Wednesday, May 16, 2007
this year has not been a particularly happy one for the world-famous alphonso mangoes. or for what are popularly called happoos in mumbai.it is mumbai's signature mango. firstly,the arrival was late. mid april. and secondly, prices were exorbitant.the first two dozens of happoos that i bought from my friend dasarath kale at crawford market was for rs 1200. when i enquired why the prices were so high,he explained that initially there were sudden showers resulting in damage to the crops. 'reliance' are making massive purchases for their retail outlets. the extended winter. and also that for the first time alphonso mangoes were being exported to the usa after a 17 year old ban.
quid pro quo,said the newspaper headlines.uncle sam wants to export harley davidsons to india for agreeing to import alphonsoes! some 150 boxes of alphonsoes and kesar mangoes were shipped end of last month after irradiation to reach the required hygiene levels and lot of quality checks.it is expected to be priced at 36$ per dozen in the americam market. but i haven't seen a new harley davidson yet on mumbai roads. the americans are complaining of high import duties. and that it is not a level playing field.
when my daughter was an undergrad student in usa many years ago,i was visiting her. i put about 20 mangoes in my unaccompanied baggage. these were the best that i had selected from our small fruit garden in goa.the customs official was friendly.when he asked me whether i was carrying any eatables,i jokingly said "no,only cherishables".we had a chat and before i knew what was happening the affable offcial had confiscated all the mangoes.i am sure they must have partaken of the small loot.the memory of that incident was quite uncherishable.
in end april/first week of may, there was some better availability of happoos. the prices had dropped only marginally though and that too temporarily.yesterday, when i bought two dozens of happoos, the prices had come down to rs 400. but the prices are likely to again move up north because it has been raining intermittently in the konkan coast affecting the plucking and despatch of the fruits. also due to the alternate year low crop syndrome, production of mango crop was severely affected.
there is good news for those who are netsavvy. alphonsoes are now just a click away.log on to www.devgadmango.com. this website was launched some six months back by a group of six mangogrowers. teleshopping networks and even the internet has been bitten by the mango bug. but then if you can't touch,feel and smell mangoes,how do you really buy them? firm and rounded mangoes with a slight depression around its stem.ideally golden yellow,sunkissed. and green patches are a no-no. these are some basic clues which enable you to purchase the right mangoes. when you buy fruits on the internet, you are not sure what you are likely to get.
whether it is alphonso or payari,rajapuri or shravani or kesar,the same rules apply. payari and rajapuri and shravani are the juice varieties.and from the north there are dussheri,langda and totapuri.these aromatic mangoes have thinner skin.uttar pradesh is the mango bowl of india and it produces the maximum volume and the maximum variety.amitabh bacchan would have been well advised to say "utttar pradesh mein sabze zyada aur pyaare aam hote hain" instead of his infamous one-liner,"uttar pradesh mein jurm(crime) saare desh mein subse kum hain". and from the southern farms you get bangannapalli,lalbaug,neelam and himapasand. ask a hyderabadi and he will swear by the bangannapalli.and a trichyite who knows nothing else but himapasand.
kesar has caught the attention of exporters this year.mango orchards near rajkot at talala are having many visitors from mumbai.reliance,bharti,tata and godrej are all there taking samples for obtaining quality approval from their foreign customers.some of these big names have already exported about 400 tonnes of kesar mangoes recently to japan and europe and the gulf.mango farmers from krishnagiri, tamil nadu have formed a consortium and are contributing rs 1000 each as equity to sell their pulpy mangoes under the brand name "krishmaa".management guru lalu yadav and our current railway minister is considering a coldchain express train to help farmers realise remunerative prices. whether he owns an orchard and has set sights on langda competing with alphonso in the national market is to be seen.
the annual mango festival,amba mahotsav was held in prabhadevi during the last week of april.nearly 150 farmers from konkan participated. mangoes were pricey and the aam janata had to make do with fewer mangoes. aam seems to be eluding the aam aadmi. a rather unhappy happoos season this year.i heard a vendor say,"happoos toh tayaar hai,lekin customers kahaan?".