Last week, Indian papers carried a picture of a smiling Condoleezza Rice, receiving a basket of mangoes from Dr Sanjaya Baru in Washington DC. The mango has come to stand for progress and substance in the season of growing Indo-US political and economic ties.
For the average Indian in the US though, the season has been nostalgic, frenetic and more than everything else, expensive. The mangoes have been coming with an average tag of $35 (Rs 1,435) a dozen — large enough to make it unlikely the average American would switch to them from his staple apples, oranges and bananas.
Even for Indians like Harish Oza of New Jersey who confesses he is “in the habit of eating mangoes”, choosing the $7-a-dozen Mexican variety over Indian alphonsos makes a lot of sense. Indian mangoes come by air, adding to costs, say store-owners. Prices are likely to fall as distribution is streamlined, competition grows, and more Indian growers get US approval for exports. But that is likely only next year.
Despite high prices and sentiments like Oza’s, however, grocers have been bombarded by calls from Indians anxious to put their name on the waiting list for a box of homegrown mangoes.