HYDERABAD: An aged commission agent was yelling with excitement in the city’s largest wholesale fruit market in oppressive heat. Overjoyed Akhtar was about to begin auction of Sindhri mangoes, screaming Subhan teri qudrat, subhan teri qudrat (God be praised) to attract buyers amidst unclean conditions in Sabzi Mandi.
And finally a bidder wins with a bid of Rs1,140 for 15kg sack or Rs76 per1kg of unripe Sindhri variety. Arrival of matured Sindhri — preferred choice of all and sundry — is delayed considerably on account of climatic conditions.
A visit to wholesale market on the eve of Eidul Fitr shows that the mandi did not have that kind of rush which is its hallmark and smaller quantities were being offloaded from mango-laden vehicles. Torai ruk gaee hay Eid ki waja say baghon mey (picking of mangoes has stopped in orchards because of onset of Eid)”, says a commission agent.
For the last few years mango season has been coinciding with Ramazan only to double the delight of the faithful at Iftar. Due to belated crop, consumers missed quality Sindhri this Ramazan. Mangoes remain missing from Iftar menu by and large. It has not developed taste and price remained higher. Good news for mango lovers is that mangoes would start reaching wholesale and retail markets soon after Eidul Fitr.
Sindhri remains available with vendors, who displays mangoes in fascinating style on pushcarts to lure consumers since mid-May. Its aroma, size, colour and smooth surface makes Sindhri distinctive among mangoes like Chaunsa, Saroli, Daseri, Fajri and Began Bhalli. Sale of Sindhri will pick up pace soon after Eid fruit is now fully matured. Bureaucrats, police officers, politicians and other people present it as seasonal gift to friends, relatives etc.
“Sindhri used to be grown in Bombay and we used to call it a mango from Bombay. Then perhaps one Mohammad Ali Shah grew it in Sindh between 1940 and 1950. And I am growing it since 1965,” recalls octogenarian Abdul Majeed Nizamani from the coastal district of Badin.
This year’s climatic conditions including southern wind pattern have delayed ripening process. Back to back flowering in mango trees did not go well with crop. In fact it is flowering that turns into fruit setting. Sindhri needs modern intensity warmer winds for growth in all respects, says the veteran mango producer Nizamani. Such winds visit orchards by late April or early May. Growers say winds started by the end of May while hailstorm coupled with unusual rains affected crop, too. Contractors pluck mangoes before time to cash in on early sells that fetches them better returns.
Weather conditions remain not supportive to mangoes this time round, leading unwanted flowering in trees. “Flowering was reported in January initially, but it was reported in February. Contractors plucked mangoes to sell them in market as they leave it unattended regardless of maturity for various reasons,” observes a wholesaler of mangoes in market, Haji Fareed Arain.
Exports & quality product
Sindhri would find its destinations in foreign counties. Until last year it was exported to European market, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Germany, the United Kingdom and Central Asia, according to the Trade Development Authority of Pakistan (TDAP). Sindhri contributes substantially in Pakistani exports while it has larger share in countrywide production also.
“Sindhri is unique for its aroma and appearance. It has appearance that sells first in market and then comes taste,” remarks patron-in chief of the All Pakistan Fruit, Vegetable, Exporters and Importers Association (PFVA), Abdul Waheed. He aims 0.1 tonne exports this year against last year’s 80,000 tonne.
He regrets quality mangoes are not being produced to capitalize on export market which is wide open for Pakistani mangoes. “Only few farmers are managing their farms and most of the rest sign lease documents to make a quick buck,” he says. Waheed confirms he himself is among those who gets farms on short term lease to enrich his exports and value-addition businesses.
“We need to focus quality and for that we have to pay attention to sap burn, nutrition and proper handling of mangoes at the time of picking. We have negligible export share in China and Japan. And that’s why PFVA has come up with Horticulture Vision-2030,” he assets. He calls for enhancing mangoes’ supply chain.
Mahmood Nawaz Shah is a global gap certified farmer. He slightly differs with Waheed’s on quality parameters’ point. Shah is himself exporting mangoes to high end super market in European countries for around six years after meeting international protocols of mango importing countries. “Quality parameters are to be clearly defined. There are issues in the entire value chain starting from farms, market and exports sectors which must be addressed,” he asserts. “If something is missing on part of farmers in terms of fruit quality it must be addressed,” he says.
Contractual farm owners
A tendency exists among growers to lease out farms on short and long terms basis. It reflects absenteeism in mango farming. But there are progressive farmers like Imdad Ali Nizamani of Tando Allahyar who manages his banana and mango orchards in corporate style, accounting for year on year sale and purchase besides. “Farm owners lack expertise in marketing so they sign deals with contractors. Managing farms is indeed difficult while contractors hold grip in market,” Imdad says.
Multiple kind of contracts are signed with some leasing out farms before production starts. Some hand it over to traders for long term basis like three to four years. Growers sell crop to contractors also instead of selling it themselves in market like other crops. And contractors prefer commercial interests to capitalise on early harvest at the start of season. They are least concerned whether fruit has grown in size or has developed taste.
Haji Nadeem Shah, a mango grower from Matiari, who had done away with his orchard a few years back, has grown orchard again. “Growers find it hard to manage mango farms for their stakes in other crops are higher too,” Shah says
Published in Dawn, June 10th, 2019