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Japan’s need for perfection a challenge for mango exporters

As India takes tentative steps to export mango, the King of Fruits to Australia, local suppliers are left wondering over the unnatural demands made by customers in tested markets such as Japan. Keeping with the notion of perfection that the ‘land of the rising sun,’ is associated with, Japanese consumers are demanding for mangoes that appear uniform in shape, size and taste.

Japan’s need for perfection a challenge for mango exporters
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It’s one of the key challenges faced by Galla Foods, which has a tropical fruit pulp and beverages processing plant in Chittoor, spread over 150 acres. Divakar Sukumaran, Business Head, Galla Foods (Amara Raja Group company) highlighted the diverse-challenges that mango exporters have been facing, noting that selling the seasonal fruit to Japanese customers comes with its own set of oddities. 

“They do not want any variation, when it comes to size, colour, taste or shape. We had a similar experience when we got a consignment request for ladies’ fingers – they wanted uniformity in the okras too but we could not meet their demand,” he told DTNext, sharing the stunning nature of the request. Sukumaran said the company had invested heavily in the Vacuum Heat Treatment processes and stringent quality measures to boost mango exports.

“These included having a Japanese quality inspector posted at our facilities round the clock but still issues cropped up,” he said, adding though exports had a huge multi-million dollar potential, owing to the low input cost to grow mangoes, Galla Foods shifted its focus to other revenue generating models. Non-tariff barriers and logistics were major challenges. “There are no direct flights to Japan unlike bulk exporters such as Thailand, Philippines and Mexico,” Sukumaran said, adding transhipments proved to be a nightmare especially considering the shelf life of the fresh fruit. 

Japan opened its market to Mexico which was exporting a variety similar to Totapuri. “When they were getting a 500 to 750 gm of that variety for $4 or so, why would they buy a 200 gm Alphonso for the same price?” the business head asked. With enormous wastage – to the tune of 30 to 40 per cent from farm to palate journey, poor harvesting and post-harvesting practices, environmental challenges and improper crop management techniques making it an unviable export proposition, Galla Foods chose to step down its fresh fruit exports. Until recently, it had been exporting to Japan and Singapore. 

Of the 150 lakh tonnes of mangoes grown every year by the country, 7 to 8 lakh tonnes are used for pulp production while the balance is consumed as fresh fruits and pickling.

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