (Apeda), a government body that focuses on transport of major exports, said the UP government and the Centre are working to provide logistical aid to mango exporters so that fruit exports from UP can gain international dominance.

The senior official said, “We are using reefer containers that can slow down the ripening of the fruit to prevent spoilage. Mangoes have to be stored at temperatures not less than 10 degrees Celsius. Siddiqui said the next batch of mangoes will leave for Dubai on June 21. “Last year, growers from Lucknow exported 200 tonnes to other countries while exports from Saharanpur amounted to 300 tonnes,” he said.

Mangoes from UP are popular in UAE, Qatar, Oman, Japan, Malaysia and the UK. Farmers whose orchards render good-quality yield prefer to sell their produce to exporters since profit margins are neat. “In the wholesale market, a kg of mango sells for Rs 25, but the exporter buys it for up to Rs 40 per kg,” said Akram Baig, an exporter from Pratapgarh.

Apart from the pandemic, the weather has also played spoilsport for mango growers this year —unseasonal rains in the past few months have damaged crops. This has prompted farmers to write to the chief minister to seek relief. According to Insram Ali, president of All India Mango Growers’ Association, UP accounts for 23.47% of the total production of mangoes in the country. “UP produced 45-50 lakh metric tonnes of mangoes last year, but this year the yield is likely to be down to 35-40 lakh metric tonnes, resulting in losses of Rs 3,000 crore,” he said.