MULTAN, (Muzaffargarh.City – 21st Dec, 2020 ) :Mango is considered as the King of Fruit for its aroma and taste but the two attributes become unique when it comes to indigenous Pakistani varieties famed worldwide for the mouth watering semi-solid substance packed inside its yellow skin. The king of fruit had been grappling with many problems from diseases like dieback, sudden death and mango malformation besides lack of quality agriculture implements, however, two more adversaries, the climate change and the realtors, pose bigger threat. The real estate business had been eating up mango orchards for the last many years, particularly on both sides of Bosan road in Multan where dismantling mango orchards to develop residential colonies remained a practice up till now with no argument in support except it doles out some quick and high profit. The realtors investment bonanza had sparked protests from growers over a decade ago and the then president of Mango Growers Association (MGA) Syed Zahid Hussain Gardezi had then launched a ‘�ut-Tree’campaign in protest. Who would resist when realtors would offer a Caror or Rs 10 million for an acre in mango belt? questioned progressive mango grower/exporter and chief executive of Mango Growers Association Multan Major (retired) Tariq while talking to APP. Tariq who had embarked on mango export years ago from his farms equipped with proper post-harvest technology, believed it to be better to retain mango orchards and earn good every year instead of selling these for one-time profit. Big mango orchards have been eliminated or in the process of being dismantled around Multan city. New housing colonies were eating up mango orchards besides causing environmental pollution. An official of Crop Reporting Service (CRS) Multan, when contacted, said that total mango area in Multan district was 74000-75000 acres. He said, over 5000 acres mango area has been eliminated from the district, either due to housing bonanza or some other reasons. He, however, added that development of new orchards was keeping the total mango area in Multan almost the same with a difference of plus-minus 200 acres. CRS official, however, added that many big 30-40 years old orchards having big production trees fell victim to housing projects and admitted that it did affect the national mango production pleading there is always a difference between fully grown mango orchards and the new ones that need five years of nurturing to enter production phase. Plant pathologist, Mango Research Institute (MRI), Multan, Dr.
Tariq Malik said, impact of climate change on mango orchards was manageable. He said that prolonged cold weather could prevent flowering, which, he added, was manageable to some extent. He said that most of the farmers do not irrigate orchards at fruit stage thinking it might increase production. Contrary to this traditional thinking, fruit setting or fertilization does not take place when temperature goes beyond 33 Celsius adding that this problem can be addressed by applying water. He said that Pakistan can get better production provided weather remains cold till mid February 2021. He said Pakistan was ranked 6th with regard to mango production after China, India and Thailand, however, despite enjoying uniqueness in taste and aroma, it was able to grab the 8th spot with regard to exports. Like cotton, mango is mostly produced in Sindh and Punjab with 28 per cent of its production coming from Sindh and 72 per cent of the national mango production from mango belt in Punjab stretching from Rahimyar Khan to Sahiwal. However, mango varieties produced in areas of Multan and Muzaffargarh around Chenab river are the most delicious and aromatic. Pakistan exported 65000 ton of mango in 2018, 91000 ton in 2019 and 140,000 tons in 2020 with bulk of it going to middle east particularly Saudi Arabia besides Iran, Afghanistan, European countries and USA. The gradual rise in exports can be attributed to farmers’ success in overcoming technical hurdles and quarantine issues with the assistance from government, says the progressive grower and exporter Major � Tariq. He said that ten (10) Hot Water Treatment plants were working in Multan for post-harvest treatment to meet quarantine requirements of importing countries. The progressive farmer and exporter, however, added that country still lack industrial base to add value to the king of fruit like preparing pulp, dry mango, toffees, chewing gum, beauty soap, shampoo and other products. Value addition can fetch sizable foreign exchange. Government had set up a pulp plant, Agro Food Processing (AFP) facility in Multan with a capacity of 10 ton per day and its operations remained profitable till to date. Another pulp plant has been set up in Multan by private sector recently with a capacity that is double the capacity of AFP. An AFP official said that local food industry was using 70,000-80,000 ton mango pulp, mostly for mango juice, adding that demand would go far beyond this level in case of expansion of industrial base for food processing and subsequent value addition.