Beware! Many street vendors are selling alphonso mangoes, which are 'fake' and artificially ripened using chemicals, under the pretext of selling Ratnagiri or Devgad alphonso
When boxes of Alphonso started appearing on Pune streets for sale early this week from coastal Konkan, people were pleasantly surprised at the early onset of the mango season.
However, the ‘king of fruits’ could not be savoured by many as State Food and Drug Administration (FDA) officials had swooped on the vendors following complaints that the mangoes were harmful to health as calcium carbide (CC) had been used to ripen them artificially. What is more stunning is neither are these alphonsos from Konkan region, nor they alphonsos. This look-alike variety of mangoes is from Chennai and Mangalore whereas the original alphonso mango belongs to the Konkan region of Maharashtra.
Scores of boxes containing dozens of mangoes smeared with CC powder have been seized and destroyed in warehouses since the FDA inspectors in coordination with their Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) counterparts, launched a concerted drive a couple of days back.
Interestingly, street vendors are selling these so-called ‘alphonsos’ for Rs300 per dozen whereas the ongoing rate of 'original' alphonso from the Konkan region is between Rs1,100 to Rs1,300 per dozen.
Mangoes worth over Rs70,000 have so far been destroyed in the drive against the vendors involved in the malpractice and the FDA operation is being extended to the entire Pune division comprising Kolhapur, Sangli, Satara, Solapur and Ahmednagar, Sanjay Patil, joint commissioner, FDA Pune, told PTI.
"We had come across isolated cases of artificial ripening of mangoes put on sale last summer. But this time the hazardous practice by unscrupulous elements seems to have assumed a greater magnitude as our combing operations to detect such fruit stocks are continuing," said Mr Patil.
The use of CC, available in the form of a white powder, is banned under the FDA Act as an agent for artificial ripening of fruit as it entails health hazards affecting nerves, eyes, skin and lungs.
At one of the storages used to pile up the mangoes, the FDA inspectors on 17th March stumbled upon a packet containing about 2.5kg CC powder, a sample of which has been sent for chemical analysis in FDA labs.
"A lab report is awaited to confirm chemical analysis of CC. Once that is confirmed, we can initiate legal action by filing a criminal offence against those involved," he added.
So far, the FDA-PMC squad of food inspectors numbering around 25 have seized mangoes thus ripened, mainly from Guruwar Peth and Shukrawar Peth areas of the city but they believe that the dubious activity is rampant in many other parts.
Interestingly, FDA officials acknowledged that they got the clue about the large-scale hazardous artificial ripening of mangoes using CC powder through a written complaint filed by Dilip Bhairat, a Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) activist who has also approached PMC on the issue.
An MNS activist said most of the vendors who were involved in the malpractice came to Pune from Mumbai and sold the artificially-ripened mango stocks, originally purchased from Mangalore.
The Mangalore fruit variety resembles the popular ‘Ratnagiri hapus’ (alphonso), that comes from the Konkan region.
"This is a big racket run by anti-social and unscrupulous elements to the detriment of local traders in mangoes as these fake alphonsos are sold in large quantities at a cheaper price cheating the customers. Many vendors hawk their stocks going around residential societies," he claimed.
Meanwhile, FDA officials have appealed to people to bring to their notice sales of mango suspected of artificial ripening.
We expect the market to trade lower on Monday, but as of yet, there is no sign of significant reversal
The market was trading flat throughout last week. Although it came out of the narrow range of 17,000-17,200 on Tuesday by riding 209 points from the previous day’s close, absence of fresh triggers left the market subdued for the week.
The firm gain on Tuesday and Wednesday can be attributed to the encouraging advance tax figures for the 4th quarter of FY 2009-10. Several companies have paid a higher tax this quarter, according to preliminary data, indicating better fourth quarter results.
Reliance Industries has paid Rs770 crore as advance tax for the March quarter compared with Rs365 crore a year ago. Infosys's tax outgo has doubled to Rs250 crore from Rs125 crore. Tata Consultancy Services paid Rs178 crore, compared from Rs53 crore earlier.
Last week net inflows from Foreign Institutional Investors (FIIs) were as much as Rs2,622 crore, and the net outflows by domestic financial institutions were Rs525 crore. We expect the market to trade lower on Monday but as of yet, there is no sign of significant reversal.
The global ratings agency Standard &Poor’s has revised its outlook on India form ‘negative’ to ‘stable’ on Thursday on the possibility of a reduction of fiscal deficit. S&P also expects India’s GDP to grow 8% in the year ending 31 March 2011, higher than its forecast earlier. Inflation continued to rage.
While there has been some relief in food prices and the food price index has come down, the fuel price index was on the rise. Data released on Thursday showed the food price index rose 16.30% in the year to 6 March 2010, lower than an annual rise of 17.81% in the previous week. The fuel price index rose 12.68% in the year to 6 March 2010, up from an annual rise of 11.38% in the previous week.
On Thursday, the Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI) deputy governor, Dr KC Chakraborty, suggested that the central bank may take action against to tackle inflation even before its April credit policy meeting. This is contrary to its earlier decision of not taking any inter-policy steps. Indeed, on Friday evening, the RBI has increased repo rates to 5% from the existing 4.75%. It also raised the reverse repo rate to 3.5% from 3.25%.
On the international front, concern over Greek’s debt situation persists as the country plans to take help from International Monetary Fund (IMF), stating that the interest rate offered by the European Union is too high. The US jobless claim data was in line with estimates, which is a good sign.
The Economic Cycle Research Institute (ECRI) said that its weekly leading indicator of US economic growth rose for the seventh straight week. ECRI managing director Lakshman Achuthan said while US economic growth will soon begin to throttle back, fears of a double-dip recession remain unfounded.
In a surprising piece of negative data, China's official purchasing managers' index for non-manufacturing sectors plunged to a one-year low at 46.4 in February from 55.1 in January, according to the China Federation of Logistics and Purchasing (CFLP). It is the first time since February 2009 that the index has gone below 50, which shows contraction. This is in contrast to HSBC's China services sector PMI, which was 56.7 for February. China's non-manufacturing survey includes construction, postal, software, aviation, railway, retailing and catering sectors. The official manufacturing PMI, compiled by CFLP for the National Bureau of Statistics, was 52 in February, down from 55.8 in January.
The insurance regulator has launched an unprecedented advertising campaign, hard-selling ULIPs. Not only is this a bizarre action for a regulator, but the ad is also misleading as it fails to provide any concrete evidence of ULIPs’ superior performance
Can you imagine the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) hard-selling recurring deposit schemes of banks or the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) bombarding investors with ads asking them to buy infrastructure funds? That is exactly what the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (IRDA) is doing.
IRDA recently launched an advertising campaign promoting unit-linked insurance plans (ULIPs) for pensions. The ads seek to educate investors of the benefits of ULIPs in providing for regular income or pension during retired life. However, in its attempt to hard-sell ULIPs, IRDA has brought out an ambiguous and misleading ad.
A ULIP is a life insurance policy, which provides a combination of risk cover and investment. It is the most common ‘insurance’ plan sold by life insurers and is quite popular among investors, thanks to massive promotions and incentives. The ad basically tries to impress upon the reader that a ULIP is a sound investment option if one is looking out for regular income during retired life. However, there are several issues with the claims made in the ad.
First, it has failed to substantiate this argument with any comparative indicators as to the returns that the product is likely to generate over a period of time. The ad provides no factual basis for making claims that ULIPs are the right product to ensure that you are well-provided for in your retirement. There is no comparative data of the returns of other long-term investment products, to underline ULIPs’ superiority.
The fact is that IRDA or anybody cannot provide this comparative information. This is simply because ULIPs have no track record. Who can say how ULIPs would do over, say, 30 years? Even products with established records do not perform as per their promise. What if ULIPs turn out to be the worst option between bank recurring deposit schemes, balanced funds, New Pension Scheme and even diversified equity funds? There is no guarantee that a ULIP will provide the holder with a safe kitty once he reaches retirement. If so, is the regulator pushing the investors into a wrong product?
Second, what is the rationale behind the insurance regulator recommending an investment product? The main purpose of insurance is to provide protection to the policy-holder and is not meant for generating investment returns.
Third, the ad also appears vague in advising the reader on the tenure of investment. It says, “If the term is too short, the policy accumulation would be insufficient for a pension corpus. If you stretch the term too long, you may end up being required to pay premium when you would actually like to receive pension payouts.” The obvious question that arises here is what term or period is ideal for a ULIP? The ad leaves this bit of information hanging in thin air.
Fourth, as we mentioned in the beginning, it is bizarre that IRDA as a regulatory authority should be expounding the benefits of a single product type. The fact that it is touting the benefits of ULIPs while ignoring other products is surprising. If instead it were to launch a public awareness campaign highlighting the benefits of insurance, it would make more sense.
Interestingly, IRDA’s advertising blitz comes at a time when it is waging a war with SEBI over the regulatory purview of ULIPs. Moneylife tried contacting some industry experts on their views on this matter, but no one appeared to be willing to speak on this strange ad.