Mahanandi

Living in Consciousness ~ Indi(r)a’s Food and Garden Weblog

Mango Windfall ~ An Opinion Piece

I have observed a lot of elation here about the recent agreement between India and US to export Indian mangoes to the States. But, from reading what is happening in south and central American countries, which also made similar kinds of agricultural deals with US and other parts of the western world, I can guess what is going to happen to mangoes in India and I am going to list my thoughts.

1. The US, to protect their environment or just because it can, will specify only one of few varieties of mangoes to import from India.

2. Compared to the home market, the profit margin looks great when done business with US. Few may resist at first the lure of dollar, but sooner or later the mango growers will heed the call of money siren and will start to cultivate the US demanded mango types, running down the current variety.

3. This will create a shortage in supply and more importantly in variety at home front. Say in das, bara years, we won’t have a chance to find different treasured varieties like Banginapalli (Andhra specialty) etc.

4. One might say that the Indians are going to get rich with dollar money. Really? How many in India are mango growers? My guess - the number will be less than 0.00001%. But the exports make them unavailable to more than 90% population. Also this type of deals are never about the farmers welfare.

5. It’s not like we are starving for mangoes here. US already imports mangoes from Mexico, Peru and other South American countries. Not enough it seems. Here in US, we could gorge ourselves with Indian mangoes, and people back in India like my hard working mother and father and most of my relatives back at home, won’t be able to afford the US inflated mango prices. You don’t have to look further for an example. The famous basmati rice from India. How many of us had basmati rice every day, growing up? Very rare, in my case never, because first of all we won’t find it and second in rare cases of availability, could not afford. All that is cultivated in India, I guess comes straight to the local Sam’s Club.

That same thing will happen to Indian mangoes in few years. That’s my prediction and I hate the people who pushed this deal with US.

Gandhiji, the great man who lived his life with simple means once observed, “Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s need, but not every man’s greed.” This deal, in order to bring Indian mangoes near to about a quarter-billion people, is going to make them dear to more than a billion people.

Added on June 5th:
Thank you all for opening up your hearts and to show what you made of. I greatly appreciate it mainly and more so, because I had written this piece last month for Jihvā and kept thinking about it, whether to publish or not. After all this is Indian mangoes we are talking about, a passionate subject for us all; I have seen nothing but welcoming mango thoranams and loud celebratory noises to this deal so far, be it in the mainstream media, blogosphere or in real world. Anything contradicting the self indulgent bully power of US is not popular, and expressing it means inviting abuse and ridicule usually. But my desire to express my point of view was so strong. I am happy that I published this piece and I am glad to see that I am not alone in my concerns. Thank you!

Posted by Indira©Copyrighted in Zen (Personal) (Sunday June 4, 2006 at 1:18 am- permalink)

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38 comments for Mango Windfall ~ An Opinion Piece »

  1. Indira,

    I’m up late and reading quickly, but I couldn’t resist commenting here. A few weeks back I was looking for mango at an Indian grocery near work. I asked the young man behind the counter about the quality of the (Mexican, if I remember correctly) mangoes for sale. He said they were good, but also very excitedly mentioned this new deal where Indian mangoes would soon be imported.

    I think your opinion piece is both astute and well written. Although I hope it doesn’t come to pass as you say, I lean toward agreeing with you.

    Too often, what is a momentary “windfall” for a few comes at the expense of many… for me, that is too high a price to pay. I don’t think I will be buying any mangoes imported from India.

    Please excuse the length :)

    Best wishes
    Linda

    Comment by Linda — June 4, 2006 @ 1:53 am

  2. Basmatic rice was what came to my mind too when I heard about this deal. When I enquired about the price of Basmati rice in India from my mom, I was shocked. Indians pay a crazy amount to eat basmati rice while we enjoy it every single day at such an amazing cheap price from Costco(and by cheap, I mean it relatively…we get 20 lbs of basmatic rice for $8…tell me if that isn’t cheap when you compare it to a cauliflower that’s priced at $2??)

    Comment by Nabeela — June 4, 2006 @ 3:32 am

  3. Indira: you are SO spot on! You’re so right about the Basmati.I remember my mom only using it for the rare special occasion. In fact, when my parents visit here they’re always appalled at how irresponsible I am for eating such a luxury item everyday. But its paradoxically almost the same or cheaper than other kinds of Indian rice over here .

    Oh god..I really really hope what you’re saying does not come to pass though.

    Comment by Janani — June 4, 2006 @ 8:09 am

  4. Indira,

    I’m a great fan of your blog and your’s is the only site I visit daily apart from samachar. I’ve never posted a comment but your views on mangoes really prompted me to do it. I completely agree with you on this issue and I recall thinking the same way when the deal was announced. I guess I could not articualte it so aptly as you did. Keep up the good work.

    Vandana

    Comment by vandana — June 4, 2006 @ 9:59 am

  5. Indira, you are so right, I have never tasted Basmati rice growing up and tasted it only after coming here to the US. Couple of generations from now maybe Indians would have to come to the US to taste the best mangoes. That would be sad irony but not hard to imagine. I always think of the Mexican Corn farmers whenever the US has an agro related deal with any country. The glee with which our politicians announced the deal make me want to
    throw up…

    Comment by indosungod — June 4, 2006 @ 11:53 am

  6. Hi Indira,
    Nice Writeup.Even i felt bad after knowing that issue.Here,mangoes are not in goodtaste which
    cant beat “Banaganapalli”.
    But these ideas of gov are for their revenue.As you said farmers are ready to grow as per us requirements bcoz of dollor.I think gov should think about this and have to fix some limits while accepting offers.
    Vineela

    Comment by vineela krishna — June 4, 2006 @ 12:46 pm

  7. A nicely written and well structured op-piece, Indira. Growing up in Chennai, I remember relishing Banginapalli during the scorchingly hot summer months. The sweet tasting mangoes made the summer heat a bit easier to tolerate!

    I have heard of Alphonso/Alfonso variety from Maharashtra and Gujarat being the most exotic variety of Indian Mangoes. It’s like the Basmati of the mangoes. Pardon my ignorance on this issue - but similar to the basmati analogy that you mentioned, I don’t recall eating Alphonso in India at all owing to its exorbitant prices. Alphonso in Mangoes is like how basmati is to rice, if I am right.

    If India exports the Alphonso variety similar to how to it has been exporting the Basmati rice, I think the local varieties of mangoes would still be grown, and be made available to the rest of the population - it’s not like we stopped cultivating seeraga samba or ponni rice - the two varieties of rice so popular in South India, if you understand what I mean. So it really depends on what variety gets exported. I have seen ponni and seeraga samba rice varieties in the US, and I grew up eating those local varieties in SOuth India, and I am sure they are still affordable and available easily to consumers in India too.. And I am sure my family could have never afforded the alphonso varities in India - it was not so easily available too in chennai back in those days - transportation/distribution issue etc..
    But now, reading the news about US agreeing to lift the ban on indian mangoes (alphonso used to be allowed earlier, say some 20 yrs ago, i guess), I am happy that at least 2 million of us Indians, ( may be wrong on the number) here in the US can appreciate and enjoy a variety that is so exotic similar to the basmati variety. And of course, mango will be another awesome thing added to the landscape of foods available here that will make us even more proud of our culture here. I am also thinking it will be a positive thing for the mango cultivation process in India since there are so many food and agricultural regulations that mango producers will have to follow now. May be that can be transfered to other varieties, and the locals can enjoy more wholesome mangoes without worms and pests.

    anyways, that was a slightly different take on the issue. I would love to hear what you think. It was very interesting to read your article. Thanks for making your blog an informative and analytical one.

    desimom.

    Comment by desimom — June 4, 2006 @ 12:47 pm

  8. Hi Indira,
    Same is the case with jumbo shrimps/tiger prawns in India. All the top-grade prawns are exported and it’s only the smaller sized ones that are available for the local people to buy.

    Well-written piece.

    Comment by Faffer — June 4, 2006 @ 1:20 pm

  9. Indira, a very logically thought out piece.

    I think all you said will unfortunately happen to be true, but I hope it does not.

    There is also another dark side to it if we go a little deeper, economics apart. That is the farmers getting affected. We all have at some point (at least) heard or learnt about the way Indian (cotton) farmers committed suicides in hordes in Telangana and Vidarbha. This is majorly because of the low yielding drought-hit dry lands of these areas and improper education about water management. There is also an unmistakable side to it. Monsanto Corp, with its BT brand of Genetically Modified seeds. The farmers bought these paying huge amounts and because there is a catch to it that they need special care (coupled with (required) the high investments on farming) the crops wilted and the consequences were only waiting to unfold.

    The same thing will probably happen here. Only a fraction out of the meagre percentage of farmers (you mentioned) will be able to invest in the high-yield farming methods and end up gaining. Other low end farmers who depend on middle-men, face the danger of not even being able to cultivate a good produce. I just hope there are no more suicides coming our way.

    Mango exports will be followed with a need for regulations and standardisation, of meeting not only the quality demands but also the numbers demand. And as is with American Culture, ‘uniformity’ takes first place over uniqueness. A number of decent enough mangoes may even be dumped for not being up to the mark. So here in the US, we will probably end up seeing rows and rows of neatly arranged, pick-whichever-you-want-it-will-taste-the-same fruits while farmers back home feel the pinch to keep up with it. For me, I will probably plan trips in peak summer and enjoy mangoes in their heartland.

    NO to big brother economy. NO to delicious Indian mangoes (at other’s expense). NO to bulk farming. NO to stickers on fruits. NO to Sam’s ‘Royal India Bangina’ mangoes.

    Comment by Vidyanath Tirumala Penugonda — June 4, 2006 @ 1:59 pm

  10. Hah the irony of ‘hot’ keywords. See where Google AdSense ads take you to!

    Comment by Vidyanath Tirumala Penugonda — June 4, 2006 @ 2:06 pm

  11. Great write-up Indira! Basmati is such a treasured grain in India and I just hope and wish whatever you have said does not happen. But I know it is very likely.

    Banginapalli mangoes are relished and is the one thing to look forward in the extremely hot summer in southern India. To think, that this joy can be stolen…There may be a few growers who will resist the monetary aspect and sell it at a hefty price. But who can afford it? BTW, I am hearing from my parents and in-laws in Chennai that there was not a lot of good banginapalli mangoes in the markets this year. Wonder if it has anything to do with the US deal…

    Comment by mika — June 4, 2006 @ 2:37 pm

  12. What a well written piece !! When the Indian newspapers here went gaga over this deal this is the first thought that came to my mind.
    I remember my mom buying toota-basmati (broken basmati) as the regular variety was unaffordable. My parents always complain that the market is now filled with export rejects. I hope this does not apply to fruits as well.

    Comment by krithika — June 4, 2006 @ 2:53 pm

  13. Hi Indira,This is not something that has started today or yesterday,not only mangoes and basmati rice,just cosider all the IT professionals,doctors or engineers etc who have been trained and educated in India and are now living in countries like USA….
    Why does the cream of our society always go to places like these?Dont our country,India need people like us? But still why are we here?

    Just like how it is with man so it is with mangoes!

    Comment by Sumitha — June 4, 2006 @ 4:35 pm

  14. Indira, thanks for the thought-provoking and well-written article! I fear you may be right, although I hope things will not turn out badly for Indian farmers and consumers. The optimist in me is not convinced the US deal can destroy demand for local mango varieties in India. Also, given that the mango is already a pretty globalized fruit, with the best ones going to the Middle East, Europe (I think), and Canada, will things really get a lot worse with the US deal, I wonder?

    Unfortunately, I also have a pessimist side. If the mango deal is declared a trade success by the powers that be, will the same happen with breadfruit, guavas, amla, etc.? Perhaps we NRIs should save mango consumption for our India visits, and discourage fresh fruit imports from India to the US. All the more reason to eat locally…

    Comment by Uma — June 4, 2006 @ 11:08 pm

  15. Interesting opinion.

    It might be a good idea to consider some interesting facts about India’s mango industry:
    1. India is the largest mango producer in the world
    2. India is only the third largest exporter of mangoes in the world. So, the US will not be the first country India exports mangoes to.
    3. Exports go mainly to the Middle East and UK.
    4. The mango industry in India is not organized well nor is there any semblance of effective marketing.
    5. The wastage in the mango industry is very high (yield is very low) as the distribution system is not sophisticated. This is the reason why India is the third largest exporter despite being the largest producer. Not because of domestic consumption.

    Personal experience: When demand from the Middle East increased, the cream of the Alphonso crop was exported and the prices in the local markets went up. The mangoes in demand were mainly the Alphonso. A great fallout of this was that other regional varieties found their place in the market and we started seeing more of Langda, Valsad, Raigadh varieties.

    My opinion: Before any mangoes reach the US, they need to ensure the following:
    - that the fruit can survive a longer shelf-life.
    - better distribution systems are put in place so that the fruit can get from the source to the final destination
    - both the above will take sufficient investment of money
    - if both the above are successful, the wastage will be reduced. This should ensure that there is more than enough fruit to be exported as well as eaten locally. The prices may be higher but a better distribution system will ensure that regional varieties make their mark on the rest of the country.

    To me, it seems unlikely that the mango-eating population in India will be deprived of mangoes for the foreseeable future.

    Comment by Manisha — June 5, 2006 @ 12:47 am

  16. i grew up in the US and i always wondered why i didn’t like the rice in india. only recently did i find out that the only rice my mom uses here in the US is basmati.

    i agree that the impact of exporting mangos to the US will not be (i hope, at least…) as catastrophic as everyone thinks, given that india already exports so many mangos.

    Comment by anj — June 5, 2006 @ 1:15 am

  17. Hi Indira,

    Wow all the comments are quite lenghty.

    But then i would sum up saying its a good write up.It makes lot of sense.

    Comment by Bindu Melayil — June 5, 2006 @ 6:00 am

  18. excerpt from http://saisureshsivaswamy.rediffblogs.com/2006_28_05_saisureshsivaswamy_archive.html#1149257432

    “To get more temporal, tucking into Chettinad cuisine, savouring the local totapuri mangos, and devouring Andhra’s pride, the Panganapalli mango. I have always held the Alphonso mango to be over-rated, and this visit confirmed the belief.”

    Comment by Shahryar — June 5, 2006 @ 9:22 am

  19. Dear Indira,
    I am really worried about what would happen to our people back in India if Indian mangoes start to come to US.
    I agree with you that Banginapalli would no more be available to working class and so would be other mangoes.
    What would happen to AVAKAYA, MAAGAYA and other delicacies :(
    would they become yester years miracles? Grandma’s Tales……..
    God! Please help us…

    Comment by Raveena — June 5, 2006 @ 10:25 am

  20. Seems like everyone more or less agrees…so may I please (at the cost of being publicly lynched on cyber space!!) suggest otherwise.

    Basmati is an expensive rice and valued all over the world. In the US markets, North Carolina Long Grain and the Chinese Jasmine rice are cheaper than Basmati. And in the Indian markets varieties like Sona Masuri and Dhoovraaj are cheaper than Basmati. Similarly jumbo shrimps are more expensive than small, itty-bitty shrimps in the market places all over the world and because some cultures value Alphonso mangoes over Dussehri, the former is more expensive than the latter. Now that we have established that some items have a higher percieved value which leads to a higher market place value than others, lets see why it is so. Simple…in most cases we tend to price rare, hard to grow foods higher than hardy, easy to grow foods. Call them luxury foods if you will. Truffles are expensive all over, not just in France because they have eluded all attempts of domestication. Throw in a free market economy into this and what we get is this: Basmati rice which is already priced higher in local markets now becomes a completely export only item because someone else is ready to pay a higher price for it. If the US government can afford to buy mango’s for its citizens at a price that an Indian farmer thinks is fair then there should be nothing wrong with it. Its upto the Indian government to try and protect its interests and create a brand for its agricultural goods…like the French Appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC). In a market place both the seller and the customer have to watch out for their individual interests. How many of us worry about the car salesperson while haggling over that brand new Honda Accord that we really want? Do we worry about the fact that he might have a family to feed and a higher price might mean more commission etc. etc.?

    Since every one has been comparing mangoes to Basmati rice let me just say this….Basmati was never a common man’s rice in India and the same holds true for jumbo shrimps and quality mangoes. Basmati rice was always reserved for special days at my home and so were jumbo shrimps (many of you have mentioned the same). But here I eat Basmati rice and jumbo shrimps and other exotic foods on a daily basis…why? …just because I can afford it. But even in this country there are a lot of people who would balk at the idea of spending their hard earned money on fine rice when the local one will do just fine. Food stamps will not pay for Basmati rice and Whole Foods caters only to the already well fed. If you are tech savvy enough to read this on this side of the Atlantic you are probably above or in the median income category…which translates to affluent for most of the Indian population in India.

    If foreign exchange earned through responsible trade with US is used responsibly to feed starving villagers in Indian villagers, I see nothing unethical in it. Infact I am all for it. I am pretty sure the cheapest brand of rice will stave of hunger as effectively as Basmati and the people being fed would not mind. Jumping on to the flog-the-big-and-rich-superpower bandwagon everytime will not solve our problems, what we need is for our government to negotiate better deals for its people, its economy and its ecology. Hey! we jumped onto the software express and turned half our country into a giant back end office for US companies (at a great cost to our agricultural sector) and no one complained. I guess because it was us- the middle class that benefited. We cannot hail a free market economy and welcome globalilsation when we feel like and then decry it when we feel threatened. And yes, its not simple as market dynamics but since we tend to get swayed by patriotic rhetoric ever so often, we need to remind ourselves once in a while that we signed up for this when we opened up our markets to the world.

    Comment by anyesha — June 5, 2006 @ 11:00 am

  21. Indira, that’s really what i’m worried too. you know with too much population growth in India, so many people are relied on whatever crops we are having. If our people go on sending our goods to foreign countries like this, where would the poor and middle class people go. I mean when there is scarcity to one item, its price will automatiacally go up. This is so mean on our govt.’s part.everyone has to think about this and stop it before the situation gets worse. very nice topic to discuss indira. thankyou verymuch.

    Comment by bharghavi — June 5, 2006 @ 11:11 am

  22. anyesha, that was beautifully said.

    Comment by Manisha — June 5, 2006 @ 11:28 am

  23. thanks, anyesha. I am so glad you brought in microecon 101, luxury goods, and the free market argument to the discussion forum. I agree with you on the foreign exchange point - if the govt. utilizes the money from the export of mangoes to implement policies that benefit the poor farmer to improve his cultivation methods etc., I see the benefits will go a long way than simply feeling emotional/patriotic feelings and arguments that we often find ourselves getting caught into. We know how to totally mix things up raher than separate our emotional side from the issues. I agree that the govt. has a role to play in terms of playing an oversight role so that poor farmers don’t get exploited - whether by the seed companies or by others. And everbody knows it is not like the software export industry where the stakeholders are educated and know how to negotiate for themselves. But I feel it has gotten a lot better though, particularly with free and easy access to information these days, even in rural areas of developing countries, and also the fact that the third world countries now are starting to gain a foothold/ have a voice during the WTO meetings is testimony to the fact that the situation is improving for even the poorer countries.

    Comment by desimom — June 5, 2006 @ 12:50 pm

  24. Hi Indira,

    A very thought-provoking and well written article. I must give it to you again, your blog is wonderful and makes us wanting to keep coming back!
    I have been swamped with work and have been unable to add my 2 cents to this article. But I can no longer hold it :-)
    So here goes— I partly agree with desimom and partly with Vidyanath Penugonda. I am not so sure that what the consequences of such an agreement would be - and we can all speculate as much as we want. The results we will see down the years. I do agree with desimom in that with the sanction against mangoes lifted it does not mean that we in India will not have access to the variety of mangoes we currently get. Its just like the rice deal - why talk only of Basmati? How about Sona Masoori? I grew up eating Sona Masoori at home, and imagine the shock when I had to deal with the sticky Sam’s Club rice or the sticky Jasmine Rice when I first landed here in the US. Thank God for economics and free flowing trade today we are able to relish this wonderful crop of rice - the Sona Masoori kind even in unknown parts of the US! But this does not mean that back in India now Sona Masoori is scarce..My folks back home still eat the same Rice. In fact all this trade has made commodities like Rice, Atta (Pillsbury, Ashirvaad etc.) more affordable even back home in India. Gone are the days of buying wheat from the ‘rashan’ and getting it mill-ground! We are getting to be a hep, chich soceity in India where we dont mind paying an extra couple of bucks rather than compromise on our time.
    Hopefully, the Mango story will be the same! But I do agree with Mr. Penugonda, in that I dont want to see this happen at the cost of someone else, some poor farmer or his family. As long as it benefits the poor in India, this is good if not then its a Big NO NO for me.
    Anyways, those were my 2 cents. I will rest my case.
    Thanks for bringing up this issue.
    Cheers
    Latha

    Comment by Latha — June 5, 2006 @ 2:33 pm

  25. More than mangoes and rice, we need to understand the intricacies of American capitalism, which makes them money in any case.

    Read the following about a few men in Bharath:

    1. Buys Colgate tooth paste - pays money to Colgate Palmolive

    2. Uses Lifebuoy or Rexona soap - pays money to Hindustan Lever (Unilever)

    3. Eats roti made with Pillsbury atta - pays money to Pillsbury

    4. Wears clothes by Arrow - pays money to Phillips-Van Heusen

    5. Cultivates cotton in the fields - pays royalty to Monsanto

    6. Uses pesticides in his farmlands - pays money to Bayer and like companies

    7. Buys medicines to the sick in family - pays money to Pfizer

    8. Drinks Coke or Pepsi - pays money to CocaCola or Pepsi

    9. Wears Nike shoes - pays money to Nike

    These are just few examples. We think that we are enjoying the comforts and luxuries. We need to look deep to understand something else… that is we also use our materials, our men and our lives to produce these goods and we pay the money for just getting to use them.

    Comment by Vijay — June 5, 2006 @ 3:16 pm

  26. Though I love your webiste a lot, this post of yours is full of emotions and not too logical. There are a lot of positives that come out of this deal that far outweighs the negative.
    My american boss showed me this article a while ago from business week magazine about how involvement in mango sapling cultivation has improved the life impoverished tribals in India
    http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/05_34/b3948528.htm
    I was really happy to see a positive story at the grassroots level - especially the sentence “catapults people from poverty right into the market economy” .
    When the demand for a product is high, many people get on the bandwagon. They may be corporations, farmer’s co-operatives, transport companies, middle class indians buying stock in these companies, tradesmen building houses for the newly rich farmer etc. This spreads the wealth around. And vastly improves the anaemic and much maligned infrastructure in Inida.
    I am sure that the $$$ that this deal brings to Indian farmers (please note that all of them are not gullible, illeterate idiots as many assume, but savvy and informed in their own way due to proliferation of FM radio and TV programming) will uplift the economies in rural India just as the IT boom uplifted the immigrant tech workers life as well as the Call Center Employee back home. Not to mention the positive stimulus of Foreign Exchange inflow on the GDP eventually.
    As for the big Evil American Corporations making money out of Inidans, here is a tip (as heard on Jim Cramer’s Mad money show on CNBC) - they will be hugely profictable, buy their shares, make money and donate the profits to who you think are the victims - he said this in the Katrina context though.
    Though I like your posts and your social consciousness a lot, I cannot agree with you on this one. I for one am a lot optimistic on this deal and hope that more and more such deakls come through for the poor Indian farmers.

    Comment by ashley — June 5, 2006 @ 4:42 pm

  27. Thanks, Indira, for starting this discussion. It is bringing many more points to the forum than I thought it would. I got to read some excellently written and thought-provoking views too. My thoughts on this issue are these.
    I really hope that this deal does not cause any scarcity and/or huge price-hike for mangoes in India. However, as many have already pointed it out, it is difficult to put a barrier on this kind of trade, now that we have opened our markets to the world. And we must not forget that India too is enjoying the advantages of globalisation. Companies like Wipro, Infosys, TCS have their huge offices with thousands of people in the US and elsewhere in the world. Where does the money generated there go to? Thankfully to India.
    Also, trade on a bigger scale gives birth to many more job opportunities, which is something we definitely want in India at this point in time.
    Another advantage of this kind of globalisation is that the domestic markets become much more competitive and much more aware of what ‘can be made available’. Like we get such lovely watermelons in India now. My parents say that it always used to be like a gamble when watermelons were bought earlier. More often than not these fruits used to be completely white and tasteless inside. That’s a thing of the past now.
    I would hate it, if the US and/or the Indian politicians used this opportunity to only selfishly fill their pockets, but stopping it would also be quite difficult.

    Comment by Vaishali — June 5, 2006 @ 5:09 pm

  28. I don’t think the point here is to show the negativity, but to show how evil the trade with US could become.

    Did you ever think why you’d only get to buy Chiquita, Dole, or Del Monte fruits here in the USA? Do you think the locals where these companies are farming are able to improve their lives?

    I really hope this won’t happen to mangoes and mango groves in India.

    Comment by Madhavi — June 5, 2006 @ 6:00 pm

  29. Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s need, but not *ONE* man’s greed, in this case one country’s never ending gluttony. But that is what happening in this world.

    Apt and wisely put together in few words, no verbal diarrhoea. I liked reading your piece. Keep it up, my friend!

    Comment by Rama — June 5, 2006 @ 7:59 pm

  30. Indira–you hit the issue spot on.

    Global agricultural trade is such a complex issue. And while, yes, it might be nice to get tasty Indian mangoes here in the US, I would hate to think that it is at the expense of the people who grow them and eat them in India.

    It is a shame that basmati rice shipped to the US is cheaper than what is paid for it where it is grown. That is sinful, really–the people of India deserve to be able to eat their own produce at decent prices! I would gladly pay more for my basmati rice (I just started buying fair trade jasmine rice from Thailand–which is way more expensive than the usual stuff–and I would do the same with fair trade basmati if I could get it) just so the people of India could eat it at a decent price, too!

    And how much profit, really, will the farmers in India make? That worries me. I know how the US treats its own farmers and farm workers–I cannot imagine that they give a better deal to farmers overseas.

    I stand for the little guy, always–and in this case, the little guy are the farmers in India and the people of India–not the US government and their trade agreements.

    Thank you, Indira, for posting on this issue–and please, tell us more! I want to know!

    Comment by Barbara — June 5, 2006 @ 11:29 pm

  31. It is all in the economics. Carrot and Stick policy OR Big fish eats small fish!

    I am of the opinion, If some mango farmers gets more money, can send their kids to school, then it is okay….I can take the sacrifice and will grow a mango tree in my yard to eat my favourite mango. But that’s not what actually will happen. Initially it will all look rosy, then after a couple of years it will hit us really bad.
    Forget Mangoes, some people had to fight for plain water!
    Don’t know whether you know about Coco-Cola controversy in Kerala. Some villages in Kerala were marked as one of the few spots with purest water. So the coke companies set up a plant, promising 500 jobs. Initially the farmers were very happy, since once the companies started drilling for water, the farmers could do two seasons of crops (Otherwise the fields will be flooded). After 3 or 4 years, the underground water supply began to deplete and once a fertile land became completely barren. It was shocking! People started protesting in large number, stood up against the huge corporations and the corrupt politicians. Even Green Peace started supporting the fight of poor farmers.
    Finally, we won!

    http://www.ndtvprofit.com/homepage/storybusinessnew.asp?template=&whichstory=n&id=30121

    An excellent write up Indira. I admire you expressing your opinion in your blog! Great! Also,I loved the way you wrote ‘Gandhiji” instead of plain ‘Gandhi’.

    Comment by L.G — June 6, 2006 @ 9:11 am

  32. It was interesting to read all the posts. I think we all have nailed some very important issues. I think some of us are over-reacting to the potential threats that would emerge out of the mango trade.
    Just wanted to bring a few more points to the discussion - sorry it’s a slightly long one.

    1)Purchasing Power/Sophisticated set of consumers: We need to think about the purchasing power that the Indians are getting to enjoy these days. It is pretty high among the middle and working class in the urban areas. I am sure there are more families today in India (wouldn’t be surprised if that percentage is more than the number in developed countries) that are enjoying so many luxury products and services on par or even greater than some of us here.

    2) Sophisticated network of interest groups, grassroots democracy and institutions that strive to work for rural population, including some media organizations: Indian democratic system is far more sophisticated and better than many other democracies, and today with the growth in technology and media access, as seen with the Coca-Cola article that L.G provided a link to, we should feel optimistic that companies will also be cautious while dealing with countries like India.

    3) US economy and its role in the global arena: Honestly, I really think we are overestimating US’ role in the global economic scene. With the economy in the shape it is right now, and US itself realizing that its position in the world is starting to get a little shaky with China and India emerging powerful, I am sure countries will choose other global players to do trade with if the benefits outweigh the costs. It is already seen with the Mango trade, whereby Indian Mangoes are already in the Chinese markets.. One thing we need to realize is we keep criticizing the US for all the bully power, but, if tomorrow China offers more trade opportunities for India, do you think it is going to be a different approach than what US has been adopting with its trading partners. I don’t think so.. SOmeone rightly pointed “Big Fish eats small fish” - I think that will hold true irrespective of which country is in quesiton.. It is important for the govts and thinktanks to carefully evaluate the pros and cons or costs and benefits before getting into new economic policy in international trade, and have clear guidelines and regulations in place so that none of the stakeholders and the environment too is affected adversely - srive to find an optimal and efficent solution so that no individual is worse off in the long-term.

    Comment by P.R — June 6, 2006 @ 10:01 am

  33. Indira
    I think your concerns are bit of an overstatement and I agree with P.R in that. I dont think the mango industry in India is going to have a revolutionary change just beause the lucrative US market is now open to them. India has for long been exporting mangoes to most of the europe and Asia and in that way it is a mature sector. Opening of the huge market I think could only affect sector positively.
    Also much of the varieties of are regional and cannot be grown at other places an example would be Alphonoso mangoes from Ratnagiri which is probably the most sought after variety. According to your views even today every mango farmer should only be growing Alphonso mangoes has this happened not it has not.
    So I dont think you would see a mass migration of farmers.
    As of Basmati the premium pricing is once again because of the geographic patent for the basmati. It can be grown only in that particular region, the Kashmir Valley which makes the prodcut scacre with respect to the high demand and hence it demands a premium. Even if it was readily availble I’m not sure if people would want to eat basmati every day, at least I don’t.

    Comment by Kuttan — June 6, 2006 @ 2:24 pm

  34. great write-up Indira! this is taking food-blogging to a whole new level!

    Comment by reshma — June 12, 2006 @ 12:10 am

  35. Dear Indira, I can’t agree with you more.

    I also worry that when this importing-mangoes stuff starts, farmers in India will use more chemical pesticides and fertilizers to increase the yield and newer high yielding varieties will be found. This wrecks the taste of the mangoes and also the quality of the soil in India. Just like the non-tasty carrots and apples, etc we get in conventional stores (conventional = not organic) like walmart supercentres and safeways, the taste of Indian mangoes will go down too. :(

    After living in US for a year, I went back to India for a short visit. My kiddo brother asked me if we didnt get any apples in the US. It was only then that I realised that ever since I entered home, I’d been hogging apples and more apples. Dad had silently noticed this and had bought some more for me. The gorgeous looking apples in US were so tasteless that I didnt bother with them much, but the apples in India were not glamorous but was so tasty and juicy that I was on a mission to eat them all before I could return. Maybe I should be glad they arent importing apples from India.

    Maybe I’ll just go back and buy a small farmland and cultivate mango trees in organic ways so that my grand children and their children can enjoy the real taste of mangoes!

    Comment by Kay — June 12, 2006 @ 12:43 pm

  36. […] Thanks to Uma for introducing me to Mahanandi and motivating me to add my bit… At last, we have a place to post the banana muffin recipe! […]

    Pingback by Aravinda’s Blog » Blog Archive » Khiyali’s famous banana muffins — July 5, 2006 @ 9:22 am

  37. Stop worrying about consumers. Think about producers. As a son of farmer, I love to export mangoes to US and get $ money. Well, there are good number of varieties other than Benishan(Banganapalle) that are grown at my place. Few are more tastier and sweeter than Benishan and also priced higher. Kadar variety is 2 to 3 times higly priced than Banganpalle. The other varieties include Kalepadu(sweetest of all but small in size), Malgova(Large in size and juicy). More than 100 varieties are grown in around chittoor. There are around 40 mango juice extracting factories in around chittoor.

    Comment by chittoor — July 10, 2006 @ 4:43 pm

  38. Indira,

    After reading your article and the comments from the readers…I was thinking can we do something beyond just getting worried about it. There are definitely pros and cons to this deal – cannot deny that. It all depends on which side of the coin you are standing.

    The smallest effort from each one of us can be big enough to not to loose our dearest variety of mango to US. Like, for example we own a piece of agriculture land in which we currently grow banginpally. But recently my father had been insisting on growing US demanded mangoes. I am strictly against it and now he understands that $$ cannot give the flavor and satisfaction of those our own banginpally that we have been relishing for years. I took an oath the other day: I will do anything that I can to own & support growing trees/fruits/flowers….and will not let them get extinct. My own home will have atleast a neem tree, hibiscus flower and a mango tree.

    Comment by Ashwini — April 18, 2007 @ 12:46 pm

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