Pune: The annual mango harvest in Maharashtra’s Ratnagiri and Sindudurg districts is still a fortnight away, but farmers are already being wooed aggressively by companies. That’s because these districts produce 1.15 lakh tonnes of the famed alphonso mangoes that fetch a premium in both domestic and export markets.
Reliance Retail has already visited the orchards of Ratnagiri and expressed a desire to buy 1,300 tonnes while Jalgaon, Maharashtra-based Jain Irrigation says it wants to buy 600-800 tonnes for exports.
Farmers expect other companies such as Pantaloon Retail, which owns the Big Bazaar chain of supermarkets, and ITC to come shopping soon. Last year, they sold 7,000 boxes, each of 12 mangoes, to Big Bazaar.
Several farmers told Mint that Reliance representatives had said their mangoes would be sold through its Reliance Fresh stores and would also be exported. The company, they added, has asked for 500 tonnes of mangoes grown by farmers with Eurogap (European good agricultural practices) certification for export to Europe and Japan. A company spokesperson declined to comment.
The farmers also said Reliance has assured them that it would buy the mangoes for at least 20% more than the wholesale price at the Agricultural Produce Marketing Board’s market in Vashi, Mumbai, one of the biggest wholesale markets in the region. The wholesale price for a lot of five-six dozen alphonsos was around Rs 400 last year. On the street, the price for a box containing a dozen mangoes could range from Rs800-1,500 in March to Rs300-600 in May, by which time other varieties of mangoes compete for shelf space.
“If big corporate houses such as Reliance come forward to purchase (mangoes directly), farmers will finally get the price they deserve instead of being cheated by commission agents at Vashi,” said Vidyadhar Joshi , a mango cultivator from Sindudurg district, which produces the popular Deogad alphonso.
Farmers with Eurogap certifications have acquired export licences in an effort to get better rates for their produce. According to Vivek Bhide of Ratnagiri’s Shree Mango Growers Association, these farmers have been to London to interact with buying agents who represent some of the UK’s top supermarket chains.
Bhide said farmers hope to sell 10,000-15,000 boxes to such chains this year at £6-10 a box. Alphonsos retailed for £8-15 a box in UK last year.