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West Bengal's mango export under tough situation

SILIGURI: Mango, an integral part of culture and heritage of not only India, but adjoining Bangladesh too. But, export of this Mangifera fruit from West Bengal, one of the highest mango producing states of India, to adjacent Bangladesh across Indo-Bangla border, is not in very healthy shape now.

High duty structure, unfriendly export infrastructure or tortoisian pace of processing of Government subsidy schemes all put together has kept export of the fruit under tough situation. According to Malda Mango Merchants Association members,with average 5 lakh ton annual production, the region witness near 30% ups and downs in its production volume every alternate years, commonly known as 'On' and 'Off' years.

This year's being an ON year has toughened the situation. WB produces around 5% of total Indian mango yield which is over 50% of global production. But India enjoys only 1% of global mango export market. Streamlined and smooth export to Bangladesh can significantly brighten this picture. Though not as well known as Alfonso variety from Maharastra, the West Bengal varieties like Himasagar, Langra, Fajli, Laxmanbhog or Mumbai Green are always in high demand in Bangladesh. "With average annual 1 lakh ton intake, Bangladesh is the largest importer of Malda mango.

It is in bad shape now," said Mr. U. Saha, a leading mango exporter and Gen Secretary, West Bengal Exporters Coordination Committee. Malda and Murshidabad, two adjacent districts were declared as Agri-Export Zone in 2003 for Mango with a Government investment proposition of Rs. 31 Crore. But, "That could hardly help the mango exporters," complained Mr. Saha, In Bangladesh, applicable import duty on mango is around 30/Kg BDT (Eqv. INR 25). "When added to our rationalized average selling price of around INR 15000 /ton, (Around USD 250/ton) plus freight and other costs, the landing price in Bangladesh wholesale markets becomes near INR 45 to INR 50/kg, almost out of acceptable limit there," said Mr. Saha.

Transport subsidy, is also not available as mango is mostly shipped to adjacent Bangladesh through land ports. When asked, Mr. U. Tamrakar, Regional In-Charge(East) of Agricultural and Processed Food products Export Development Authority( APEDA) said, "The existing subsidy scheme was valid till 2012. We are waiting for an extension of that with coverage on surface transport too." At the bottom of the chain, "We are in deep crisis as we cannot keep ripe fruits unharvested. Naturally, now we are at the mercy of upcountry middlemen offering just through away price," said Mr. Manirool Alam, a first tire producer at orchard level.

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