Miyazaki mangoes are no ordinary fruit. Christened Taiyo no Tamago (Egg of the Sun), the ruby-hued fruit originally grown in southern Japan’s Miyazaki Prefecture, is as dear as gold in the international market. A pair of mangoes were recently auctioned for $3000 (approximately Rs 2.5 lakh); buying a mango will usually set you back by $50.
A couple in Madhya Pradesh is now making news as they are growing the fruit in their orchard in Jabalpur. “It’s like jelly. You can eat it along with its peel. The pulp just melts in the mouth and is exceptionally sweet,” Sankalp Singh Parihar describes the Miyazaki mango.
Parihar and his wife Rani made headlines after they hired security guards and watchdogs to protect their orchards where the couple is growing Miyazaki mango trees. Despite the speculation about the exorbitant price of the mango, experts are divided on whether the fruit grown in India will meet the exacting standards of the international market. Many believe that the mango grown domestically may not fetch even Rs 5,000 in the Indian market.
However, it is not just the mangoes but the way Parihar purchased the saplings that drew everyone’s attention. “I was on my way to Chennai to purchase a variety of hybrid coconut plants. My reservation in the second AC, which was not confirmed, got bumped up to first-class where I met a person who was selling these saplings,” Parihar told the indianexpress.com.
The two got talking and soon the man offered Parihar a variety of plants. “He told me that the saplings belong to red, black and purple mangoes. I was really excited as I had never seen such a variety before,” he added. This is when Parihar decided to give the plants a try and bought around 100 plants for around 2.5 lakhs.
Once planted, it took over two to three years for the trees to bear fruits. “Out of the 100, the 52 plants that have survived are of six different varieties of the world’s most expensive mangoes,” Parihar claims. At present, there are around 4-5 purples mangoes and 10-12 red mangoes in Parihar’s orchard.
Parihar, however, has no plans of selling the fruit even though he was offered Rs 21,000 for a single mango. “Right now, the focus is to create more plants and dedicate an orchard to these trees alone,” he says. In the coming years, the couple plans to increase production to over 400-500 mangoes.
The Miyazaki mango is a type of “Irwin” mangoes known for their unique ruby red colour. Different from the yellow “pelican mango” that is widely grown in Southeast Asia, the Miyazaki mangoes have the second largest production in Japan after Okinawa. They have to pass strict standards before being distributed in the market, the Miyazaki Local Products and Trade Promotion Center stated.
In 2019, a pair of premium mangoes from Miyazaki Prefecture fetched a record ¥500,000 (INR 3,34,845) at a local wholesale market breaking the previous best of ¥400,000, The Japan Times reported. To qualify, the fruit has to meet strict criteria. Only those mangoes that fall off the tree are harvested. Of the harvested fruit, mangoes with the highest sugar content, weighing at least 350 grams with perfect, unblemished skin are considered the best quality.
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Madhya Pradesh agricultural department joint director Shri KS Netam, who visited the Parihars’ orchard, feels that though the fruit has high demand and fetches a good price in the international market, that may not be the case in the Indian market. Moreover, he adds that it is feasible to export the fruit only when grown in a controlled environment.
“The demand for these mangoes will increase in India as this variety has a keeping quality of over 10-15 days and can be exported. However, these should be grown in a poly greenhouse to get premium quality and maximum production,” Netam told the indianexpress.com
“If the fruit isn’t treated and grown in a controlled environment, then they will not bear more than 2-3 fruits, which is true for the couple in MP where each tree is producing only limited fruits. Such cultivation is not economical or profitable, especially in the export business.”
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According to Atlas Obscura, the hefty price tag of the fruit is partially due to the effort and care that goes into growing them. To get the perfect colour of the fruit, Japanese farmers surround the mangoes with small nets that allow sunlight to evenly hit the skin to get the ruby red colour as well as cushion them when it falls from the tree. Describing the taste as “mango candy with hints of pineapple and coconut”, the website adds that the fruit has very little fibrousness and is extremely juicy.
Commenting on the fruit’s price, Netam feels that though it is being promoted as the “most expensive mango”, the product may not sell at that rate in India.
“The couple is quoting the price of the mango as per the international market. The claims that the fruit is sold for over Rs 2 lakhs is not the situation in India. He (Parihar), at present, does not have many fruits to sell, which is why a market rate cannot be established. Moreover, since there is no competitor, the rate is being decided by Parihar and not on the basis of demand and supply.”
“We are only believing what he is telling us. None of us have tasted it. I feel the fruit may not even fetch more than 5-10,000 in India until and unless beneficial components are found in it,” he added.
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DR KK Saxena, former dean of Jawaharlal Nehru Krishi Vishwa Vidyalaya, Jabalpur suggests that until proper research is done on the mangoes, there is no way to confirm that they are the Miyazaki. “The fruit needs to be inspected to see whether it is a hybrid. Often farmers visit different locations and gather fruits and saplings from around the world. However, this may not mean that the fruit would bear the same quality and match the ones being exported or produced in Japan,” Saxena told the indianexpress.com
He further adds that the mango is neither listed nor recognised in India and needs to undergo a long scientific procedure before being acknowledged. “You can’t grow a few trees and claim it to be of a certain variety. The fruit needs to be tested and if it sustains under various climatic conditions only then it can be recognised.”