Indian mangoes deserve many more connoisseurs
• India is home to around 30 distinctive varieties of mangoes, which are fetching decent demand among discerning customers in markets like EU and the Middle East.
• There is tremendous scope to increase penetration in existing markets as well as tap new markets for Indian mangoes.
• However, the high price of Indian mangoes vis-à-vis the competition limits its appeal to expats.
• There is a need to both build a strong brand equity of Indian mangoes and boost export volumes by experimenting with transit by sea.
India is a leading producer of mangoes, accounting for around 40% of global production of the fruit. The country is home to around 30 mango varieties that are grown commercially. Some of the more popular of these are the Alphonso, Banganpalli, Chausa, Dashehri, Langra, Totapuri and Kesar. These varieties fetch good demand among discerning customers in the international market. Exports of fresh mangoes from India reached US$ 60.2 million in 2018-19, while exports of mango pulp stood at US$ 93.7 million.
Sahyadri Farms has been exporting mangoes in the processed form over the years – as puree, frozen, cut and diced. For our processed products, Europe is the largest market. A lot of our products go to Germany, France, China, Japan and Switzerland; as well as to Middle East countries – Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain, Qatar. A small proportion currently goes into the US and we see tremendous scope to explore and capture new markets.
For supply of fresh Indian mangoes, this has consistently met benchmarks of international markets, barring concerns related to fruit flies and radiation, which have been resolved. We haven’t faced any significant quality issues in the international market.
However, Indian mangoes face severe competition from countries like South America & South Africa. Although the subcontinental mangoes are superior in quality, the mango from these countries is relatively 2-3 times cheaper.
The challenge is especially dire this year because of a natural shortage owing to lower production. While we have been able to maintain our export volumes, we have been compelled to pay higher prices.
To address competitiveness for sale of fresh mango, the government needs to adopt a two-fold approach. Firstly, there is a major need to experiment with sea shipments, as we are currently unable to export by sea. All the fruit is going by air. For short transit destinations like Dubai, we do send the products by sea. But for longer transit routes, air shipments are the norm.
Due to air transit, the fruit typically becomes too expensive to buy. Invariably, it ends up catering to the ethnic Indian or Pakistani consumer who knows the Alphonso and is willing to pay top money. An instance of this is the Gujarati community that loves to have mangoes during the season and is also willing to pay high prices for it. However local Europeans, Americans, Arabs or Europeans will not pay that high a price for an Alphonso mango, especially when they have access to mangoes that are far cheaper.
Secondly, a lot of promotion needs to be done by Indian authorities for the Alphonso and other mangoes. They could probably have free tasting schedules, increased visibility in supermarkets and promotional campaigns. Once done, people can probably recognize that this is something fantastic and different and is probably worth paying more. Average consumers in Europe and America don’t know about Indian mangoes, unless they are from the trade or the processing industry. For instance, a technical person who is buying my mango for a specific purpose of making a drink or an ice cream knows about the different mango varieties.
Indian authorities also need to implement a secure export traceablity system like they have for Grapes known as Grapenet. A Mangonet would help manage the exports reliably too.
Hence there is a serious need to experiment and get your science correct to send the product by sea. That will seriously boost the business volumes, prices and export revenues. Simultaneously, consumer education is extremely important so that consumers in overseas markets understand and appreciate the rich quality and distinctive characters of Indian mango varieties. But this requires investment, and the industry would request the government to take up this initiative.
Azhar Tambuwala is Director at Sahyadri Farms, the leading Farmer Producer Company representing marginal farmers in India that grow fruits and vegetables on less than 1 hectare of land. Today, Sahyadri Farms is the largest FPO in the country and India’s largest exporter of grapes having moved 1,459 containers. The views expressed here are his own.