Fragrance of mangoes in air at Muthalamada
Mango orchards spread in 45,000 hectares in this village panchayat, sharing border with Tamil Nadu, have started bustling with activity this week with popular varieties of mangoes in the ripening phase.
Muthalamada is the biggest centre of mango production in the entire country and its varieties are the early birds, which reach the world market much before the mangoes mature in the gardens of the competitors in Peru and Venezuela.
Exports of mangoes alone are worth Rs.200 crore per season in this otherwise sleepy region of Palakkad. The recent decision of European Union to lift the seven-month-old ban on Indian mangoes has come as a major relief for the mango growers in Muthalamada and many have bumper harvest this time.
“Exporters have already started flocking our villages. The yield is high this time while comparing with the previous years. While comparing with other mango hubs in the country, harvesting begins first in Muthalamada by February end every year and the season continues till July end,’’ says Mohan Kumar, general secretary of Muthalamada Mango Merchants Association.
In each mango orchard, temporary workers can be seen plucking mangoes meant for exports under the strict watch of contractors. Numerous trucks can be seen rushing in and out of the mango tree gardens carrying farm fresh mangoes to the wholesale markets. Strict quality control is in place for mangoes meant for Gulf and European countries.
In the face of allegations that the orchards use heavy doses of pesticides, many have come up this time with organically cultivated mangoes with a high price tag.
According to environmentalist S. Guruvayurappan, Muthalamada produces almost all the best and most sought-after varieties of mangoes in India — Alphonso, Neelam, Mallika, Malgova, Chenthooram, etc — and all have overwhelming demand in the external market.
Muthalamada mangoes are also getting wide acclaim for their flavour, taste, and juiciness.
P.K. Haneefa, secretary of the Mango Farmers Association, said the panchayat had over 600 contractors, 36 registered exporters, and 20 mango-parking facilities.
They provide jobs to a minimum of 15,000 people in a season as pluckers, sorters, and packers. A number of mango lovers from areas around Palakkad are also reaching Muthalamada now to buy their preferred varieties direct from farms.