BETTER PROSPECTS FOR MANGO EXPORTS

Higher prices in the domestic market is expected

By SYED M. ASLAM
Apr 30 - May 06, 2001

First, the good news: A bad crop would not deter mango exports to break all previous records in terms of both quantity and value. Now the bad news: the price of the expected exports performance would be paid, in part, by the mango loving populace which would have to pay a premium price to sink its teeth into the delectable fruit.

Exporters and officials of Export Promotion Bureau agree that decline in mango production this season resulting in unaffordable prices would discourage domestic consumption thus leaving record exports in terms of quantity. The value-wise increase would easily follow as the international prices of mango has risen to $378 per metric tonne depicting over 55 per cent increase over $243 per tonnes last season.

Chairman of Fruits, Vegetables Processors & Exporters Association, Mateen Siddiqui, told PAGE that like all other crops mango crop is also affected by the severe water shortage, particularly in Sindh and generally in Punjab. This poses many challenges for Sindh which contributes 30 per cent to the total mango production but whose share in total mago exports in terms of value is 40 per cent due to a deeper penetration of its Sindhri variety in the premium UK market.

He declined to provide the exact amount of the feared loss saying only that will be substantial. The damage to the mango crop will be more qualitative than quantitative. For instance, it would result in comparatively smaller fruit size which is an indirect loss in weight. It may also result in decreasing the sucrose content of the fruit thus rendering it less than usually sweet. And most of all, it may result in thinner skin to make it much less resistant to treatment process, at least to the quality conscious but premium priced market of UK and other European countries, which can result in shrinking the shelf life.

With the mango crop in the final phase of maturing in Sindh and an extra month in Punjab the situation remains much uncertain. While it is still too early to make a calculated guess about the feared shortfall in production, Mateen said the shortfall would result in a 100 per cent increase in the prices of mango in the domestic market over the last year.

But production decline will not be the only reason for the unaffordable increase in the prices of mango in the domestic market. According to Mateen the persistent water crisis has discouraged investors who previously used to book the produce of a orchard or number of orchards on cash advances as they felt that the practice may not be profitable this year. This, in turn, has resulted in increased number of growers, who now deprived of the traditional arrangement, would have to sell their mango crops themselves. This would mean that these growers would now be in a position to sell their fruits wherever they are offered the best prices. The new vegetables and fruits market in Karachi has allocated a 10 acre area for the fruit growers exclusively and one can see that mango farmers this year would be able to dictate the prices as and how they will please and that too strictly on cash.

Mateen said that only the big fruit exporters who have huge cash reserves would be able to benefit from the situation while the small and medium fruits exporters, who previously were able to secure mangoes on credit, would be the real sufferers. He expressed concerns that many small and medium exporters deprived of the credit facility not be able to lift the mangoes from the market to export the fruit this year.

Quantity & quality

The production and exports of mangoes have shown an unmatched potential over the years to make the second top foreign exchange earner after citrus fruit Kino. Except for a marginal decrease in 1998-99, mango production has steadily risen from 776,000 tonnes in 1990-91 to over 927,000 in 1999-2000. Mango exports have registered a similarly steadily increase both in terms of quantity and value. In last seven years mango exports have registered over 220 per cent increase in term of quantity from 14,830 tonnes in 1993-94 to 47,602 tonnes in 1999-2000. In 1999-2000 the quantity-wise exports registered over 23 per cent increase over the previous year.

In term of value mango exports have depicted a much stronger performance. In 1993-94 mango exports fetched $ 2.92 million which increased to $ 11.563 million last year a four-fold increase. In 1999-2000 alone mango exports depicted 70 per cent increase to $ 11.563 million from $ 6.775 million in the previous year. A marvellous performance indeed.

The international prices of mango is also on the continuous rise from $ 178 per tonne in 1998-99 to $ 243 per tonne in 1999-2000 and all time high of $ 378 per tonne currently.

Markets

Dubai is the biggest market of Pakistani mangoes. Of the 47,602 tonnes of mangoes exported in 1999-2000 , 36,000 tonnes went to Dubai, 2,800 tonnes to the UK, and 2,400 to tonnes Saudi Arabia. However, gradually mango exports are going through an otherwise undetectable diversification. UK has emerged as the quality conscious premium market of Pakistani mangoes.

While Dubai remains the top market of Pakistani mangoes it serves more as a dumping ground for the best known Pakistani fruit. Observers say that in spite of the successful penetration of the UK market much remains to be done to explore the real potential of the UK market which pays better price to a comparatively inferior quality Indian mangoes.

In spite of breakthroughs in premium market like the UK, mango exports have yet to make an inroads in such big markets as Hong Kong which imports $ 40 million of mangoes every year. Similarly, penetration of the Japanese market is also a must as Japan imports some 8,000 tonnes of mango annually. With record quantity available for exports this makes all the more sense.