Muhammad Atif Ismail
MULTAN, May 11 (APP):Culturally rich South Punjab is also known as “Kingdom of Mango” due to exotic flavour and aroma of the matchless fruit— the mango of the area is not only popular in the country but across the globe.
Mango orchards are located over thousands of acres in the region. Multan is on top in its cultivation with an area of over 31,000 hectares of mango orchards followed by Rahim Yar Khan, Muzaffargarh and Khanewal with cultivation area 26,000, 19,000 and 14,000 hectares respectively.
Among hundreds of varieties of mangoes, only 25 to 30 are being cultivated on commercial scale. The varieties of the king of the fruit are Chaunsa, Sindhri, Langra, Dausehri, Anwar Ratol, Saroli, Samar Bahisht, Toota Pari, Fajri, Neelum, Alphanso, Almas, Sanwal, Surkha, Sunera and Desi.
Talking to APP, President Mango Growers Association, Malik Zafar Mahay said, “Pakistani mangoes are matchless in taste and aroma. An average production of mangoes is about 1.8 million metric tonnes annually in the country. It used to export approximately one hundred thousand tones”.
About 40 to 50 percent low production is being feared in the ongoing season due to low fruiting in orchards, stated Zafar adding that farmers will bear losses owing to low production. Similarly, Pandemic COVID-19, will also affect exports and ultimately farmers will face more losses. He said that high cost of inputs especially fertilizers, pesticides, electricity bills and climate changes were main reason behind low fruiting.
He observed that government should facilitate growers in order to promote the fruit and enable growers to eke out handsome earning. He suggested that government should introduce vegetable and fruit markets at union council level. The markets will help increase competition and ultimately it would offer good prices to farmers against their yield.
In present markets, the middlemen exploit growers and demand at least 10 percent commission against the recommended commission of 2.5 percent. Similarly, the middlemen seek about 2 kilogramme more weight. They pay for 40 kilogramme mango but demand 42 kilogramme from growers. They also make cut in price in name of cleaning of the fruit.
Zafar Mahay said, “Due to COVID-19, I am not expecting mango exports this year. I suggest the government to facilitate the growers in obtaining export orders of mangoes from neighboring and countries of the Middle East”.
He also proposed that Trade Development Authority of Pakistan (TDAP) should facilitate pulp industry. It could help in manufacturing of maximum mango pulp for export at suitable time when pandemic was over.
Progressive Mango Grower Major (R) Tariq said that the government could play a vital role to facilitate the growers. He said that Ministry of Commerce and TDAP should come forward and help promote pulp industry.
The average shelf life of mango pulp was about two years. So, in case of low exports orders of mangoes due to COVID-19, the government should extend loans on low interest rate to pulp industry and its exporters . Tariq also termed climate change as the main reason behind extraordinary low fruiting this year.
Incharge Mango Research Station (Shujabad) Abdul Ghaffar Garewal said that climate change and hopper attack on mango orchards were the factors behind low fruiting. He also feared that there was very low chance of export of mangoes, especially from Sindh due to COVID-19.
He said that mango harvesting season usually begins from May 15 in Sindh. Most of the mango orchards owners hired skilled labour from South Punjab for harvesting, grading, processing and packing of export quality mangoes.
But due to COVID-19, there was no transport and the labourers could not travel so mango harvesting could likely to suffer.
Exports of mangoes from south Punjab began after export from Sindh province. Sindh set the trend for mangoes exports. When there was low export from Sindh province then it affected exports from Punjab also. Exporters of Sindh (Karachi) did not take interest in exports, he observed.
He also suggested opening of pulp industry properly. He stated that government should evolve policy for promoting pulp sector. The pulp could be exported any time. Similarly, it could be used locally throughout the year. The value addition provided handsome returns.
Incharge Agro Food Processing Abdul Moeed said that although, juices demand decreased locally and all over the world significantly because of closure of educational institutions and other markets, owing to COVID-19. He, however, added that Agro Food Processing Plant was ready to offer its services round-the-clock.