IT WAS surprising that we had a short mango season this year. Previously, we had this juicy fruit at least for four months ending September, but this year even in the month of July it seems that the mango season is in the last stage, and will last only for one or two weeks more. There are many issues and constraints, which need to be tackled.
The crop covers about 100 thousand hectares of land, mostly in Sindh and southern Punjab. All prize varieties of northern and central India thrive well in Pakistan and are far superior in taste, flavour and other characteristics.
After the consumption in Pakistan, mango is exported to other countries. Only five percent of total production is sent to selected markets. Among the traditional buyers, Dubai picks up at least 18000 tons, while Saudi Arabia, Oman and UK are other major importers. On production, the country stands on the sixth number while it covers 7.5 per cent share in the international market. This is a very low share and needs to be increased. According to Export Promotion Bureau (EPB) sources, the earning from exports of 47000 tons mango was estimated worth $7 million in 1999. It was around $8 million next year. During 2000-2001 Pakistan exported 53443 tons worth $16.54 million showing an increase of 43 per cent over 99-2000. The EPB expects mango exports to rise by 25 per cent during this year. Last year 53444 tons of quality mangoes were exported, thus earning a foreign exchange of $17 million.
Last year, Pakistani mangoes fetched more prices in the international market as compared to the previous season. Our mango was sold at the rate of $2.90 per kilograms in 2000, but the price has gone up to $3.83 per kg in year 2001. Some delegations were also sent to Italy, Turkey, Holland, and Germany to explore new markets for angoes and response from these countries was encouraging. In fact, tremendous export opportunities exist for Pakistani mangoes in the Middle East, and Europe, but inefficient and improper post harvest operations have resulted in spoilage of production. It is estimated that the Pakistani farmers are losing about 3.5 million tons of fruit worth $1.5 billion, due to faulty harvesting and post-harvest operations.
The farmers are not getting proper guidance, encouragement and marketing, so they are unable to improve their produce in qualitative as well as in quantitative terms. There is also lack of knowledge among the growers about how best to maintain their orchards.
Kachhelo farm (Mirpurkhas), known for producing high quality mangoes, has almost been destroyed, because of the continuous water shortage. The size of the fruit has been reduced, and the taste has deteriorated. Previously, it produced “Sindhri” variety which weighed 1800 grams (1.75 kg) per fruit.
In Sindh, mango production, is increasing , as more and more land is being brought under cultivation of this crop and over all production is rising. But per hectare yield is not on the increase, and it is less as compared to Punjab. Figures show that in 1980-81 per hectare yield was 7.773 tons, which decreased in 1999-2000 and stood at 7.372 tons. While in Punjab, it was 12.337 tons in 1980-81 and in 1999-2000, stood at 12.475 tons.
During the last 20 years, area brought under cultivation of the mango crop has nearly doubled, as in 1980-81 mango was cultivated on 57,200 hectares, which went up to 94,100 hectares in 1999-2000. Likewise, production was 5, 466,000 tons in 1980-81 and 937,700 tons in 1999-2000. Punjab has a lead in mango production, as it has doubled its under cultivation area in last 20 years that is from 22,200 hectares in 1980-81, to 48,400 hectares in 1999-2000 and production from 273,900 to 603,800 tons. Sindh is on number two, as it increased under cultivation area from 34,400 to 43,500 hectares and production from 267,400 to 320,700 tons.
Growers said that due to ill-conceived official policies, they were unable to attain the required yield potential of this crop and were sustaining huge financial losses. Despite lack of patronage and encouragement from government side in research and other related fields, the over all production of the mango has increased. This indicates a clear growth in demand for this fruit in the market. The growers are bringing more area under cultivation under mango. They are carrying research and experiments to introduce new varieties, as well as carrying research on how best to preserve the old varieties on their own. The experience of Khair Mohammad Bhurgri, a grower from Mirpurkhas is one example, after Kachhelos, who has developed a variety, which will produce fruit that extends the fruiting and harvesting season.
Orchards face ‘destruction’ : The persisting water shortage has proved to be destructive for mango orchards. It is feared that there will be less mango production this year. Mango orchards had been without water for the entire pre and post- flowering period and even at the crucial stage of fruit setting the canals in Sindh and southern Punjab remained closed for most of the time. This has resulted in an irreparable loss to mango production. Reports from Tando Allahyar, Matiari and Mirpurkhas suggest that mango trees standing on some 20, 000 acres of land faced destruction due to shortage of water. Trees have been infected with various diseases at the flowering stage. Black, blue, and white fly hyper had attacked the crop, which resulted in falling of flowers. Experts observed that due to persistent shortage of sweet canal water, the underground water table has risen and brackish water has come up that has reduced the resistance of the trees.
Mirpurkhas, supposedly a prime mango area is suffering from drought. Reports suggest that out of 8000 acres, only 4000 acres received water once a year, while only 3500 acres received water four times while for achieving good production of fruit 18 waters a year are required. This will result in improvement in size and taste of the fruit. The survey further revealed that on an average, a acre having 36 trees, some 15 trees were empty while 5 had nominal fruit and 16 trees had about 50 per cent fruit It was also observed that because of the shortage of water, fertilizer could not be used. Consequently, the mango trees became weak and affected fruit in quality and quantity both. Such trees produce a fruit of lower quality. It is apprehended that the mango fruit which had emerged as a foreign exchange earner item since last few years will not be exported in required quantity, at the same time, this seasonal juicy fruit will not be available and enjoyed by the poor and middle class people.
The problems of mango growers can be easily divided into two major categories; first, pre-harvesting and the second post -harvesting. The first category relates to cultivation, selection of variety, research, usage and availability of water, fertilizers, pesticides etc. The second category is related to picking, handling, grading, storage and marketing. Presently, no guidance is available to the growers for these two categories of pre-harvesting and post-harvesting operations from the government side.
In so far as research in government sector is concerned, there is a very pathetic situation. Sindh Horticulture Research Institute in Mirpurkhas announced its newly developed mango variety namely “Mehran”, three years back, but till today it has not been released. The researchers of the institute claim that this variety will give production throughout year. Japan gifted machinery for research on pests of mango. This machinery is rotting at Karachi since the last many years, as it is not being used by the government, nor it is given to growers for the benefit of production.
Keeping in view the continuous water shortage, which proved to be destructive to this fruit, the proposed water research institute must promote water technology for its judicious use besides promoting the use of hydrometers to register water needs of trees and feedback to growers in this regard.
The unregulated growth of nursery business in itself has encouraged malpractice. There is a need to regulate the nurseries that provide mango plants to discourage plantation of varieties susceptible to various diseases and to impose quality control mechanism. As a first measure in this regard registration of the nurseries is recommended. The registration of nurseries is also required to grow true-to-type fruit. The unregistered nurseries have been frequently supplying lots, having unfavourable genetic characteristic of wrong varieties, which needs to be checked.
Most of the mango exporting countries promoted one or two varieties for export. We can follow the strategy to increase our share of mango export in the world market. Some generic and branded insecticides and fungicides are recommended for mango orchards for rationalized use of chemicals according to international requirements. So far, the pesticide firms have been promoting the chemicals left over in their stocks after the cotton season. Most of the pesticides meant for the cotton plant had a very harmful result when sprayed on mangoes. Instead of consulting the pest experts, spray is being conducted by the workers of some pesticide companies.
The EPB is paying attention towards mango production since the last three years. There is a need to include growers in foreign delegations. But before sending abroad, the growers should be imparted proper knowledge and training.