Queen of Mangoes Sindhri from Pakistan now in UAE

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Pakistani Sindhri mangooes on sale at the retail market at Al Aweer Fruits and Vegetable Market
Pakistani Sindhri mangooes on sale at the retail market at Al Aweer Fruits and Vegetable Market

Dubai - Such is the demand for Pakistani mangoes, newspapers from Dubai to cities as far as Chicago headline their arrival year after year.

By Sunita Menon

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Published: Fri 3 Jun 2016, 12:00 AM

Last updated: Mon 3 Oct 2022, 1:09 PM

If mangoes are your palate passion and a dearth of your favourite Pakistani variety last year had left a sour taste, here is the good news: the Sindhri is here and aplenty, and it's time to say yummy again.

The only thing that you can smell these days at Al Aweer Fruits and Vegetable Market are mangoes. The sweet fragrance takes over your senses and the next thing you know, you are standing amid mountains of cartons loaded with the famous Sindhri variety of mangoes from Pakistan.

"If Alphonso from India is crowned the 'King of Mangoes', Sindhri from Pakistan is undoubtedly the 'Queen of Mangoes'," said 44-year-old Mohammed Farouk, a fruit retailer for the last 11 years. "The mood of the buyers has shifted from Alphonso to Sindhri."

No two retailers at the market will have the same selling price for a box of Sindhri and prices range from Dh45 to Dh50.

"Just like Asians, Arabs too love Sindhri and they buy more than a single box. Almost all customers come looking for a good bargain. We make a profit of Dh3 to Dh5 per box. This week the wholesalers sold us a box of Sindhri for Dh35 which I sold at Dh38 to Indians or Pakistanis. For an Arab, it goes at Dh40," said Mohammed Akhtar, a Bangladeshi retailer at the market.

According to retailers, the Indian and Pakistani expats are well aware of the cost price of mangoes, which is not the case for Arabs and European expats. "We are not cheating, we are simply making some profit. The maximum profit we make is Dh5 per box," explained Akhtar.

Considered one of the sweetest mangoes, the name Sindhri is derived from its place of origin - Sindh, a province bordering Balochistan to the west, Punjab to the north and the Indian states of Gujarat and Rajasthan to the east. Wholesalers and retailers give five criteria for judging a good Sindhri - the peel should be thin, pulp should be thick with lower fibre content and small stone, the colour of peel should be preferably yellow and the mango should fit in your palm.

"We cannot grow the famous Indian 'Hapus' mangoes (Alphonso) in Pakistan. Similarly Sindhri cannot be grown in India. This is simply because of the soil texture. Sindhri requires a sandy soil texture and hot climate. The season for Sindhri begins in the first week of May and lasts till August. The more the heat, the sweeter the mangoes are. The plant yields best when the temperature is over 45 degrees Celsius. Also the selling price of Sindhri is high and hence holds an edge over other varieties of mangoes from Pakistan like Anwar Ratol and Chaunsa in terms of export," said Bilal Afzal, a Pakistani trader whose family runs BuKhamas Trading Company LLC at the wholesale market in Al Aweer. His father Mohammad Afzal, a well-known wholesaler, has been in the business of importing mangoes for the last 40 years in the UAE.

Sindhri makes its way to the UAE market only by May 25, followed by Chaunsa and then Anwar Ratol. Sindhri is long and is full of pulp while Chaunsa is medium sized, similar to Alphonso, and Anwar Ratol is really small and is extremely sweet.

Since the latter two varieties are not grown everywhere, they don't get exported much. Sindhri is the much sought-after variety of mangoes, explained Bilal. A single container of mangoes carries 2,700 cartons, which is approximately 26 tonnes. "This year we expect the numbers to double in comparison to last year when the weather played truant.

His family, which owns 80 per cent of the orchards in Sindh for the last 30 years, also caters to the local market in Pakistan.

Explaining the journey that a Sindhri makes, all the way from orchards located in the interior of Sindh province to the markets in the UAE, Bilal said: "Once the mangoes are harvested, they are packed in boxes at the orchard itself. It arrives in trailers to Karachi where it is stored in warehouses until arrangements are made for the freights and the containers with the agents.

"So, the total time duration for the mangoes to arrive in Dubai is eight days (from orchards to Jebel Ali), while the shipping takes just two days. I cannot provide you with total cost incurred as it varies, he says, adding that every orchard owner has own trade secret to get a good yield.

"Once our containers reach Jebel Ali port, it goes through X- rays and customs inspection. The customs officers open up a few cartons to check on the quality of shipment. If they detect some pieces spoilt, they will put a stamp on goods, which means that you cannot sell those goods. They release the containers with the condition that the product will not be sold in the market until all the decayed fruits are removed. When the containers reaches the Al Aweer market, pieces unfit for consumption are sorted out. The inspectors run a check all over again and only then are the fruits allowed to be sold. These inspections are carried out about four times in a month," added Bilal.

A complete ban has been imposed by some countries around the world - including India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and the UAE - on the use of calcium carbide (CaC2) powder, an artificial ripening agent.

"It is illegal to use of calcium carbide. A through check is done at the Karachi port to ensure that this particular artificial ripening agent is not brought in use. The common word used by the subcontinent traders for this ripening agent was pudi. If you place it in a box of raw fruits, it generates heat and ripens the fruit artificially by the time it reaches its destination. It is very harmful for health, said Bilal.

Prices are driven by the rate of consumption and the arrival of shipments. Competition among wholesalers is stiff. "It all depends on how much the retailers are willing to pay. For example, if we set the price at Dh40 per box, another wholesaler might sell it for Dh38 per box. We place about 9kg of mangoes in a single carton, which are about 18 to 21 mangoes. It largely depends on the size of the mangoes. To be frank, a 10kg box of mangoes means 9kg of mangoes and 1kg for the box.

"When the first shipment arrived on Thursday (May26), a box of mangoes was priced at Dh35, but with the arrival of the second shipment on Wednesday (June 1) it is priced at Dh40 per box. But retailers set their own prices. We do not have a say in that. The wholesalers sell the produce to the agents and these agents deal with the retailers. You can find competitions here as well. The supermarket chains in the UAE deal with the agents. There might be 10 different agents sending quotations to a retailer."

Interestingly, the price of mango takes a dip during Eid or towards the end of the holy month of Ramadan. "This is because people go on holidays during Eid and the mango market slows down a bit. This happens every year. The prices pick up after a fortnight," said Bilal.

The UAE is also the main market for the mangoes to get re-exported to other Gulf cities like Muscat, Jeddah, Riyadh, Dammam, Bahrain and Kuwait.


Fruity facts

> The annual estimated production of mangoes is over 25-million tones in Pakistan.

> Mango is the second major fruit crop of Pakistan after citrus and is ranked fourth in the world for its production. The top three mango producing countries are India, China and Kenya.

> The main mango-growing districts are Multan, Bahawalpur, Muzzaffargarh and Rahim yar Khan in Punjab. Mir pur Khas, Hyderabad and Thatta in Sindh. D.I Khan, Peshawar and Mardan in Noth West Frontier Province .

> In Pakistan, 250 varieties of mango are found while most important commercial cultivators of Pakistan are Dasehri, Anwar Ratol, Langra, Chaunsa, Sindhri, Maldha, and Fajri.

Source: Islamabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Pakistan Agricultural Research.

A man showing the Pakistani Sindhri mangoes at the wholesale market in Al Awir.
A man showing the Pakistani Sindhri mangoes at the wholesale market in Al Awir.
Bilal Afzal from BuKhamas Trading says there will be more  Sindhri mangoes in the UAE market because of the high yields in Pakistan.
Bilal Afzal from BuKhamas Trading says there will be more Sindhri mangoes in the UAE market because of the high yields in Pakistan.

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