A labourer sorts mangoes before packing them into boxes at a farm in Multan. AFP
Dwindling harvests, drooping demand and export supply chains hit by the coronavirus are biting into Pakistan's mango industry, with producers of the prized fruit battling to weather a disastrous season.
Across Pakistan's "mango belt" in Punjab and Sindh provinces, farmers say a long winter and changing rain patterns have slashed production by up to half this year -- just as virus shutdowns sparked border restrictions and spiralling export costs.
"There are multiple problems that mango farmers are facing," said Rana Muhammad Azim, whose family has been producing the fruit in Punjab for generations.
"The situation is extremely worrisome for us. The mangoes are ready, but no exporter is willing to take the risk and place orders," he said, adding that he was already suffering from a 40 percent decline in the harvest.
Pakistan produced more than 1.5 million tonnes of mangoes in 2019 -- and exported a record 115,000 tonnes worth $80 million -- making it the sixth-largest exporter of the fruit in the world.
But Waheed Ahmed, head of a produce association in Pakistan, said exports have dropped around 40 per cent compared to the same period last year, with just a few months left of the season.
Known in South Asia as the "king of fruits", the mango originated in the Indian subcontinent with two dozen varieties grown in Pakistan.
The country's most treasured variety is the greenish-yellow Chaunsa, known for its rich, unique flavour and juicy pulp.
The fruit also helps sweeten diplomatic relations, with Pakistan sending crates of its best produce to India's prime minister every year, regardless of the political climate between the hostile neighbours.Agence France-Presse
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