Odisha’s mangoes are soon expected to find a market in Southeast Asia- thanks to a new flight from Biju Patnaik International Airport in Bhubaneshwar. Malaysian low-cost airline AirAsia started its first international flight from the city airport to Kuala Lumpur on April 26, 2017 and that has prompted the state government to explore the possibility of mango exports to Malaysia and other Southeast Asian countries.
It may be mentioned that the mangoes of Odisha meet all quality parameters for export; all they need to do is to tap the market. The government is in talks with various stakeholders for exporting the king of fruits, informed the marketing consultant to OAMB, Barada Prasanna Choudhury.
Odisha produces nearly 800,000 tonnes of mangoes annually, making it the sixth-largest mango-growing state in India, which accounts for over 60 per cent of global production. Of the mangoes produced in Odisha, high-end varieties like Amrapalli, Dussehri, Mallika, Keshari and Langada account for some 40 per cent.
Dhenkanal, Angul, Mayurbhanj, Keonjhar and Boudh are the districts where a bulk of the mangoes is grown. The varieties that dominate the Indian market are Baiganpalli, Dussehri, Amrapalli, Kesari Totapuri, Latsundari, Mallika, Subarnarekha, Himasagar, Neelum and Chausa.
Mangoes from India are popular in the Middle East, the Far East, the United States and European countries. The export volumes are expected to rise as new countries like South Korea and Iran have allowed the import of Indian mangoes.
Such ventures for opening up the market towards the Southeast Asia for the Odisha mangoes have been attributed to the political will of the state government and the Air Connectivity available.
In the case of Meghalaya whose oranges are most sought after all over, poor connectivity has ensured that even the domestic consumers have to pay a high price for the state produces.
The annual Orange festival has been held since 2011 in Meghalaya to attract tourists who get to sample the oranges produced here. Even the domestic fruit lovers were delighted to be treated with a variety of indigenous oranges from the state. Meghalaya claims to produce about 40,000 tonnes of oranges per year. Yet the domestic consumers pay Rs 15 to Rs 25 per orange depending on size and the district where they are sold while one needs to pay around Rs 8 to Rs 10 per piece for the imported variety from other states including China.
Meghalaya is yet to produce organic fruits; chemicals are still used to forcefully ripen the fruits. The produce collected from the Indo – Bangladesh border, which is considered to be one of the best qualities, hardly reaches the local markets, due to high cost of transportation. The farmers prefer to export the fruits to Bangladesh even at a lower rate where each exported orange fetches them just about Rs 5. The consumers in Bangladesh are paying a lower price for the same oranges we consume.
In view of poor road connectivity and the absence of Railways in state, transportation of such perishable fruits and vegetable is next to impossible. Hence the farmers are selling off the produces at throw away prices outside Meghalaya. This only deprives the domestic consumer from tasting the indigenous oranges, while the elite in the society have to pay through their nose; hence the fruits which are abundant in the state are limited only to the elite in the society who can afford them.
Middle man also play their part in the high cost of all commodities include food by including the cost of transportation in the retailing sector. The state government should assist the farmers to easily transport their produce to the local markets across the state and at the same time provide assistance and consultancy for producing more organic fruits. This is the same for horticulture and agriculture as the farming community is said to be the most neglected section of society by the government.
Apart from the the above departments of the state government, no one has stressed on marketing the products, hence the absence of industries in the state. The orthodox attitude of the government’s departments not to venture out in expanding the markets for the local produces, be it agriculture, horticulture, floriculture or handicrafts has resulted in these products being mostly limited to exhibition or self promotions. The government should regulate marketing for all departments in the state.
Meanwhile the state government should encourage the farmers to produce organic foods, as most of the contemporary population is becoming health conscious, at the same time, the educated youths now refuse to take up farming.
The Chief Minster, Dr Mukul M Sangma, made an attempt to beatify rural areas, either by connecting all the rural areas by road or by giving a facelift to all the rural areas, such that the educated youths can go back to the roots and take up farming as a full time profession.
If such attempt is made, the migration from rural to urban will surely have deep fall. But more than that, all efforts should be made to make the state self-sufficient especially in terms of producing food. The indigenous oranges produced here too should be regulated such that they can be easily be transported to every nook and corner of the state by subsidizing the cost of transportation, otherwise one day the urban children will only witness the color and shape of oranges only in pictures, while sadly being unable to afford a product of the state which has received acclaim beyond its borders.
It is time for the pressure groups understand the dire needs for connectivity – road, rail and air, which will reduce the cost of transportation of all essential commodities besides enable the state to export its products to other states and Southeast Asia too.