With the onset of summer and the increasing demand for mangoes, health officials are busy seizing artificially ripened mangoes. The implications of using the cancer-causing calcium carbide to ripen the mangoes are many. But warnings and raids seem to hardly deter the traders form ripening ‘the king’ artificially, with most saying that they have no other way to run their business.
“We have been ripening mangoes like this for over 25 years, since my father’s and grandfather’s time. If the officials suddenly come and tell us stop this practice without giving any alternate means to ripen the mangoes, how are we to continue doing business?” asks a wholesale shop owner at the Koyambedu market.
They say that it is close to impossible to transport ripe mangoes from distant places. “Most of these mangoes come from places like Salem and parts of Andhra Pradesh. If ripe mangoes are sent, by the time they reach here most of them would get damaged. So the farmers send only green mangoes and we have no option but to ripen it here.” he says.
Natural ripening is out of the question, apparently, “That option is impractical,” says a labourer who works at the market. “At least half of the mangoes will get too ripe and damaged. Sometimes, it will also get dry. People don’t even buy mangoes when they see a few blemishes, how will they buy such damaged ones? Such a loss will be unbearable for us,” he says.
Most of the traders don’t know too much about the ill effects of carbide ripening. “The mangoes never even come in contact with the calcium carbide. We put the calcium carbide stones in a paper cover and then staple them. These packets are then kept under the unripe mangoes. Once the stones become soft and crushed, we remove them,” says one of the traders.
The lack of an alternative has caused a lot of illwill amongst them, “They come and tell us not to use calcium carbide. But they will never show us an alternative. As of now, the ripening of these mangoes is quite expensive for us. One kilogram of calcium carbide costs `70. If the government can give us any other alternative, we are ready to follow it. But, until that happens we will have to continue to use this method,” says a mango mandi owner.