(Arab News) KARACHI: Pakistani producers of mangoes have been hit by falling international demand amid the coronavirus pandemic, an industry representative said on Wednesday, as exports of the ‘king of fruits’ declined by 15 percent as of mid-June.
Pakistan is the fifth-largest producer and third-largest exporter of mangoes in the world. On Wednesday, the country had upwards of 150,000 confirmed coronavirus cases. 
“So far around 20,000 containers of mango have crossed the country’s frontiers, which is 15 percent lower compared to last year,” Waheed Ahmed, the patron-in-chief of the All Pakistan Fruit and Vegetable Exporters, Importers and Merchants Association, told Arab News. 
The export of Pakistan’s mangoes started on May 20 this year and exporters fear there could be a 40 percent decline in total exports by the time the season comes to an end. 
“The export target is limited this year keeping in view the current situation,” Ahmed said. “The export target of the mango is set at 80,000 metric ton as compared to 130,000 ton of last year. Export revenue generated through the mango export was $90 million, which is feared will decline to $50 million this year.”
Suspension of international flights, restrictions on movement on the Iran and Afghanistan borders, rising freight charges and shrinking demand globally are some of the reasons for lower exports, industry experts say. 
“The demand world over is not normal as people don’t go to the markets as often as they used to, which is one of the reasons behind demand contraction,” Ahmed said.
Exporters say airlines which were charging freight charges of Rs175 per kilo last year are now charging Rs565 per kilo for exports to Europe, while the freight charge of Rs80 per kilo to Gulf countries has increased to Rs240 per kilo. 
“We are negotiating with the government to cut freight charges to a reasonable level and facilitate speedy exports at borders,” Ahmed said. 
Another problem is the availability of workers due to a climate of fear and as coronavirus lockdowns have led to restrictions in movement in many parts of the country.
“Laborers fear coming to the farms to pick and package fruits and vegetables due to the coronavirus,” said Malik Asghar, the president of the Fruit Association of Punjab. “Our crops are ready but due to shortage of laborers, growers have wasted their ready crops, causing them huge financial losses.”
Pakistan’s mango crop production is also expected to suffer a blow his year due to climate change.
“This year the cold spell persisted longer than usual which has impacted the production of the mango, particularly of the Sindhari variety in Punjab,” said Dr. Hameed Ullah, the director of the Mango Research Institute.Though final figures will be known after the end of season, it is estimated that production would be around 1.5 million tons as compared to 1.8 million tons last year.
He said the coronavirus outbreak had also seriously affected the marketing and export of mangoes to Iran, a major market of the Pakistani mango. 
Pakistan exports between 30,000-35000 metric tons of mangoes annually to its neighbors Iran and Afghanistan.

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