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Pakistani mango popularity, exports grow
Mango lovers wait for summer to enjoy their favourite fruit
By Javed Aziz Khan
ISLAMABAD – Pakistanis love mangoes, and the world loves Pakistani mangoes, or so they say.
The numbers seem to support that claim; Pakistan grows about 10 varieties of the pulpy fruit, and exports have grown, making the country the world’s fourth-biggest producer and exporter.
“Sindhri is the best variety coming from Sindh Province, while Chaunsa is the main product from Punjab,” Mushtaq Ahmad Noorani, the managing director of the Noorani Fruit Company in Peshawar, told Central Asia Online. “The two varieties dominate the entire mango market.”
Punjab and Sindh provinces account for 67% and 30% of the country’s output, respectively, according to the University of Agriculture in Faisalabad (UAF), while Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) contributes the rest.
Pakistan’s success comes from its geography and advantageous international pricing.
Most of Pakistan’s mango-producing areas enjoy hot temperatures of about 40-45 degrees Celsius. And Pakistan’s geographical spread allows the country to stay competitive in world markets for a longer period. Sindh leads production in May, and Punjab enters the fray in August, UAF data show.
The Pakistani mango is also far cheaper than those of other countries. In 2008-2009, prices for Pakistani mangoes on the international market were US $385 (Rs. 36,000) per tonne, while Mexican mangoes sold for US $1,200 (Rs. 113,000), said Bashir Ahmad, director of a fruit export company in Karachi.
Over the years exports have grown from .2% of the harvest in 1975 to 7% of the current 1.8m tonnes produced annually, said Kausar Feroz, a leading trader of fresh fruit in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
World’s biggest hot-water processing unit established
Attaining its status in the international market has not been easy. Pakistan traditionally lacked facilities to properly treat mangoes that were to be exported. But this June, one of the biggest hot-water mango treatment plants in the world was established in Karachi to solve that problem.
The Rs. 230m hot-water treatment plant came out of a public-private partnership.
“We have only a couple of treatment plants in the country,” Bashir said. “That is the main reason for further improving the export of Pakistani mango. Another hurdle is that we have only a few factories where the fruit is properly packed after treatment to prolong its life. The present method of packing gives only a week or two weeks of life to the mango.”
The current packing method also has generated some concerns among buyers. Farmers mostly use calcium carbonate, applied directly to the fruit, to help the mangoes achieve the proper colour and sweetness quickly. However, health concerns have arisen over the use of calcium carbonate.
Work to improve packing is on-going, Bashir said.
Mango markets, production areas
“Almost 40% of the Pakistani mangoes are exported to UAE, while another 16% is exported to Saudi Arabia and around 10% to UK,” Noorani said.
The next task is to capture emerging markets – including South Korea, Hong Kong, Lebanon, Jordan and Australia, said Babar Khan Durrani, chief executive of Pakistan Hortifresh Processing Private Limited.
“Pakistani mangoes will get access to Lebanese markets this year,” Federal Minister for National Food Security and Research Israrullah Zehri said, media reported in April. “There are hopes that export to Australia will also start from the on-going season.”
Mangoes bring eating pleasure, financial gains
Mangoes are usually eaten fresh as a dessert, but are processed into preserves, juices, jams, jellies, nectars and crisp mango chips, and are an excellent source of vitamins A, B and C.
“We used to organise mango parties as it is the most popular fruit of the country,” said Mohammad Iqbal, chef of a local popular restaurant. “Not only as a fruit, but it is being used as ice cream, salad and juices at parties, lunches or dinners.”
A fruit vendor, Taveez Gul, said his business peaks at the start of the mango season.
“With increase in inflation, people mostly don’t go for buying fruits,” said Gul who buys crate loads of mangoes from the main fruit market in Peshawar and re-sells them from his pushcart on Kohat Road. “However, the mango craze keeps even the poor people to come to us in large number on daily basis.”