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A case of mediocre mangoes

Published May 29, 2013 06:37pm


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— Photo by author.
— Photo by author.

Climate changes have continuously taken their toll on Pakistan over the last few years – whether it’s an increase in flooding or a change in weather patterns.

As a result, mango lovers are still waiting for the arrival of this year’s full-fledged mango crop in the market, which has been delayed because of changes in weather patterns.

Stakeholders believe that Sindh would have come up with a larger mango crop had weather conditions not been erratic. An overall 20 percent drop in production is likely due to the late maturation of the fruit and hailstorms.

Early varieties of mango like Almas, Saroli and Daseri are slowly reaching the market but mango afficiniados are still anxiously waiting for the seasonal favourite ‘Sindhri’ –according to market players they will have to wait for another one week or so.

Southern winds that usually visit orchards in early March didn’t come on time, and when they finally did the fruit’s size had already been affected. Hailstorms caused damage to the crop particularly in Mirpurkhas region, which was the main path of the storm.

Sindhri, which is an exportable variety like ‘Chaunsa’, has an edge over other varieties because of its look and taste. Chaunsa has similar characteristics too but it follows Sindhri towards the end of the mango season in Sindh. Sindhri is widely used as a ‘gift’ in different circles extending from the civil bureaucracy, to the police, politicians and the ‘common man’.

“Such weather conditions are not conducive for the mango’s development. Mangoes need the summer season to have a rapid growth in all respects,” says Atta Soomro, Director General Agriculture Research. He adds that not only the flushing of trees at the wrong time also negatively impacted the fruit’s production.

Officials in the Pakistan Horticulture Development and Export Board (PHDEB) say that it was due to a delay in crop’s arrival that its export began on May 25 this year, although it usually begins by May 20.

But exporters remain optimistic. According to PHDEB General Manager South Abdul Razaq Malkana, given the size of crop the PHDEB is optimistic to export around 120,000 tons of mango or so against last year’s 107,000 tons as around 400 to 500 tons alone will be exported to Korea.

He added that the production of medium sized mangoes is likely to dominate the market and such medium sized fruit is the most sought after abroad.

Pakistan’s total mango production reaches 1.7 to 1.8 million tons annually with the lion’s share coming from Punjab and 30 percent from Sindh. According to 2011-12 statistics of the Sindh Horticulture Research Institute (SHRI), Mirpurkhas is considered home to mango farming, although it takes place in Tando Allahyar and Sanghar as well.

The orchards which are mostly located in the lower Sindh region on the left bank of River Indus were badly affected during heavy monsoon rains. Since rainwater accumulated in orchards it raised the water table substantially, badly affecting the texture of land. Such changes in the soil’s texture are considered one of the reasons for the belated flowering of the plant.

According to traders – who get orchards on contracts from actual farm owners – currently varieties of Saroli and Daseri are being brought to the market. According to one such trader, Aslam, “Although the unripe Sindhri is reaching the market, it lacks taste and wholesalers use calcium carbide to ripen it.” He believes that if production of mangoes drops substantially, then price margins will increase – but in case of a large number of exports because of oversupply, prices will fall.

Inferior farming methods

Few farmers are interested in exporting to European countries, and using sophisticated procedures to take care of their orchards – most farmers outsource their farms to contractors for two to five years under an agreement. After that, it’s the contractor’s headache to look after orchards. Some estimates obtained through farmers and contractors indicate that millions are invested in this business. If a 200 acre orchard is let out for Rs100,000 per acre, then it means an amount of Rs20 million will change hands. A single contractor handles a multiple numbers of farms.

“Growers do not manage mango orchards on their own. They are not ready to wait for one year and handle the crop properly. This is the general mindset among our mango growers,” says Imdad Nizamani, a farmer from Tando Allahyar. He believes that farm owners also feel that since there are certain varieties which give fruit on a rotational basis, they’re better off outsourcing the farms to earn money. Nizamani says he will not be surprised if production drops by 25 to 30 per cent this year.

A trend, however, seems to be slowly emerging among farmers who are showing an inclination towards progressive farming and are keen to export the fruit to high-end supermarkets in Europe and other regions themselves instead of relying on conventional exporters. They are being encouraged to opt for ‘progressive’ mango farming if they want to fetch a better price for their crop. More technical methods for farming are being used as a result, such as ‘high density mango farming’ which controls the space between and height of mango trees. Perhaps a focus on such methods could help counter the fears of a declining mango crop in the long run.

Comments (11) Closed

Arslan Khan May 29, 2013 09:30pm

Sir, I absolutely LOVED your article. However, I beg to differ with your take on Sindhri. Sindhri may have the best look and feel, the king of mangoes remains to be 'Anwar Atol', with Chaunsa, and Daseri coming as close seconds. Sindhri is a beautiful mangoe, lacks in taste and smell compared to Anwar Atol, Chaunsa, and Daseri! Different strokes for different folks, i guess! :) Please continue writing such excellent articles, it was a real joy to read.

zaffar May 30, 2013 02:26am

Waiting anxiously for the arrival of Pakistani mangoes in Sweden

gangadin May 30, 2013 04:40am

Lion's share coming from Punjab.

What's new? Punjab feeds rest of the country. Think about it.

shuaib May 30, 2013 01:00pm

@Arslan Khan: correct. No match of "Chaunsa"

SK Nizamani May 30, 2013 01:29pm

No doubt Sindhri is the king of all mangoes. It originates from Mumbai India. One of the largest mango producers in Sindh live in village Tando Qaiser near Tando jam, Hyderabad, where mango business worth billions is traded. In my experience, the taste and look of mangoes in orchards situated at Kotri on Indus River are of the superior quality. The reason could be the river silt having perfect minerals and nutrients recipe for ultimate mango taste. With the combination raw mangoes, green chillies, onion people in Sindh make mango chatni, a must in all villages.

Suhaib May 30, 2013 02:43pm

@Arslan Khan: I would rank 'Saharni' way above than 'Daseri' . Try this summer to know the difference.

akram May 30, 2013 04:16pm

Waiting anxiously in Surrey, UK for our first batch of Pakistani mangoes. We already have indian mangoes int he shops, but they are nowhere near as good as Pakistani ones. I will keep we tend to get sindhri and Chaunsa, I will keep an eye out for Anwar atol, though I'm not sure they get exported?

There is no greater fragrance of summer, than the fragrance from a fresh batch of Pakistani Mangoes, makes you glad to be alive!

mohammad hussain khan (author) May 30, 2013 05:42pm

@Arslan Khan: I am grateful for your compliments and repect difference of opinion shown by you on Sindhri.

Steppenwolf May 30, 2013 06:19pm

Sadly, we in the USA do not get any Pakistani mangoes at all. What we have here is sub-par, absolutely disastrous South American and Caribbean mangoes; which have more in common with peanuts than with the fruit family. And to make matters even worse individuals who are tempted to bring fruits in their luggage are stopped most diligently by the customs and ordered to pay a fine of $300 as was the case of a friend's mother. Reminds me of Sonnet 30 of Shakespeare: When to the sessions of sweet silent thought I summon up remembrance of things past, I sigh the lack of many a thing I sought, And with old woes new wail my dear time's waste:

Safi May 30, 2013 06:38pm

I wonder why the Pakistani mangoes arent exported to Finland. I have seen mangoes from south america here in supermarkets which are no where near the Pakistani mangoes in terms of taste.

The only Pakistani mangoes you could find are from the so-called "afro-asian" shops and they are in very limited quantities and of course quite expensive. I think there is a big potential market in many european countries where Pakistan could venture in terms of exporting its fruit, especially Mangoes.

nitish May 30, 2013 06:42pm

@akram: I dont want to start india -pak war here.But let me tell you one thing,there is no variety of mango pakistan has ,which doesnt grow in india.Beside that langra is the best mango variety and I dont think it grows in pakistan.Important fact is that most of the langra variety mangoes r consumed by indian itself.So stop living in your lala land.