HYDERABAD: Mango lovers will have to wait for another 20 days to eat fully nourished mangoes especially sindhri or anwar ratol. The tasty and fully grown sindhri or chaunsa varieties would be available by May’s end or the first week of June considering the hot weather conditions that are essential for the ripening of fruit.
Harvesting of mango varieties like saroli, though prematurely, has started and reached Punjab’s market. However, the harvested produce lacks colour and taste. The produce that reached the market did fetch a better price but rates dropped as more supplies were made by contractors of mango orchards. The arrival of Punjab’s mango crop into the market begins late.
“A price of Rs2,300 to Rs2,700 per 12kg was reported for saroli variety harvested in Mirpurkhas region and sold in Rawalpindi and Gujranwala April's last week. However, rates plummeted to Rs700-Rs800 per 12kg box as more vehicles start reaching Punjab now. Even sindhri has started reaching the market and people are buying regardless of the fact it tastes like bricks,” said Asif Arain, a wholesale fruit trader in Hyderabad’s sabzi and fruit mandi off Hali Road.
Mr Arain believes mangoes from Naukot area (Mirpurkhas region) start ripening as soon as the hot desert air touches the area. However, mangoes from Hyderabad and other districts take time to make their presence felt in market.
Nawab Zubair Talpur, a growers’ leader, subscribes to Mr Arain’s view, saying that he let out his farm to a contractor who opted for early harvesting of fruit in neighbouring orchard of 100 acres. “I told him the mangoes he is harvesting won’t have taste at this point of time and it’s early to pluck them. But he shot back saying that he is fetching a better price,” says Mr Talpur.
This year Mr Talpur let out his 40-acre orchard in Tando Mohammad Khan for Rs4.5 million against last year’s price of Rs3.5m. “Actually, markets in our country revolve around the middlemen. For instance, I am getting Rs10kg price for watermelon at my farm and consumers purchase it at Rs40-Rs50 per kilo. Same goes for mangoes,” he says.
Many mango growers in Sindh have a strong tendency to let out farms. They avoid managing farms and let them out to contractors. The contractors often have premature harvest of fruit to capitalise on the market. They go into competition to see who sends mango-laden vehicles first to the markets in Punjab.
Rich mango orchards dot rural landscape in Hyderabad’s rural part, Tando Allahyar, Mirpurkhas, Matiari, Sanghar and Umerkot districts. Last year’s monsoon rains in Mirpurkhas – home of mangoes – had accumulated in farmlands and orchards. It was drained out belatedly by farm owners on their own.
This year again, rainfall, hailstorm and gusty winds visited orchards early this April, causing some damage to the fruit. On Saturday another spell of windstorm, though brief, was reported in Hyderabad. Rains coupled with hailstorm and dust storm prove damaging for orchards as unripe mangoes fall in large numbers.
“Rainfall and hailstorm are normal phenomenon and the damage caused by them are not substantial. By and large the crop is healthy and looks in good shape,” says Mahmood Nawaz Shah, a mango grower and exporter. He explains that fully ripened mangoes always take time to develop shape and taste.
Every year it is flowering that appears in mango trees first, marking start of mango growth followed by fruit setting. Flowering was affected initially. It was assessed by a team of Sindh Horticulture Centre Mirpurkhas led by its Director Mangoes Dad Mohammad Baloch. The team surveyed orchards in Tando Allahyar, Mirpurkhas and Matiari like every season.
“Frost affected flowering in December 2020 and January 2021. Then powdery mildew, a disease, hit flowering in the second week of February, leading to malformation,” Mr Baloch says. He fears lower yields in some orchards.
Mr Shah agrees with the assessment but he does not foresee substantial losses in crop. “Sindhri will eventually reach market by May’s end or June’s first week if someone is interested in eating fully nourished and colourful sindhri otherwise race is always there among contractors to capitalise on market,” he informed.
Exports usually start by May 25. Some exporters are also busy in contractual farms’ business having larger farms. All Pakistan Fruit and Vegetable Exporters, Importers and Merchants Association (PFVA) Patron-in-Chief Waheed Ahmed concurs with the view mangoes being marketed lack taste as they not matured and that’s why its prices have dropped by May 8.
Large orchard owners, as is the usual practice, engage farm labourers from Punjab for their expertise in picking, packing, sorting and grading of mangoes. They are mostly from Layyah, Dera Ghazi Khan, Multan etc and reach Sindh in groups in hundreds — staying put till the season is fully over.
Like last year, the Sindh government showed concern over arrival of labourers from Punjab, given the high positivity ratio of coronavirus cases there. The Sindh government is emphasising that labourers are tested first for Covid-19 before being allowed to work in mango growing areas.
Local labourers, Mr Shah claims, would learn the art of mango harvetsing, packing and sorting once they start working with Punjab counterparts. “Such learning is not a rocket science. Native labourers don’t perform these chores thus reliance is seen on workers from Punjab,” he says.
“These farmhands take ad vance from us before they arrive,” says Ghulam Sarwar Abro, one of eight global GAP (Good Agricultural Practices) mango growers in Sindh, who manages his 300-acres personally. The USAID funded him in establishing hot water treatment (HWT) plant, a prerequisite for mango exports to abroad where mangoes are accepted with stricter business conditions. He partners in mangoes’ export with a group of mango producers from Sindh.
Published in Dawn, May 9th, 2021