MULTAN: Dwindling harvests, dropping demand and export supply chains hit by coronavirus are biting into Pakistan’s mango industry, with producers of the prized fruit battling to weather a disastrous season.

Across the country’s “mango belt” in Punjab and Sindh provinces, farmers say a long winter and changing rain patterns have slashed production by up to half this year — just as virus shutdowns sparked border restrictions and spiralling export costs.

“There are multiple problems that mango farmers are facing,” said Rana Muha­mmad Azim, whose family has been producing the fruit in Punjab for generations.

“The situation is extr­emely worrisome for us. The mangoes are ready, but no exporter is willing to take the risk and place orders,” he said, adding that he was alre­ady suffering from a 40 per cent decline in the harvest.

Pakistan produced more than 1.5 million tonnes of mangoes in 2019 — and exported a record 115,000 tonnes worth $80 million — making it the sixth-largest exporter of the fruit in the world.

But Waheed Ahmed, head of a produce association in Pakistan, said exp­orts have dropped around 40 per cent compared to the same period last year, with just a few months left of the season.

Known in South Asia as the “king of fruits”, mango is originated in the Indian subcontinent with two dozen varieties grown in Pakistan.

The country’s most treasured variety is the greenish-yellow Chaunsa, known for its rich, unique flavour and juicy pulp.

The fruit also helps swee­ten diplomatic relations, with Pakistan sending crates of its best produce to India’s prime minister every year, regardless of the political climate between the hostile neighbours.

With much of the world’s air traffic grounded by the coronavirus, exports of the best prime, ripe fruit by plane to the US and Europe have been particularly hard hit, but ground transport has also been badly affected.

Published in Dawn, July 9th, 2020