FOR TWO consecutive years now, Indian mangoes will be absent from retail markets in the US. The Covid-19 pandemic last year hampered exports, while this year, the failure of the two governments to come up with a workable solution has put exports in a limbo. This break in the market access for a country that has shown consistent growth over the past few years can have a lasting impact over the exports in the years to come.
Unlike in European Union, Indian mangoes gained access to US markets only after 2007. Exports remained subdued till 2011, after which there was good growth in exports. Consistent yearly growth helped exporters get greater access to US markets. Consignments to US have to undergo a process called irradiation, which involves exposing the fruit to rays of a weak radioactive element. Maharashtra State Agricultural Marketing Board (MSAMB) has set up an irradiation facility at Vashi’s wholesale market in Navi Mumbai, which is a major hub for exporters. The set protocol involves the arrival of the US phytosanitary inspector who monitors the process, which is called pre-clearance operations.
While last year the pandemic put a stop to the inspector’s arrival in the country, this year exporters were hopeful that a golden mid could be arrived at before the season starts. A C Bhasale, director of Rainbow International, a major mango exporter and secretary of Vegetable and Fruits Exporters Association, said they carried out repeated correspondence with the central government and Agricultural Produce Export Development Authority to expedite the process but in vain. “Countries like Japan and South Korea, whose inspectors came to India for pre-clearance operations, have agreed to accept consignments based on certificates from Indian inspectors,” he said.
Kaushal Khakhar of Kay Bee Exports, said in case of US, diplomacy might not have worked to break the deadlock. While EU and US were coveted markets for Indian exporters, the latter was a growing market while the former had reached its peak, he said. “A sudden halt to a new market would surely raise questions about its sustainability,” he added.
Khakar also said US apples arrived in India without the Indian inspector being in the USA, but vice versa was not allowed. Out of 1.5 crore mangoes, just about one lakh Indian mangoes leave for foreign shores. Major exporting states are Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Uttar Pradesh.