Edmonton

Edmonton mango supply drops due to COVID-19 flight restrictions, poor weather abroad

COVID-19 and poor weather abroad have put a damper on this year's mango season.

Despite significantly higher prices this year, shipments sell out within a day

This Alphonso mango is one of several varieties sold at Spice Centre in southeast Edmonton. (John Shypitka/CBC)

COVID-19 and poor weather abroad have put a damper on this year's mango season.

With fewer cargo flights because of the pandemic, local sellers have struggled to bring in mango varieties for those who look forward to the fruit's short season. 

"The season for mangoes actually starts in March and that was when the government announced that it's going to be a total shutdown," said Vinny Bindra, manager of southeast Edmonton's Spice Centre grocery store. 

"We have been in business for the last 30 years and we have never seen anything like this."

Vendors like Bindra typically bring in several varieties of the sweet fruit from countries like India, Pakistan and Mexico to Edmonton. 

Vinny Bindra, manager of Spice Centre, says his store saw fewer mango varieties because of flight restrictions due to COVID-19. ( John Shypitka/CBC)

This year the first boxes of mangoes did not arrive until the end of April and when they did, they came at a cost.

"It was probably 50 per cent higher than what the cost was last year," Bindra said. 

Saud Japanwala, owner of Ayesha's Halal meat and grocery store in southwest Edmonton, imports mangoes from Pakistan, one of the world's largest producers.

"There were not many exporters this year because of COVID-19," he said. 

Bad weather and locust swarms damaged many of the mango crops in Pakistan, adding to the price increase, he said.

It takes about six to seven days for mangoes to get from Pakistan to Edmonton, and during that time, he's often bombarded with calls to the store asking when the fruit will arrive, Japanwala said

"It's worth the wait," he said.

Social media posts and private WhatsApp text groups alert customers to when the fruit arrives.

"These people are serious, serious mango lovers," he added. "It was just amazing to see as soon as I got these deliveries in for mangoes, people would just snap them up and we would be literally sold out within a day. Even with the added costs."

Bindra said items such as okra, drumstick and curry leaves were also slow to come into the store during the start of the pandemic. 

Now that cargo flights have resumed, prices are down slightly, at least until the season ends in two weeks, Bindra said.

"At the end of the day, we're talking about a fruit which many people were like 'Hey what's the big deal about mangoes?' But a lot of these people have grown up with these fruits and it's a limited time of the year that we get these fruits," he said. 

"This pandemic, it's just really brought people to realize the small things in life can bring you so much joy."

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