The ongoing farmers’ protests in Delhi have hit orange growers from Maharashtra hard. With the movement of the fruit to the national capital and other markets in the north being affected due to the blockade, prices of oranges in the state have fallen.
“Last year around this time, farmers were getting between Rs 35,000 and Rs 45,000 per tonne for their produce. Now, they are barely getting Rs 7,000-Rs 15,000 per tonne. On one hand, rains have affected the markets in the south and on the other hand, farm protests have affected the movement of the fruit to Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Haryana,” Shreedhar Thakare, executive director of MahaOrange, an exporter facilitator company engaged in grading, waxing and promotion of oranges, said.
“The Ambia Bahar season, which commenced from September, will conclude in January. The crop has been good despite the long rainy season. The farm protests, however, have led to oversupply in the local market,” he said.
Orange growers said traders from West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Kerala are a bit hesitant to order truckload of oranges due to the economic slowdown as they are not sure if people will consume enough.
Although the demand for oranges had gone up during the lockdown, farmers were not able to reap the benefit, Thakare said. Exports have also not been as expected, he pointed out. Some six containers of the fruit have left for Dubai and nearly 400-500 tonne is being sent to Bangladesh on a daily basis via road, he said.
Data from APEDA show that Bangladesh continues to remain the biggest importer of Indian oranges – 76,274 tonne was exported in 2019-20, followed by Nepal at 16,026 tonne. The UAE accounted for 883 tonne, Qatar around 172 tonne and Kuwait imported nearly 212 tonne in the same year. Figures for 2020-21 year are not available yet.
A new and improved treatment of oranges had rekindled expectations of higher exports from Maharashtra. Although Indian oranges are known for flavour, they often rot in transit due to loose jacket, and exporters end up losing revenue.
Orange is a major horticultural crop in Wardha, Nagpur, Amravati and other districts of the Vidarbha region. Significantly, Nagpur district is being developed as a cluster for Nagpur orange by the APEDA as part of the agriculture export policy.