Sweet and Sour: The journey of a mango, from orchard to plate

The journey of a mango, from orchard to plate, is a story of what’s wrong with India’s most romanticised fruit.

mango-main A girl having mango
Written by Uma Vishnu | New Delhi | Published on:July 20, 2014 1:00 am

Nyader Manauta is “small and dark” and, in the lookist world of mangoes where no one bothers about political correctness, “ugly”. But beneath its coarse skin is one of the most flavoursome fruits. “A man called Nyader from Manauta village grafted this variety on a whim. Is aam ki baat hi alag hain. Aap ek pe nahin rukenge (This mango is a class apart. You can’t stop with one),” says Shafiq Ahmed, a farmer in Hasanpur, the tehsil in Amroha district that is one of Uttar Pradesh’s three major mango belts, besides Saharanpur and Malihabad-Lucknow. The unremarkable Nyader Manauta stayed back in local mandis while its statuesque cousins — the Chausa, Langda and Dusseri — got loaded onto trucks and made the long journey to bigger markets in Delhi, Kolkata and Mumbai.

Till the Mughals first grafted mangoes, a practice they brought with them from Afghanistan, mangoes were just another summer fruit packed with nostalgia, to be plucked straight off the tree and bitten into, the juice running all the way down your arm. With grafting came the orchards, the first step towards commercialisation and large-scale production.

in July, it’s time for a harvest of Langda mangoes in July, it’s time for a harvest of Langda mangoes

Over the years, dominant varieties such as the Alphonso, Bagenpalli, Langda and Safeda survived while several others like the Nyader Manauta got left behind. The mango tree was no longer what it used to be. Now, there were many others between the mango tree and you — the orchard owner who usually has nothing to do with the mangoes on his land, the contractor who works on the orchard, the transporter who takes the fruit to the big markets, the commission agents or adhathiyas who control the network, the distributors and loaders and the masha khors who take the fruit to smaller retailers. By the time it completes this complex supply chain and lands on your plate, the mango has changed enough hands and is now a pricey fruit that sees vain fights over who should be anointed king — the Alphonsos of Maharashtra or Bagenpalli of Andhra Pradesh, the Malda varieties of West Bengal or the Dusseris, Langdas and Chausas.

In May, the mango is a tiny green fruit in an Amroha orchard In May, the mango is a tiny green fruit in an Amroha orchard

“When the 1956 zamindari abolition Act came into force, orchards were exempted. That saw a huge rush by the rich to convert their land into orchards. None of the mangoes now associated with the Moradabad-Amroha belt are intrinsic to that region. The Dusseri is from Malihabad (Lucknow) and the Langda from Banaras. When the new orchards came up in Amroha, they grafted these varieties and they turned out well. Also, since they are on the national highway …continued »

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