The Financial Express

Export potential for Bangladesh mangoes

| Updated: June 06, 2022 21:36:18

Green mangoes hang on branches of trees at a garden in Rajshahi, Bangladesh. (Xinhua Photo) Green mangoes hang on branches of trees at a garden in Rajshahi, Bangladesh. (Xinhua Photo)

Being the most popular fruit of the country, Bangladesh has never felt the need for any international tag for its quality mangoes. Still, the tag of a GI (geographical indication) product for the country's 'Khirshapat' mango has introduced it as a major fruit from Asia. The tag awarded in 2019 was said to be helping create a broader export market for this mango of the country. It has, however, yet to be known officially the extent of export rise in the case of 'Khirshapat' variety of mango. The fruit is locally known as 'Himsagar'. While Bangladesh nowadays produces different types of sweet and juicy mangoes, its 'Khirshapat' stands out with both its sweet taste and aroma. Unlike the commonly popular 'Lengra' variety, 'Khirshapat' doesn't have any trace of sour taste.

India is globally known as the world's largest mango-producing country. 'Alphonso', recognised as the king of all Indian mangoes, received a GI tag in 2018. Tasty mangoes are produced in different South and Southeast Asian countries. Of all these countries, Bangladesh has for ages been occupying a prestigious position with its mango varieties.

The traditional variety of mangoes has been indigenous to the land since the pre-Christ days. Like the present times, mango trees in rows or clusters have been a typical view offered by the Bangladesh villages since ancient times. Originally a South Asian fruit, mangoes have been growing in the region for over 4,000 years. In the past, they were regarded as sacred fruits. Mangoes eventually spread throughout Asia, and later to the other parts of the world. Due to a mango's large centre-seed, the fruit relied on human carriers to find it spread throughout the world. According to some social historians, the mango was first discovered 25 to 30 million years ago in northeast India, Myanmar and Bangladesh. From this region it later travelled to southern India. Today, 50 per cent of the world's mango output comes from India, occupying the first place among the mango producing countries. The present world's major mango producing lands include India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, China, Myanmar, Thailand, Philippines, Indonesia, Brazil, Mexico, Nigeria and Egypt.

Although quality mangoes used to be grown amateurishly in the country's southwestern region during the Mughal and British periods, professional mango farming had to wait for a long time to take firm root in the area. In the early days, only one single variety --- 'Fazli', represented the total yields of the special and rich people's mangoes. Bangladesh started to watch the widespread sale of the 'Fazli' mangoes at fruit corners only in the 1960s-`70s. Before that, hawkers would sell only the sweet-sour and highly fibrous local mangoes. Despite this disadvantage, the 'deshi' mangoes were enriched with the aroma common to mangoes in general.

It took many years for the mango wholesalers to adopt the client-cheating techniques to ripen the fruit artificially. The use of harmful chemicals to ripen green, hard mangoes remained a panicky idea for long in Bangladesh. The 'Fazli' mango market had yet to fall victim to this malpractice. But almost all quality mangoes such as Himsagar, Lengra, Amropali, Ranibhog, Gopalbhog etc fell victim to cheating syndications one or another time in the recent years.

These days, in spite of the higher yields of myriad types of mangoes and the relentless market raids by law enforcers, the vice continues to tighten its grips on the country. At the same time, there is a hearty development in the mango farming and mango marketing sectors lately.  With immigrants in increasing numbers from the greater sub-continent, including Bangladesh and the southern India, and also from Southeast Asia, continue to fan out across the world mangoes have triggered a global demand. Although mangoes do not have much appeal to the Europeans and Americans in general, it enjoys great export potential thanks to its demand among the immigrant populations on the European, North American and Australian soil. South Asian immigrants continue to be spreading throughout the globe. Their number is now nearing that of the Sub-Saharan Africans and the Arabs combined, if not crossing them. Surprisingly, Brazil and Mexico are the two mango-growing and mango-friendly countries in whole South America. Taking this global view into account, a few Asia-based economies might soon be considered being driven by export of mangoes in larger volumes --- despite those not being considered mango based. Bangladesh could be considered a fast emerging nation among the countries giving serious thoughts to export of quality mangoes.

In the earlier days, the country's mango cultivation would remain confined primarily to its southwestern region. Well-off farmers used to own large mango orchards in the greater Rajshahi and Chapai Nawabganj regions. The greater Jashore district's mango farmers have reportedly been planning to set up large mango orchards.  According to agronomists, the southwestern Bangladesh is the very region which first witnessed success in growing non-fibrous and purely sweet mangoes in the country. Eventually, yields of quality mangoes expanded to the nearby regions like Pabna, Dinajpur and Rangpur --- the last being famous for the Haribganga variety of mangoes. The mango belt also comprises the Bogra district.  The reason mango experts point out the southwestern and the northern regions for higher yields of mangoes is the presence of a special type of soil.

Primarily belonging to the Barind tracts of soil, the large area is geologically composed of the types of soil not found in the other parts of the country dominated by alluvial lands. Despite its location around the Meghna River banks and the Chars, the Brahmanbaria district has lately shown prospects for growing high-quality summer fruits. A section of topographical experts ascribe this unusual growth pattern of agro-products like mangoes in the district to the  mixing of the soil in the area with that of the greater Tripura in India's northeast.

Notwithstanding its lagging behind India in the domain of mango yields and their quality, Bangladesh is carving out, though slowly, its unique place in the global mango market. This year's mango season has arrived in Bangladesh following the 2-year corona pandemic. This gap may have appeared as a blessing in disguise. The country can now resume its export of mangoes and other non-traditional items upon a thorough review of its past performances. This process will help the exporters pick out the dos and don'ts of mango export. A practical way out could be inventing an all-season GM (genetically modified) mango.

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