Monday 5, June 2023

Export potential for Ashwina mangoes

Time Digital News: Ashwina mangoes were rarely seen on dining tables in the past because the fruit had an unappetising dark exterior coupled with a sour taste that limited their use in the production of processed food items.

Surprisingly though, these large mangoes eventually found their way into peoples' hearts and bellies after fruit-bagging, a method of cultivation that protects against pests and other natural elements, was introduced in 2016.

Since then, both the colour and taste of this variety of mango have improved, captivating consumers across the country.

As a result of the increased demand, the price of Ashwina mangoes has reached as much as Tk 16,000 per maund (40/45 kilogrammes).

"Fruit bagging changed the fate of this mango and also that of its growers," said Dr Sorof Uddin, a renowned mango researcher of the Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute.

Ashwina mangoes now account for some 15 per cent of the country's total mango production, which stands at around 12 lakh tonnes, according to the Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE).

Of the total annual production of Ashwina mangoes, 40 per cent comes from Chapainawabganj while Rajshahi, Naogaon, Natore and other districts contribute the rest.

Just six years ago, Ashwina mangoes were mostly used for producing pickles and many were wasted without being used at the time, when they were never sold for more than Tk 2,400 per maund.

Uddin explained that the fruit's poor taste was because they were collected well before their proper harvesting season in the Bengali month of Ashwin.

Ashwin begins in the middle of September but the harvesting season for most popular mango varieties, such as Gopalbhog, Khirsapat and Himsagar, end by mid-August.

"And as no one could stop themselves from eating the fruit in this one-month gap, farmers had to pick their Ashwina mangoes early and that resulted in their sour taste," he said.

In addition, even those who waited for the right season often found insects in their fruit, reducing its value, Uddin added.

He went on to say that Ashwina mangoes could not show their attractive colours in Rajshahi and Chapainawabganj as these districts usually witness the maximum of their annual rainfall in late August and early September.

"Excessive rain turns the colour of Ashwina mangoes black," Uddin said.

But when the fruit-bagging method was applied to these mangoes in 2016, two major changes occurred.

The first was a change in taste as the mangoes were no longer harvested before their time, ensuring sweetness. The second was a change in colour as the protective fruit bags prevented rain from seeping in while also keeping pests at bay.

Moreover, Ashwina mangoes sell at high prices as it is the only variety that remains in the market in late September.

Omor Faruk Tipu, general secretary of the Kansat Mango Traders Association, said fruit-bagging has turned this mango into a precious one.

"Everyone values it now as it provides money to both the growers and traders," he added.

Tipu informed that the use of fruit-bagging spread fast after some growers first used the method in 2016 with the assistance of government officials.

"We have never taken care of Ashwina mangoes like we do now," said Anwarul Haque, a farmer.

Haque, who has been growing mangoes for the last 15 years, then said that farmers no longer harvest this variety before the month of Ashwin as they can get a price of at least Tk 8,000 per maund in the beginning of the season.

"Besides, the prices double at the end of the season," he added.

Ashwina mangoes were recently seen selling for Tk 8,000 per maund at the Baneswar market in Rajshahi.

Some even say that Ashwina mangoes now have export potential.

But although some exports are ongoing on an experimental basis, this type of mango has a high change of being attacked by pests when travelling to distant countries, they said.

"If the issues can be solved, this mango can be exported like other varieties," Uddin said.

On the other hand, Tipu said that have been exporting Ashwina mangoes for the last three years without issue.


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