By Muhammad Atif Ismail
MULTAN, May 03 (APP):Culturally rich South Punjab is also known as “Kingdom of Mango” for its exotic flavour and aroma of the matchless fruit (mango), which is popular not only in the country but across the globe.
Mango orchards are located over thousands of acres in the region. Multan is at top in its cultivation. Mango orchards are located over 31,000 hectares in the district. Similarly, Rahim Yar Khan, Muzaffargarh and Khanewal are at second, third and fourth position 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.
“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 tonnes “, said President Mango Growers Association Malik Zafar Mahay while speaking to APP, here.
About 40 to 50 percent low production is being feared in the ongoing season due to low fruiting in orchards, stated Zafar adding, farmers will bear losses owing to low production. Similarly, Pandemic COVID-19, will also affect exports and ultimately farmers will face more losses.
The President Mango Growers Association stated that high cost of inputs especially fertilizers, pesticides, electricity bills and climate changes were main reasons behind low fruiting.
He observed that government should facilitate growers 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 introduction of markets at union council level 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 seeks about two kilogramme more weight. They pay for 40 kilogramme mango but demand 42 kilogramme from growers, he stated. They also make cut in price in name of cleaning of the fruit.
The farmers have no option but to sell their produce by the middlemen. Thus, the middlemen exploit farmers economically, stated Zafar Mahay.
“Due to COVID-19, I am not expecting mango exports this year. I suggest government to facilitate in obtaining export orders of mangoes from neighbouring and countries of middle east”, Mahay stated.
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.
Known progressive Mango Grower Major Retd Tariq told APP, the incumbent government could play vital role to facilitate growers. He stated that Ministry of Commerce and Trade Development Authority of Pakistan 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 main reason behind extraordinary low fruiting this year.
Incharge Mango Research Station (Shujabad) Abdul Ghaffar Garewal stated that climate change and hopper attack on mango orchards were important 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 stated that mango harvesting season usually began 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 institutes and other markets, owing to COVID-19. He, however, added that Agro Food Processing Plant was ready to offer its services round the clock.