Mangoes are a favorite summer delicacy in Pakistan. Mainly grown in Punjab and Sindh provinces, they are known as “the king of fruits”. Several varieties of the crop exist in the country, including Chaunsa, Sindhri, Dasehri and Anwar Retol. Although they are mainly eaten fresh, mangoes are also used to prepare chutneys, jams and pickles.
Pakistan is one of the world’s top mango producers. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, the country produced approximately 2 million tons in 2011. Recently, Pakistan has begun exporting mangoes to the US—the biggest and arguably most lucrative market for the fruit. The first consignment, sent to Houston and Dallas– two cities with large Pakistani-American communities– sold out within a few hours of reaching stores . Future consignments will be sent to New York City as well.
The export of mangoes to the US is substantially due to the US government’s continuing engagement with Pakistan’s mango sector. Over the last few years, USAID has invested $5.8 million in Pakistan’s mango production, providing the means for new infrastructure and marketing assistance to help farmers sell their products globally. In addition, $1.6 million have been invested to help small and medium sized farms develop commercially feasible fresh and dried mango businesses. Through this program, twenty-six mango orchards have received the global GAP certification required for exports to high-end markets. Fifteen on-farm mango-processing facilities have been established. 2,500 jobs have been created and 3,700 farmers have been trained in the process. Consequently, mango exports to the international market have increased fivefold and sales have increased by around $20.5 million.
In his remarks at the 2013 Annual Mango Conference and Festival held in Islamabad, Pakistan’s Commerce Secretary Qasim Niaz stated: “We are thankful to the U.S. government for their support to mango growers and producers that has led to increased productivity and jobs for Pakistani people. A relationship that is based on trade, not just aid, is one that we will look forward to in our relationship with the United States.”
Farm House Exports (Pvt) Ltd, a Karachi based company, is undertaking the current venture. In an interview with The Express Tribune, the company’s director, Naveed Nadir, said that all the necessary arrangements—including the US import certificate and the shipment—were completed in just three months. Commenting on the inspiration behind the venture, Nadir said: “It all started when a Pakistani American told my partner three months ago that the Pakistani community wants to taste Pakistani mangoes. And, that he should do something. My partner and I took it as a challenge and we finally succeeded in our goal.”
One of the factors that had caused earlier attempts to export Pakistani mangoes to the US to fail was the country’s food safety regulations. The US authorities prefer that the irradiation process—a technology to eliminate disease-causing germs from food—be completed within the US. Farm House Exports is completing this process in Houston, which makes their venture economically feasible. The company’s success in fulfilling US safety requirements provides hope that other Pakistani exporters will be able to do the same. This season, the company plans to export over 100 tons of mangoes to the US.
The efforts of Pakistani companies such as Farm House Export and USAID’s assistance to the country’s mango sector will allow American consumers to enjoy the unique flavors of Pakistani mangoes. It also serves as an example of the deepening of economic ties between the two countries.