Indian mango drive launched in US, but price a hindrance

June 7th, 2008 - 10:39 am ICT by IANS  

By Parveen Chopra
New York, June 7 (IANS) India has launched a promotional drive to make its mangoes popular in the massive market for the fruit in the US, but high prices are impeding the effort started last year after the lifting of an 18-year import ban. As part of the current promotion, an official delegation from India is doing a series of events in New York and Los Angeles this fortnight, including tying up with 10 Indian restaurants in each of the two cities to have mango tasting festivals.

A mango festival was held at the Indian consulate in New York this week, which was attended by a large number of Indian American community leaders, local traders and mango exporters from India.

India exported mangoes worth $1 million to the US last year and the figure is likely to go up to around $1 million this year, Asit Tripathy, chairman of Agricultural and Processed Food Export Development Authority (APEDA), told reporters.

He, however, acknowledged that the high price is proving to be a hurdle in the promotion of Indian mangoes here.

After the agreement to lift the import ban was signed between APEDA and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), every consignment of mangoes has to undergo irradiation and a rigorous testing process before being exported. This is being done in the presence of USDA at the only testing centre in Maharashtra, the cost of which is borne by the mango producers.

Costs go up further because the shelf life of Indian mangos being about a fortnight, all the consignments are sent by air.

As a result, a carton of a dozen mangoes costs around $35, making it out of reach of the common American. The same carton of mangos coming from Mexico, which accounts for 60 percent exports of the fruit to the US, or grown locally in California costs about $10.

Mango exporters and APEDA officials said India has made a few requests to the US government in this regard so that Indian mangoes could become more competitive here.

With more testing plants coming up in India in the next few years and the USDA hinting at easing import restrictions, Tripathy hoped that the volume of mangoes exported to the US would jump manifold after a couple of years, possibly bringing down the price to $15-$20 a carton.

Indian mangoes are marketed as a niche product and sold in ethnic Indian or Asian grocery stores.

US is the biggest importer of the fruit with an annual consumption of 250,000 tonnes and India is the world’s largest mango producer with a wide variety including Alfonso, Kesar and Banganapalli.

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