Love Pakistani mangoes but can’t find enough of them in the market? Well, global warming is apparently the reason.
Climate change is making the ‘king of fruits’ more expensive and lowering their yield, which has a direct impact on the availability of the summer fruit most of us love.
Global warming and mangoes
Pakistan’s Mango Research Institute (MRI) have figured out that “30 per cent crop loss due to global warming, change in climate, prolonged winter, late flowering, winds and hailstorms,” have played a key role in destroying the premature crop of mango.
The horticulture experts observed that a substantial decline in mango production in the Pakistani provinces of Sindh and Punjab was expected this year. It is being attributed to weather patterns induced by climate change. Their report was released on July 1.
But, fret not UAE residents, because capitalism ensures that we still get our fair share of mangoes. “The best mangoes are sent for export outside of Pakistan to meet the international demand,” Mohammad Gulraiz, managing director of the Pakistan Supermarket Group, told Gulf News. They are one of the main importers of the fruit. But, this means the mangoes are more expensive, especially when the overall crop yield is not very good.
Talking to the Pakistani daily The News, MRI director Dr Hamidullah Khan estimated “the crop loss was due to unfavourable weather”. He said that temperature rose to “47 degrees in the past weeks, which brought early maturity of crop and badly damaging the quality of fruit”.
However, Ahmad Amjad Ali, the Consul General of Pakistan in Dubai is of a differing opinion. We met up with him at the recently concluded first ever mango festival hosted in Dubai by the Pakistan government. He told Gulf News: “The water crisis has not affected. It has been raining a lot in Pakistan this year, and that’s why there was low production.”
Why do they cost more in the UAE?
Summer is synonymous with the mango season to many, especially to South Asians and the Pakistani breeds of the fruit have made a special name for themselves in the UAE. Some of the types available are Chaunsa, Langra, Sindhri, Fajri, Dasheri and the legendary Anwar Ratol.
Gulraiz said: “... in recent times, we are struggling with decreased supply and rise in prices.”
...in recent times, we are struggling with decreased supply and rise in prices
While the popularity of the golden fruit is on the rise, its production is under threat in Pakistan. As one of the dire effects of the ongoing water crisis in the country, is on agriculture.
“In the last year or so, we are facing a problem because of the lack of water in Pakistan the production [of mangoes] is less,” he said.
People often complain of high prices of the mangoes that are imported to the UAE. However, Gulraiz credited that too to the decline in production as well as the mode of transport that is used when importing delicate fruits.
“We fly them in daily from different parts of Pakistan. That is expensive. A fruit that has a short shelf life like mango, except a few breeds, cannot be shipped by sea,” Gulraiz said.
He suggested that the Pakistan authorities take some innovative steps to help production. “They have to ... introduce new ways for irrigation, plantation and farming methods, so that they can produce more mangoes in the event of having less water.”
A growing habit
And why is this important for the UAE market?
“My family has been doing this business for about 20 years now and the customers have developed a habit of eating these mangoes. We see an increase each year,” explained Gulraiz. So, the demand for Pakistani mangoes has increased in the Emirates.
“The customers know more about the mangoes’ quality than us [the sellers] and they know where they come from, how long their shelf life is, and how well they can be eaten,” he added.
Gulraiz said that there is also an increase in corporate orders. “For the past five years at least, I’ve seen that many companies call us and order over a hundred mangoes, each, to distribute to their workers,” he said.
The Pakistan Supermarket chain sells over eight different kinds of Pakistani mangoes. These include Chaunsa, Sindhri, Langra, Saroli, Dasheri and Anwar Ratol.
“The best part of the different varieties is that they all come in different sizes, shapes and colours. Definitely, there is one, which is the best of all, the small ‘Ratol’ mango. Customers who come into the store ask for these.”
Interestingly, the mango fever is not restricted to Pakistanis. The multicultural population of the UAE has been introduced to the summer fruit and they cannot get enough.
“We get customers from India, Bangladesh, the Philippines, various Arab countries and Emiratis especially love our mangoes a lot. They refer our store to their friends and families,” Gulraiz said.
Which is the sweetest?
While there are many different opinions on which mango is the sweetest of them all, each variety has its fans. Maqsoodul Haq is a banker based in Sharjah who calls himself an ardent ‘mango lover’.
Not only him, but his whole family enjoys the fruit. As soon as mango season begins, he rushes to different places in the UAE to get various varieties of the fruit.
“We’ve driven over 70 kilometres, from Sharjah to Dhaid, to get mangoes,” he said.
We’ve driven over 70 kilometres, from Sharjah to Dhaid, to get mangoes
When asked about which breed is his favourite, he gave the crown to Langra, whereas, Dasheri would be a close second, he believes.
Anjum Hasan, a teacher based in Sharjah said that she travels to India, her home country, only for the mangoes every summer. Expressing her love for the fruit, she said: “I would live on mangoes if I wasn’t watching my weight.”
In the UAE, she said that she has travelled with her family from Sharjah to Al Ain in search of good mangoes, on the recommendation of a friend.
Usually, Hasan buys the fruit from local supermarkets and hypermarkets.
I would live on mangoes if I wasn’t watching my weight.
Like Haq, she believes that Langra is the sweetest variety.
Gulf News ran two Instagram polls and the results were interesting. First question was: “Do you like mangoes?” Ninety per cent voted yes, while 10 per cent said no.
Second question was: “What type of mango is your favourite?” The resounding winner was Langra.
On a post asking Gulf News followers on Instagram whether they like mangoes, many expressed their love for the fruit. User Nelson Tauro @nelson.tauro posted: “Alphonso mango hands down is the best mango. Every year I bring it to Abu Dhabi from my nation back home and my friends and colleagues from different nationalities enjoy it.”
Whereas, Malik Tahir @tahir_malik86 was a fan of Chaunsa: “Pakistani mangos are the best and sweetest, especially Chaunsa.
Instagramer Aamina Nissar aamina_nissar from Kerala, India, shared her love of the fruit: “Mango is a very different kind of fruit. It reminds me of my homeland, Kerala. Mango seasons are always filled with sweetness and festivity. It’s also very healthy.”
Do mangoes make you fat?
Speaking of healthy, mangoes have had a bit of a negative publicity when it comes to weight gain and sugar consumption. Gulf News spoke to a nutritionist, Zenia Menon, to find out the truth.
Myth 1: Mangoes cause a sudden spike in blood sugar and cause fat storage
Since mangoes are high in calories and sugar, some people, especially diabetics, stay away from it as they feel it can increase their blood sugar levels.
However, Menon said that is not necessarily the case. “Fruits have natural sugars in them. Mangoes have fructose unlike some other fruits that have sucrose. Fructose do not necessarily cause a high spike [in blood sugar.”
Another reason why mangoes may not be as bad for a person’s sugar levels as one might think, is the amount of dietary fibre they contain. “Mangoes have dietary fibre in them that helps balance out the blood sugar spike,” said Menon.
Menon also highlighted that mangoes do not have as much carbohydrate as people think. “On the GI Index [Glycemic Index] mangoes have a GI of 51, which is a [relatively] lower GI. This ensures that there is a slow release of blood sugar.”
The Glycemic Index is a relative ranking of carbohydrate in foods according to how they affect blood glucose levels.
But, over consumption is bad. Menon recommends having the fruit in controlled portions at a time to help control calorie intake.
Myth 2: Mangoes cause acne
While there is barely any scientific research to prove it, it is a common myth that eating mangoes can cause acne and pimples, and it has been around for a while.
Menon said: “Acne is caused by internal and external toxins. These come from preservatives, unhealthy diets, saturated fats and not eating healthily. Acne can also be cause by hormonal imbalances, so mangoes don’t directly cause acne.”
However, Menon warned that those “who have a high body heat” to cut down on the fruits’ consumption as they are acidic and to “eat more alkaline food”.
Mangoes have a host of vitamins and minerals in them. Menon highlighted some of the nutrients they contain: “They have B-complex vitmains such as vitamin C, vitamin E and vitamin K. They even have magnesium and potassium.”
The fruit also helps digestive health as it contains digestive enzymes, which help control blood sugar levels as well.
How to buy the best mangoes?
While which breed is the sweetest is up for debate, each mango lover has certain techniques when it comes to buying the fruit.
Gulraiz, a veteran of the mango business, shared his tips to keep in mind when buying the fruit.
The first thing is the aroma - a full-bodied sweetness.
The aroma of the fruit is one of its most distinguishing qualities and Gulraiz believes good mangoes emit the strongest and the best fragrance.
“Firstly, when you step into a shop, you have to check out the smell of the mangoes. Once you know that there’s a good aroma of the mangoes coming from the shelves, you’re at the right place,” he said.
When it comes to Anwar Ratol, he said that they should be small, moderately hard and the hardness must be checked from the top and bottom of the fruit.
The colour plays an important part in the taste and ripeness of the mango as well.
“If they are green, you have to give these mangoes some more time to be eaten. If they’re yellow that means they are good enough to eat,” Gulraiz said. The colour rule gets a bit skewed for Langra - it is mostly green, so focus on the aroma and gentle firmness of fruit to the touch.
Each mango breed has a unique story attached to it. Some Pakistani mangoes’ origins can be traced to pre-partition India and the Anwar Ratol is definitely one that has history attached to it.
Trees from the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh can be credited for this particular breed. The mango was first grown in a village located two hours from Delhi. During the 1947 partition, a mango grower from the Ratol village migrated to Punjab in Pakistan. He named the fruit after his father, Anwar. And thus, you have the Anwar Ratol - a bridge between neighbours. For the full story click