KOCHI: Summer turns the heat up but it also is the season when the king of fruits makes its grand entry into the market. The sweet and juicy fruit is only thing that redeems the otherwise brutal nature of the harsh season. But the mango season this year has not brought any cheers for the wholesale and retail sellers in the city, though their high-end counterparts are doing well.
“The quantity of fruit arriving in the open market has dropped. Earlier, we used to have eight to ten truckloads of fruits coming in from the producing states. But now it has dropped to five to six,” says Ashraf K,All Kerala Fruits Merchant Association Joint Secretary. “We stopped bringing in more fruit due to a drop in sales,” he adds.
According to Ashraf, the sales dropped sharply after Vishu. “The reports citing presence of high amount of pesticides and other chemicals in the fruit has acted as a deterrent. People feel that it is not safe to buy fruit from the open market,” says Musthafa, a fruit retailer at Ernakulam Market.
However, supermarkets such as More and Reliance Fresh do not seem to face this problem. Mango sales have gone up at these supermarkets. “The sales this year are a bit higher,” says Anand V, store manager, Reliance Fresh Ernakulam. Cashing in on the demand the hyper and super markets are bringing in new varieties to attract customers. “There is no lag in sales,” said Shamon, vegetable and fruit supervisor at Lulu Hypermarket. “We have imports coming in from northern states such as Maharashtra,” he added. “These varieties command good price and come at Rs 54 to Rs 139 per kilo,” he adds.
Though the scenario is bleak on the quantity front, it gets highly compensated by the number of varieties available. Nearly all the traditional varieties including Alphonso, Sindhoora and the humble ‘nadan’ are available in the open and retail market at prices ranging from Rs 30 to Rs 80 per kilo.
The lure of the artificially ripened fruits
The quality of fruits has gone down considerably. And the reason being cited is the indiscriminate use of chemicals especially calcium carbide. The result: attractive and juicy looking mangoes. But for these artificially ripened fruits beauty is only skin deep. Once these fruits are cut open, the unripe sour flesh puts a person off. In the case of watermelons the chemicals most commonly found are pesticides. And sometimes in order to increase the weight of the fruit, water is injected. This water may carry harmful pathogens.
What to do?
Wash the fruits very well. Peeling the skin too will be helpful in getting rid of the chemicals.
Drop in harvest due to poor rainfall
The poor rainfall has taken the juice out of the watermelons and the harvest this year is very poor. This has in turn caused the prices to shoot up. Last year,the fruit sold at Rs 8 to Rs 10 per kg but this season they are selling at Rs 15 to Rs 20 per kg. The loads arriving in the open market too has reduced to 200 to 300 bundles (each bundle weighs 25 to 30 kg). But, again, due to quality issues, the sales in the wholesale and retail shops have seen a drop.
The most common variety available is Kiran. It is the cheapest and is used widely to make watermelon juice. Other varieties are very hard to come across.
However, supermarkets like Reliance Fresh, which has their own plantations do not face this problem. “We have direct year round contracts with farmers and this ensures adequate supply,” said Hari Krishnan, store manager, Reliance Fresh Cochin. More varieties are available and the sales too are going fine.The varieties include the much available Kiran which is the highest most preferred one. Kiran is selling at rates varying from Rs 12 to Rs 14.
Other varieties include the light green watermelon with stripes, yellow watermelon and Namdhari watermelon which is yellow in colour on the inside instead of the usual red.
The Namdhari and Yellow are the most expensive with rates ranging from Rs 29 to Rs 25 per kg.