HORTICULTURE experts from Australia are working on a project with agronomists of the Sindh government to develop disease-free varieties of mangoes with high nutritious value.
The mango management project launched in 2006 has entered the final phase with shipment of improved varieties of the fruit to Germany, the UK and Singapore for the assessment of its price and quality in these countries.
If the tests establish the superior quality and nutritious value of the fruit, export of mango would be approved by these and many other countries.
Giving details of the ongoing project, a local farm scientist and researcher Atta Hussain Soomro said Australian experts worked in the fields to train farmers on how to develop healthy plant nurseries.
The local horticulturalists were advised not to develop nurseries under large mango trees as the young plants often become victim of disease from the old trees. Saplings should be nurtured in plastic sacks in a container. It was further advised that apart from a regular water schedule, plants should be given time for rest, as ‘sleep’ has desired effects on growth of plants which, as a result, give more fruits.
The growers are also asked to prune thick clusters of mango trees which become an abode for diseases. Under the modern concept, mango clusters should be thin allowing sunlight to pass through branches, and the trees should not be more than 15-20 feet high against the present prevalent height of 50 feet in height.
Australian horticulturists have also joined hands with researchers at Tandojam Agriculture University to develop better varieties of mango saplings.
The total mango area in Sindh is about 60,000 acres while total production is 400,000 tons per year. The main mango growing areas are Mirpurkhas, Sanghar, Hyderabad, Tando Allahyar and Khairpur.
The second phase of the project began in 2011 which was focused on developing a cool chain to protect fruit quality to be exported. Australian experts personally monitored harvesting of the fruit which was preserved in cold storage before shipment by air and sea to monitor effects of the journey period on the fruit as well as to assess its shelf life and sale price in the concerned countries.
The project is funded by the Australian government and being executed with assistance from researchers of the Sindh Agriculture department.
The Agriculture department is providing subsidy to growers to adopt modern means of cultivation and irrigation to increase production. The department is providing tractors, tillers, laser land leveling equipment, sprinkles and other farm equipment at affordable price.
Meanwhile, Dr Abdul Qadeer, who invented hot water treatment of mango, says that the local fruit has nine diseases in common including fruit fly which renders it unacceptable in US and Japan.
A hot water treatment plant, jointly sponsored by Durrani Associates and Pakistan Hotriculture Export Development Company (PHDEC), was launched at Gadap near Karachi recently. The treatment increases the shelf life of the fruit to 35 days which enables exporters to ship their mangoes to Europe by sea at a minimal freight of Rs12 per kg against the expensive air freight rate of Rs137 per kg. After 26 days sea voyage, the fruit still has a shelf life of 10 days which is enough for its marketing and sale in supermarkets.
The treatment is, however, not acceptable for US and Japan which requires vapour heat treatment of the fruit to make it free from fruit fly.
At present, the average export of mango is 150,000 tons which is only eight per cent of the total production. The rest is consumed domestically.
The Pakistan Horti Fresh Processing Company, the sponsor of the treatment plant, claims that mango treated at the plant has been accepted by nine countries including China, Iran, Lebanon, Jordan, Mauritius and South Korea while Australia will soon join the network.