NEW DELHI —
India and the European Union are involved in a trade spat over a recent ban on mangoes imposed by the EU. But many at home are ecstatic as local markets become flooded with the king of fruits, sending prices plummeting.
Purnima Dhir in New Delhi had stocked up on vegetable and fruits on the weekend. But after reading reports that prices of the prized Alphonso mango have crashed, she rushed back to a supermarket to pick up a variety whose high rate usually keeps it out of reach for middle class households.
“I am absolutely delighted. We can have our fill of it, I can’t believe it,” she said.
Alphonsos are flooding local markets after the European Union imposed an 18-month ban on Indian mangoes along with a few other vegetables after finding fruit flies in some consignments.
As the ban went into effect on May 1, prices of the famed Alphonso mango tumbled to their lowest in nearly two decades. They are selling at about $2.50 to $4 per kilogram - half their usual price.
The succulent mango is one of the few compensations of the scorching summer heat in the Indian plains. It comes in many varieties. But the top slot is occupied by the Alphonso mango, grown in a coastal belt of western Maharashtra state.
King of mangoes
Crowned as the King of mangoes, Alphonso’s texture and aroma have hugely raised its demand in countries ranging from Japan to Europe and led to spiraling prices at home. That has forced most Indians to satisfy their mango craving with more affordable varieties.
But even as ecstatic consumers take advantage of the Alphonso glut, the European ban is a blow to exporters in Mumbai, the hub of the mango trade.
A director at the Agriculture Produce Market Committee in Mumbai, Sanjay Pansare, is concerned that the issue could affect a lucrative market in the long run. “We are not worried about the prices, what we are worried is we are going to lose the European market, that is the main problem,” Pansare explained.
Exporters are already adding up their losses. Bharat Pawar is the manager of Shree Ganesh Fruit Stall in Mumbai.
He said at least half his export orders have been cancelled. He is now selling in the local market.
The ban has drawn criticism among authorities in New Delhi. They have asked the European Union to reconsider the ban and even threatened to take the issue to the World Trade Organization. India says an elaborate examination and certification procedure has been put in place to address Europe’s concerns.
And while Indians gorge on Alphonsos, its disappearance from European markets has also led to protests in Britain, home to a large Asian population.
After a British lawmaker of Indian origin, Keith Vaz, called the ban “Euro nonsense” and called for a reversal, Prime Minister David Cameron promised to discuss the issue after a new Indian Prime Minister takes office later this month.
Indeed, the mango is accustomed to being the stuff of diplomacy. New Delhi has often given the prized fruit to foreign leaders. And in 2006 India and the U.S. struck what is known as a mango for bikes deal - New Delhi reportedly allowed the import of Harley Davidson motorcycles in exchange for Washington lifting an 18-year ban on mango imports.