Reliance mangoes on Harrods and US supermarket

JAMNAGAR — It started off as an initiative to green its refinery complex, but Reliance Industries' mangoes are poised to be serious money-spinners with higher profit margins than petroleum products as they make their way to tony stores like Harrods in London as well as the US.


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Published: Sat 23 Sep 2006, 9:13 AM

Last updated: Sat 4 Apr 2015, 1:21 PM

Hital R. Meswani, executive director of diversified Reliance Industries Group, says "mangoes make more margin (profits) than any of the petroleum products" produced in the third largest refinery in the world.

Last year, Reliance, which cultivates Asia's largest mango plantation covering 470 acres, sold only three tonnes of its 387 tonnes mango crop to Harrods. Most of the fruit was supplied to the company township and to some major chain stores within the country.

It will be different now.

"But next year in June, as against Harrods' demand for 300 tonnes of mango table fruit, pulp and slices, we have agreed to supply 100 tonnes under our Releure brand," said Reliance Agro Initiative Vice-President I.M. Thimaiah, who has helped to create a green belt that includes 32 varieties of fruit trees, some not native to India.

The company is planning to do the grading within the complex and initially use facilities at Anand, the milk hub of Gujarat, for preparing and packaging the mango pulp and slices to be sent to Harrods and to stores in the US next June.

"Once volumes go up, Reliance may set up its own food processing unit, have its own reefer vans and cold storage facilities as we would like to minimise waste," Thimaiah told IANS.

In the case of Japan, the requirement of irradiation process is being seen as a difficult and expensive requirement.

Interestingly, while Reliance sold mangoes to Harrods for Rs40 per kilogramme, the famous London department store was able to retail it for Rs2,400 per dozen with the Asian community being the largest buyers, Thimaiah said.

Thimaiah, who has piloted Reliance agro initiatives in other states keen to replicate the transformation of a barren and semi arid region into a green oasis, sees the fruits of his efforts making it to markets in India and overseas in larger quantities in the years to come.

He narrates how they set about six years ago proving detractors wrong by planting wind breakers to protect mango plantations — now thriving in an area where hardly any tree stump could be seen.

"We have 32 varieties of fruits planted here. The amazing thing is that everything that grows here is extra sweet and juicy," the man with the green fingers said proudly.

The young sapotas, pomellos, grapefruits, Mandarin oranges, figs, hybrid tamarinds, red guavas, Barbados cherries and olives from Spain do his efforts proud.

Growing beyond the mandatory green cover requirement of 726 acres within its 8,000 acre refinery complex, Reliance has created a 2,016 acre green belt including 470 acres of mangoes.

Of over 1,000 varieties of mangoes found in India, which is the largest producer and consumer of this fruit, Thimaiah has chosen 110 commercially viable varieties with Kesar covering 80 per cent of the 102,000 trees planted.

As against 7.5 tonnes of mangoes per hectare in Ratnagiri, home to the famous Alphonso mango, the yield in Dhiru Bhai Lakhi Bagh, as the mango orchard is called, is 25 tonnes.

Attempts are on to increase not only the yield through adoption of the South African cultivation technique, but also extend the mango season from March till September and beyond by planting varieties "from Kanyakumari till Pakistan that will bear fruits beyond the traditional season".

With grafting of some of overseas favourite mango varieties from Florida, Brazil and Britain among others, Thimaiah is seeking to cater to the Western taste for large, colourful, unblemished and less sweet mangoes.

This will see him create another organic mango orchard in the special economic zone (SEZ) coming up within the complex. Of the 2,200 acre green cover planned in the SEZ refinery and petrochemical facility of over 27 million tonnes capacity for handling any type of crude, 1,000 acres would be devoted to growing mangoes.

Banganapalli from Andhra Pradesh as well as Alphonsos, Kesar, Tommy Atkins and Keitt from Florida and Kent from Britain are some of the large and colourful varieties chosen for planting in the SEZ zone, for which Reliance is planning to get European organic produce certification.

Having proved that arid regions can turn green, Reliance is helping to create awareness and providing two-day training courses to farmers in Gujarat.

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