Time of The Season For …
As quoters of scripture go, it’s tough to beat The Byrds, who told us “Turn! Turn! Turn! (to Everything There Is a Season)”. Actually, they were quoting Pete Seeger, who was quoting Ecclesiastes, but I’m willing to call Seeger as much a prophet as any of the original old-timers.
If you can’t recognize it from the pic above, the season here in Pune – to which I’ve just returned – has turned to mangos. The two above are Alphonsos – after Duke
Afonso de Albuquerque, the founder of Portugeuse Goa – just bought by myself today from Hypermarket. I purchased three of these and after peeling and wolfing down the first, the two remaining siblings were a knife’s edge away from a similar fate when it occurred to me to document … well, their fruity goodness.
And boy, are they good. Sweet, creamy, rich, they are like ice cream – in fact I can’t imagine why anyone would ever have mango ice cream if they could have one of these instead. At the market I saw gift boxes of a dozen such mangos – this weekend it’s a mango-fest for me.
Behind this simple indulgence there is considerable drama. While some mangos are sold direct by farmers, who are trying to maximize their prices, the vast majority go through APMC (Agriculture Produce Market Committee) facilities. APMCs are state-established marketing boards that establish actual markets where produce may be sold. I’m not sure exactly how these work – there definitely seem to be some protections afforded growers when they bring produce to the APMC markets – but like so much here there is considerable corruption, and generally the wholesalers band together to keep commodity prices low. There are many middlemen and ancillary trades involved, and each one needs their cut, as Wal-Mart is finding out. Farmers further get the sharp end of the stick, for example because of a freak hailstorm – the storm caused a premature drop of the mangos and a flood on the market. My mangos were priced at Rs. 120 the kg.; my 3 mangos cost Rs. 98. The price a farmer actually gets is about Rs. 1-2 per mango.
Farmers also have to contend with bad weather and a pest called ‘Thrips’ which attacks mango trees. For all this, the profit in mangos is still considerable, relatively speaking. Among the things farmers try to increase their return is artificial ripening, which is performed by adding calcium carbide to the mango crates. Despite fines of up to Rs. 10 lakh (about $18,800) the practice still persists. Finally, one cooperative of mango farmers here is going online to sell mangos direct.
I’ll leave it to my readers with bents towards economics and/or social justice to ponder on solutions. For my part it is time to dispatch my two remaining examples of Duke Alphonso’s legacy. If you didn’t catch it, the title of this post is also a 60’s rock quote – I’ll leave you all to watch that while I dine on pure, Maharashtran tastiness.