Muthalamada in Chittur taluk, known as the ‘Mango city' of the State for its early mango harvest and large-scale export, is going hi-tech in sorting, grading, ripening, packing and export of mangoes.

The first modern facility for mango processing and export in the State — Chittur Agro Park — began functioning in Muthalamada last week with technical support from the Indian Institute of Horticulture Research, Bangalore.

The Horticulture Mission Kerala has recognised it as a model unit for process and export of mangoes. The National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) has provided financial assistance to set up the Rs. 50-lakh Agro Park. Mango growers can bring their product here and get them sorted, graded, ripened and packed for export or to send it to cities like Mumbai and Delhi for a good price.

The Agro Park employs ethylene-based ripening , which is recognised internationally as a safe method for ripening fruits. The Park has ripening and pre-cooling chambers. This mangoes can be kept for three weeks without damage, said Becker Palliparambil, exporter of mangoes to the Gulf countries and the persons behind the new Agro Park.

He said four tonnes of mangoes can be ripened at a time. The park will function round the clock during the season to benefit the farmers of Muthalamada and other places.

Mango growers here had been using a lot of chemical pesticides to kill fruit flies, which rupture the outer skin of the fruit to lay eggs. When the eggs hatch, the larvae feed on the pulp of the ripe fruit. Deputy Director of Agriculture Department (Horticulture Mission) Jose Varghese says these insects can be effectively controlled by the new methods used in the Agro Park.

At present, calcium carbide is widely used for ripening mango. In this case, the acetylene gas liberated is highly carcinogenic. This has to be strictly avoided. To get more orders and good prices in national and international markets, mango should be organically cultivated and ripened, he said.

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