Tuesday, June 2, 2015

The Mango saga!-A clueless consumer being fleeced by the traders

Whoever does not like the delicious mango, especially if the variety is Mallika, Badami or Alphonso? Many old timers still remember the good old days when mangoes were being sold at your door steps by vendors carrying baskets containing ripe and attractive looking fruit, offered for prices for a dozen! To day the situation has changed dramatically with consumers totally helpless in buying good quality mangoes at affordable prices. What a market distortion which has happened during the last 5-6 years! An average consumer is befuddled by the prices being demanded for fruits whether it is banana, orange, apple, guava, sapota,or mango. Apple to day costs about Rs 30-50 a piece! Oranges in season may be available at Rs 10-15 a piece while mango price can be as high as Rs 15 to Rs 100 a piece depending on the variety and quality. More tragic is the fact that consumer does not know what he is buying till he goes home and peels it for eating! It could be bland in taste, practically flavorless and some times rotten inside. Unfortunately branding of fruits is still not in vogue in the country and even a few who sell branded fresh fruits do not guarantee the quality with consumers having no recourse to redressal of their complaints. Now it is the mango season, consumer woes are spilling over with no sure way of selecting good quality fruits because of the unethical and criminal acts of a few traders who ripen the fruit using acetylene in stead of ethylene. Acetylene gives a bright color to the fruit but the typical flavor and taste of mango will not be perceptible. Recent news reports that food safety agencies here and there are catching these criminals is really welcome but the action is too late and too little. Here is a take on this development. 

Food safety officers are gearing up for surprise inspections at mango mandis in the city to book fruit merchants found using the banned calcium carbide to artificially-ripen mangoes. Amid reports of continued use of calcium carbide, which has been banned under Food Safety and Standards (Prohibition and Restrictions on Sales) Regulations, 2011, owing to its harmful effects on health, Food Safety Officer (Mysuru urban) M.S. Lokesh told The Hindu that they had received instructions to conduct surprise raids at mango markets. "If we find calcium carbide, we will seize the chemical and the fruits. After a mahazar, we will submit the evidence to the court along with photographs," he said. The Food Safety Officer said they were unable to begin the checks earlier as the State government lacked lab facilities to test samples of seized mangoes. "But now, we have been given instructions to conduct surprise checks, book erring merchants and submit the evidence to the jurisdictional courts," he said. Earlier this week, about 45 mango merchants of Mysuru attended a training programme by the Department of Horticulture organised as part of the mango mela at Curzon, where they were trained to use of permitted ripening agents like ethylene spray. However, a section of the merchants continued to use calcium carbide as ripening agent. When asked, a trader at the mango mandi on Akbar Road affirmed this. However, Farooq Pasha, president of Mango Merchants Association, Akbar Road, sought to clarify that only a section continued to use calcium carbide while most traders had begun spraying ethylene gas. He said the mangoes take about five days to ripen when treated with ethylene gas against the three days when calcium carbide is used. Sources in the Horticulture Department pointed out that a section of the mango merchants used calcium carbide to earn a quick buck.

Imagine the despair of a consumer when he buys these fruits from the market attracted by the color at astronomical prices and realizes at home when the family tries to enjoy the delicacy, only to realize that they have been coned! Their pleasure is snatched away crudely while they are poorer by a few rupees spent on buying the sub-standard material. This is further to the misery caused by underweighment due to "doctored" weighing scales used by most of the sellers who are immune to any fear of punishment by the authorities for using defective scales. Some ffear that acetylene ripened mangoes are not safe to eat though there is no unanimity regarding this issue. Why government cannot ban sale of calcium carbide which is used by traders to generate acetylene is not clear. What is disturbing is that even large shopping markets buy their supplies from contractors with very little control on their behavior. Probably a solution to the vexed problem could be to encourage packing and branding for which Ministry of Food Processing Industry must think of giving incentives. Large scale chilling, cleaning, packing houses must be encouraged in the coming years for this purpose.  .


No comments: