Export Woes: Air Freight Rates Skyrocket, Leaving Karnataka Mango Growers in Distress

Mango farmers in Karnataka are facing significant challenges this year, dealing with both low yield and a sharp rise in air freight costs. The crisis in the Middle East has dealt a severe blow to the mango industry, making exporting the fruit a daunting task due to scarce slots and fluctuating freight rates.

Last year, air freight costs stood at approximately Rs 250 per kilogram, but this year, they have skyrocketed to Rs 400 to Rs 550 per kilogram. Moreover, securing export slots has become increasingly uncertain, with rates fluctuating unpredictably. Hemanth Kumar from Asix Organics described the situation as more volatile than the stock market, with slots being passed on to other exporters if decisions are not made swiftly.

This situation is particularly devastating for farmers of export-quality mangoes, as they face substantial losses when consignments are returned due to unavailability of slots. These farmers invest heavily in producing mangoes that meet export standards, meticulously caring for the fruit to avoid even the slightest imperfections.

K Srinivas Gowda, president of the Chikkaballapur Mango Growers Association, emphasized the labor-intensive process involved in growing export-quality mangoes, highlighting the meticulous care required from harvesting to handling.

When consignments are returned, farmers are left with no choice but to sell their produce in the local market, where prices are considerably lower. Mansoor H, a mango farmer from Malur, lamented that despite slightly higher prices in local markets compared to domestic fruit, the increased investment still results in losses for farmers.

The situation is exacerbated by disruptions in sea trade, prompting exporters to resort to air routes and further driving up costs. Representatives from the Karnataka unit of Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority have acknowledged receiving numerous complaints about the steep rise in freight rates and their volatility. They have pledged to engage with the Ministry of Civil Aviation to address the issue.

However, even if action is taken to stabilize freight rates, it may not alleviate the financial strain on farmers significantly, as the low yield this year remains a pressing concern. The ongoing crisis in the Red Sea, compounded by developments in the Middle East, has forced businesses to rely more heavily on air routes, driving up demand and further inflating air freight rates.

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