Muhammad Aatif Ismail
MULTAN, Apr 17 (APP): The culturally rich region of south Punjab, also known as “Kingdom of Mango”, is worldwide popular from European to Middle Eastern countries for the exotic flavor and aroma of its unique mango production.
A large number of mango trees is visible on a vast landscape almost in every field from Multan to Muzaffargarh and Khanewal to Rahim Yar Khan. Mango orchards are located over thousands of acres in the region — Multan is on top in the cultivation of the fruits as it has over 31,000 hectares of land covered with the mango trees. Similarly, Rahim Yar Khan, Muzaffargarh and Khanewal are second, third and fourth position with cultivation areas 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 included Chaunsa, Sindhri, Langra, Dausehri, Anwar Ratool, Saroli, Samar Bahisht, Toota Pari, Fajri, Neelum, Alphanso, Almas, Sanwal, Surkha, Sunera and Desi.
Talking to APP, a well known mango grower, Shahid Hameed Bhutta said that Pakistan produces about 1.8 million tons of mangoes annually which could further be enhanced by employing different interventions such as modern technology and awareness among the mango growers. He said, “High cost of inputs, especially fertilizers, pesticides, electricity bills and climate changes are the main reasons behind low production”. The government should ensure easy availability of cheap inputs to mango growers for maximum production, he added. He said, “An average, the growers are getting 12 tons mangoes/hectare, which could be enhanced to 20 tons by focusing on modern orchard management practices”.
Another mango grower Laique Sheikhan from Nawabpur village stated that majority of the growers were very much poor and they could not afford expenses on proper management of orchards including application of fertilizers, pruning and suitable inter-cropping combinations etc. He said, “The growers also lack awareness about modern techniques and use of balanced fertilizer”.
He said that production, quality, shape and size of mangoes could be improved, adding potassium was costly fertilizers and the growers ignored its application which resulted into low production. The growers did not know about proper time for irrigation for orchards, he hinted.
Pakistani mangoes are matchless in taste and aroma and the fruit export can bring a handsome amount of foreign exchange to national kitty. Shikhina observed some growers are also taking interest in export and online sale of the fruit in the region which is yielding positive impacts. He however suggested that some more interventions were needed to enhance the production of the fruit and improve living standard of the growers.
Ex-President Mango Grower Association Maj (Retd) Tariq informed that many citizens used to purchase huge quantity of mangoes for gifting purpose during the peak season. He stated that Multan was city of gift-givers. He also suggested that growers could earn handsome amount by value-addition. Tariq remarked the grower could export mango pulp and dried mangoes.
Director Mango Research Institute (MRI) Abdul Ghaffar Garewal stated that growers should take more interest in exports of the fruit. He stated that there was no match of Pakistani mangoes in taste. Pakistan is exporting nearly 6 to 7 percent of its produce. He suggested growers and exporters to explore new markets and export maximum mango in order to earn huge amounts against the quality production. This will not only help changing lifestyle of growers but also help securing maximum foreign exchange. The handsome income would also help grower pay more focus on orchard management.
Responding to a query about suggestion for small growers, Garewal observed that growers should keep plant population complete which was nearly 75 trees in an acre. Usually, there remained more gaps in field which also reduced production, he hinted. Secondly, the growers should also focus on health of plants. The healthy plant will offer more quality production. Thirdly, the growers should take special care of nutritional needs of the mango trees. Mango taste, its color, size and shape could be improved by fulfilling nutritional requirement of the plants.
The Director Mango Research Institute also suggested promotion of high-density plantation. In high density plantation, nearly 1500 plants could be installed in an acre. The plants were cut regularly and keep its height and spread under control. High Density orchards are very much easy to manage. Similarly, it also offers high production nearly 25 Tonnes, said Abdul Ghaffar Garewal.
In traditional style orchards, he proposed that the growers should cultivate such crops whose irrigation requirement resembled to needs of mango plants. Sometimes, excessive or low irrigation damage plants’ fruit.