Pakistani mango growers smell sweet taste of export success

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Pakistani mango growers smell sweet taste of export success

Pakistani mangoes are famous for their sweet flavor, the country grows more than 40 different varieties and is the world's sixth-largest producer, yet exports stand at less than 5% of what it cultivates. This looks set to change with producers exporting for the first time to the U.S., albeit in smalll volumes, after approval was given by authorities to start shipments in the most recent season that ended in September.

Mangoes with stalks before treatment

Harvest Tradings chief executive officer Ahmad Jawad, has told that the industry's prospects look good despite past difficulties.

"Now our government and the private sector are striving to push this industry forward in letter and spirit."

While there have been some teething problems, the approval was a milestone for the industry.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has been working with 80 Pakistani farmers on improving quality and increasing yield. It also has agreements with 15 farmers in the growing heartlands of the Punjab and Sindh provinces to produce mangoes that meet its standards, and so far 13 have made the grade.

Multan Progressive Mango Growers'  Group's chief executive Tariq Khan, says his organization has invested in hot water treatment works, pre-cooling processing rooms and cold storage.

Out of the group's 14 members, six are GAP certified allowing them to tap into the European markets.

Khan says its the South Asian communities in countries like the U.K. who will be the prime consumers.

Import requirements are stringent. The fruit needs to have reached the right level of ripeness at the import terminal, meet the maximum pestiticide residue limits and have its traceability paperwork in order.

It is hoped Pakistan will gain its own U.S. irridation unit as fruit currently has to be transported to Iowa to receive treatment, creating bottlenecks.

Jawad also wants to see the cost of production drop so volumes can increase and the fruit will be more affordable for the average consumer. At present a box containing 22 mangoes costs US$20, which he believes is too high.

"It should be economic so that the maximum number of people can enjoy the fruit. We have to think how can we reduce the cost factor?"

Export markets

He would like governments to reduce the level of import duty so that his country's mangoes are of a better value.

Currently, the Middle East imports 65% of Pakastani mangoes because there are no import protocols and the country accepts non-washed mangoes.

The other main destinations are Singapore, Bangladesh and Malaysia, but Jawad would like to see this change and has been busy in discussions with the Chinese Embassy.

He has also been in touch with the private sector in South America to try and set up relationships and persuade them to exert pressure on their embassies to let them import Pakistani mangoes.

"We are still striving to set up relationships with Brazil, Chile and Venezuela. It will take time, may be two years but these countries are in the loop."

Both Jawad and Khan are confident that once new import markets get a taste for Pakistani mangoes they will be onto a winner.

"There are so many opportunities for this product in different parts of the world. Our mangoes have a special taste, quality and we have good climate conditions."

Khan adds that the country's mangoes are sweeter than varieties grown in other countries.

"They are colorful, they have less fibre and are less bulky and softer than South American mangoes. They have more sugar and they are more aromatic."

The Pakistani mango season runs from May until September and the two varieties that are being groomed for export are Sindhri and Chaunsa.

Last season Harvest Tradings exported 180,000 MT and the Multan Progressive Mango Growers' 800 MT, although Khan said they processed a further 1200 MT at their facilities for other farmers.

Photos: Multan Progressive Mango Growers' Group

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