While the demand for agro products like keshar mango, banana and chikoo chips from the Kutch region is soaring in the international market, lack of air cargo transport is hampering the growth of the industry.
According to one estimate, demand for these products have jumped by 30 per cent in the market. However, exporters were facing losses, because of their inability to ship the products. Last year, exports from the region had brought in Rs 1.5 crore of foreign exchange.
At present, the main mode of transport for exports are the passenger flights that ply once a day. Owing to lack of cargo flights, farmers were unable to send more than three tonne of mangoes a day during the season.
As a result, farmers had to sell more than 50 per cent of Kutch kesar mango in the local market. Only one flight was at present operating daily from Bhuj to Mumbai and this was the only hope for exporters in the district.
"There are no cargo flights from Bhuj and exporters like me are unable to send the required amount in time. Despite huge international demand, the government has remained inactive," said Batuk Jadeja, proprietor of Ashapura Nursery, one of the leading exporters of Kesar mangoes from Kutch. Incidently, his nursery alone had exported over 150 tonne of Kutch Kesar mango last year. Around 20 consignments of banana and chikoo chips were exported to west Asia, Hong Kong, Africa and UK every week last year.
Around 200 tonne of Kutch Kesar mangoes were exported to the UK, Dubai and Canada this year through one passenger flight daily. There existed good demand for chikoo wafers in foreign countries, but lack of infrastructure was a hindrance in the path of growth.
Last year, around 10 tonne of chiku wafer was exported to Singapore. Chikus worth Rs 40 lakh were exported the UK and China. "I feel there are lots of business opportunities in the district if the proper air connectivity is established with other countries," said
SB Moradia, deputy director of district horticulture in Kutch.
"Considering the transportation cost and the procedures involved in exporting, we get £2 for one carton of three kgs of Kesar mangoes but this year lack of air cargo makes it difficult to cater the demand in international market", said Jadeja.
There existed hardly any infrastructure for exporters where mangoes could be stored for more than one week.
"We are afraid to sale the mango in the local market at a cheap rate," said Jadeja.
Gopal Patel, another exporter from the region, who exports chikoo chips and banana chips, said he is also facing the same kind of problem as the demand was rising by the day.
However, Puspadan Gadvi, member of Parliament from Kutch, had recently assured exporters that the government would look into the problem with concerned government officials.
The government expected private air cargo providers to come forward to solve the problem of these exporters.
Mangoes, chikkus and dates are cultivated in over 3,000 hectare of land in Mandvi, Anjar, Bhuj, Mundra and Nakshatrana taluka of Kutch district.
In the past few years, export demand had picked up considerably.
Sumantra Das / Bhuj August 26, 2005