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India No.1: Mango country

author Aarthi Ramachandran
13 Apr 2023 | 04:16 PM


India No.1: Mango country

author Aarthi Ramachandran
13 Apr 2023 | 04:16 PM

If there is one fruit that immediately comes to mind when we think of India, it is the mango. The botanical name for mango, mangifera indica, is a nod to its birthplace, the region around Myanmar and north eastern India where the fruit is supposed to have originated. Not just that, the word ‘mango’ is a derivative of the Tamil and Malayalam ‘mangai/manga’, adopted by Portuguese traders coming to India in the 15th Century for the spice trade.

Mangoes have been cultivated in India for over 4,000 years. It’s not surprising then that it’s far more than just a fruit in the Indian subcontinent. It is a part and parcel of life. Not just something to be eaten and relished alone, it has found its way into poetry and literature, religion and art, culture, and even pop culture!

Graphics: Aseem Damudi

Sweet connection

Mango leaves adorn the doorways of many Hindu homes and the shape of the mango has become integral to the Indian visual art lexicon. The shape of the mango can be found in sculpture, architecture and textiles. Just think of the quintessential paisley shape so commonly found on saree borders and other apparel.  

Mangoes being harvested at farm in Maharashtra. Photo: Sahyadri Farms

Mango permeates all aspects of Indian life, not least of which is food itself. Mango-based recipes abound, whether sweet or savoury ranging from chutneys, pickles and relishes to halwas, barfis and aamras or juices. There are other foods where mango is used either as the souring agent (amchur) or the main ingredient (mango rice, mango pachadi etc.) 

And yet, if you ask the average Indian what their most favourite way of eating mango is, chances are that you will hear that they love it just as it is. Ripe and ready to be devoured whole with the skin on or without it. 

Great variety

Given this love affair with the mango, is it any surprise that India is the world’s number one producer of mango and also its top consumer? India grows about half of the world’s mangoes—it grew about 21 million tonnes in 2022. The biggest mango-growing states are Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. While India is home to a mind-boggling 1,000 varieties of the fruit both wild and cultivated, a few varieties dominate in the market.

There is the alphonso, which is considered the king of mangoes, and is among the most exported varieties. Other popular mango varieties are kesar, langra, chausa and dussheri. But this is a far from exhaustive list. There is a mango for each region in India and each could quite legitimately lay claim to being the best and tastiest.

Unrealised potential

Despite all the mango mania, India does not export a lot of the fruit. It exported just 28,000 tonnes of fresh mangoes in 2021-22. The Middle East accounts for most of these exports. But India could emerge as a big mango exporter to the European Union in the coming years according to a recent report of the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations. 

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