SHIHAB SARKAR |
Jun 02, 2022 9:26:58 p.m.
Being the most popular fruit in the country, Bangladesh has never felt the need for an international label for its quality mangoes. Yet the label of a GI (geographical indication) product for the country’s ‘Khirshapat’ mango presented it as a major fruit of Asia. The label awarded in 2019 would have helped create a wider export market for this country mango. However, the extent of the increase in exports in the case of the mango variety “Khirshapat” has not yet been officially known. The fruit is known locally as ‘Himsagar’. While Bangladesh today produces different types of sweet and juicy mangoes, its ‘Khirshapat’ stands out for both its sweet taste and aroma. Unlike the very popular ‘Lengra’ variety, ‘Khirshapat’ has no trace of sour taste.
India is globally known as the largest mango producing country in the world. ‘Alphonso’, recognized as the queen of all Indian mangoes, received a GI label in 2018. Tasty mangoes are produced in different countries in South and Southeast Asia. Of all these countries, Bangladesh has occupied a prestigious position for ages with its mango varieties.
The traditional variety of mangoes has been indigenous to the land since pre-Christian times. As in present times, mango trees in rows or clusters are a typical sight offered by villages in Bangladesh 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 considered sacred fruits. Mangoes eventually spread throughout Asia and then to other parts of the world. Due to the large central seed of a mango, the fruit has relied on human carriers to find it widespread throughout the world. According to some social historians, the mango was discovered 25 to 30 million years ago in northeast India, Myanmar and Bangladesh. From this region he then traveled to southern India. Today, 50% of the world’s mango production comes from India, which ranks first among mango-producing countries. The major mango producing lands in the world today include India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, China, Myanmar, Thailand, Philippines, Indonesia, Brazil, Mexico, Nigeria, and Egypt.
Although quality mangoes were cultivated in an amateur manner in the southwestern region of the country during the Mughal and British periods, professional mango cultivation had to wait a long time to take firm root in the region. In the beginning, only one variety—‘Fazli’, represented the total mango yields of special and rich people. Bangladesh only started to observe the widespread sale of “Fazli” mangoes in fruit shops in the 1960s-70s. Before that, street vendors only sold the local, sour-sweet and very fibrous mangoes. Despite this drawback, the “deshi” mangoes were enriched with the aroma common to mangoes in general.
It took many years for mango wholesalers to adopt the techniques of deceiving customers to artificially ripen the fruit. Using harmful chemicals to ripen green, hard mangoes has long been a panic idea in Bangladesh. The “Fazli” mango market had not yet been the victim of this embezzlement. But almost all quality mangoes such as Himsagar, Lengra, Amropali, Ranibhog, Gopalbhog etc. have been victims of fraudulent syndications at one time or another over the past few years.
These days, despite higher yields of myriad types of mangoes and relentless market raids by law enforcement, the vice continues to tighten its grip on the country. At the same time, the mango cultivation and marketing sectors are experiencing significant development in recent times. With increasing numbers of immigrants from the large subcontinent, including Bangladesh and southern India, as well as Southeast Asia, continuing to spread across the globe, mangoes have sparked global demand . Although the mango has little appeal to Europeans and Americans in general, it enjoys great export potential thanks to its demand among immigrant populations on European, North American and Australian soil. South Asian immigrants continue to spread around the world. Their number is now approaching that of sub-Saharan Africans and Arabs combined, even crossing them. Surprisingly, Brazil and Mexico are the two mango-producing and mango-friendly countries in all of South America. Given this global view, a few Asian-based economies may soon be seen as being driven by exporting mangoes in larger volumes—despite those that are not considered mango-based. Bangladesh could be considered as a fast emerging nation among the countries that seriously consider exporting quality mangoes.
At first, the country’s mango cultivation remained mostly confined to its southwestern region. Wealthy farmers owned large orchards of mango trees in the major areas of Rajshahi and Chapai Nawabganj. Mango growers in the greater Jashore district reportedly plan to establish large mango orchards. Southwestern Bangladesh is the very region that saw the first success in growing non-fibrous, purely sweet mangoes in the country, according to agronomists. Eventually, yields of quality mangoes spread to neighboring regions like Pabna, Dinajpur and Rangpur — the latter being famous for the Haribganga variety of mangoes. The Mango Belt also includes the Bogra district. The reason mango experts point to the southwestern and northern regions for higher yields of mangoes is the presence of a particular soil type.
Mainly belonging to the Barind soil expanses, the vast area is geologically composed of soil types not found in other parts of the country dominated by alluvial lands. Despite its location around the banks of the Meghna and Chars rivers, the Brahmanbaria district has recently shown prospects for growing high quality summer fruits. A section of topographical experts attribute this unusual growth pattern of agricultural produce like mangoes in the district to the mixing of the region’s soil with that of greater Tripura in northeast India.
Despite lagging behind India in mango yields and quality, Bangladesh is slowly carving out its unique place in the global mango market. This year’s mango season has arrived in Bangladesh after the 2-year corona pandemic. This discrepancy may have appeared as a blessing in disguise. The country can now resume its exports of mangoes and other non-traditional products after a thorough review of its past performance. This process will help exporters determine the do’s and don’ts of exporting mangoes. A practical solution could be to invent an all-season GM (genetically modified) mango.