Can the Mankurado, the king of Goan mangoes, take on the mighty Alphonso, the king of mangoes itself?
On May 5, Chief Minister Pramod Sawant confessed his weakness for the Mankurado and even dared to say that he favoured the Goan variety of mango over the more conventionally known and popular Alphonso, which is a native species to Maharashtra.
Popular as the Mankurado may be in Goa, a string of obstacles stand in the way of the indigenous mango strain, from really catapulting into national and international glory.
According to state Agriculture Director – incidentally an Alphonso himself – Nevil Alphonso low production of the Mankurado and its shorter shelf life are some of the key issues which stand in the way of the Mankurado boom.
“There is no doubt that the Mankurado mango is the best mango. However, the shell life of the Mankurado mango is less as compared to the shell life of the Ratnagiri Alphonso mango which remains fresh for more days which makes it transportation friendly. Alphonso mango has good pulp and it is normal(ly) sweet", Alphonso said, adding that the dark yellow colour of the mango adds to its customer appeal.
The Mankurado is very popular in Goa, however some of the sub-varieties of Mankurado mango are laced with threads in the pulp, he said.
“A small state of ours has around 5000 hectare of land under mango production, of which around 70 percent is Mankurado cultivation and in the rest of the land other varieties of mangoes are grown”, said Alphonso.
He however said that there is no scope for the genetic improvement of Mankurado. “If we Genetically improve the mankurado plant, then it will not be (called a) mankurado. Now, to increase the shelf life, there is some technology coming up. Some people are using cold storage, ionisation. But still there is a question of commercial viability of these methods”, said Alphonso, adding that such methods work only for consumers who are willing to shell more, because its cost is expected to increase.
While in the current season, a good crop has led to a drop in the rates of the Mankurado mango, in Maharashtra, according to the official the Alphonso mangoes are commercially planted with a systematic approach, as against in Goa, where commercial plantations of the local variety are virtually non-existent.
“We have traditional mangoes (plantations) which are not maintained. Our farmers have a maximum of 10 mango trees. However, in Ratnagiri district a single farmer has more than 1000 trees. 90 percent of Goan farmers have less land and they also have multiple plantations like coconut and other fruits,” he said, adding that farmers are now keen on planting more Mankurado trees.
Presently the Mankurado is not exported commercially, with the exception of some crop being exported to Dubai, where the large Goan community in the Emirate savour the fruit.
According to Dubai-based John D’Sa, one way ahead could be the formation of a Mango Development Board in the state.
John D’Sa heads ‘Transform Goa’, which organises the all-Goa Mankurado Mango Festival annually for the last few years. His ambition is to make the Mankurado a “world leader”.
"There is huge demand for the Mankurado in Dubai and other countries. However, Mankurado export is not possible as we don't have that much quantity to export out of Goa," said D'sa.
“We have to produce mangoes commercially on a large scale. For that government intervention is required. For the promotion of mango cultivation, a Mango Development Board has to be formed under an IAS (Indian Administrative Service) officer,” he said.
A simple idea, he says, would be to plant mango trees along roads and their care and harvest should be taken care of through contractual means.
“There should be a plan for the next 20-25 years at the end of which huge land could be brought under fruit bearing tree production,” he said, adding that he was in the process of preparing a presentation on the subject for state government officials.
Some standard operating procedures will also help maintain the quality of the crop he said, while also underlining the importance of creating a mango data bank.
“As the farmers carry out early harvesting of mangoes, the quality of mangoes reduces. There should be some guidelines for the farmers as to when to pluck mangoes. Every farmer should be made to register his mango trees, so that the government will have full data about mango production in the state,” he also said.