Pune: The Maharashtra state government is undertaking an ambitious initiative that will train more than 500 mango farmers from the state so that they acquire Eurogap certification for export of the fruit to markets in Japan, the US and Europe before the onset of the next mango season in summer 2008.
The initiative, being undertaken by the Maharashtra State Agriculture Marketing Board (MSAMB) will be held in the Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg districts, where the famed Alphonso mangoes are grown, and also in the Marathwada region, where the fruit’s humbler sibling, the Kesar variety, is grown, state marketing minister Harshavardhan Patil told Mint.
The state’s plan, which began 10 months before the start of the next season, is being taken to ensure that the Alphonso and Kesar varieties from the state find a place on the breakfast tables of families in markets where there is a high degree of barriers for food imports, in terms of safety, Patil said.
“Last year, we sent pilot consignments of the fruit to the Japanese and US markets and while the fruit itself was well received, there were issues related to pesticide residue, which we will now tackle by training the farmers well in advance,” he said.
The state’s marketing board exported 160 tonnes of mango to the US and 26 tonnes to Japan last year through 55 Eurogap-certified farmers from the Konkan and Marathwada, said MSAMB’s deputy general manager Santosh Patil.
With Indian mangoes now popular in these countries and also in China, where there is a developing market for the fruit, the board has significantly increased its export target for the next season and wants to export at least 2,000 tonnes of the fruit, half of which will be to the US and 500 tonnes each to Japan and China.
MSAMB already has received presentations from six Eurogap certifying agencies and will shortlist one in the next month, Patil said.
Obtaining Eurogap certification has until now been the privilege of the more affluent farmer because it costs between Rs12,000 and Rs15,000 for individual farmers. The board has now decided it will pick up half the cost involved so that even small farmers can avail of the certification and get better returns on their produce, Patil said.
The state government is also in the process of setting up a committee of exporters, growers and the agencies involved in exporting mangoes to the US, which is the worl’s biggest consumer of the fruit.
Both farmers and exporters are finding the logistics involved in exporting the fruit to the US long-winded and expensive.
Mangoes which are exported to the US are required to be pre-treated at packaging centres, transported to an irradiation centre set up by the Agriculture and Processed Foods Export Development Authority (Apeda) and the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre at Lasalgaon, Maharashtra, in refrigerated vans, and then transported to Mumbai airport.
Exporters and growers complain that realizations on export to the US are not commensurate with the costs incurred. The US earlier this year lifted an 18-year-old ban on Indian mangoes.