Illegal ripening charge hits the ‘king of fruits’

Tiruchi district has 1,933 hectares under mango cultivation with at least five tonnes being produced in a year | Photo Credit: File Picture

The city’s grocers are beginning to stack their shelves with mangoes, often nicknamed the ‘king of fruits’. With customers willing to pay premium prices, many mango farmers and traders are bending the rules to cash in on the soaring demand.

Already hit by a delay in flowering due to last year’s excessive rain, mango farmers have begun to sell immature fruit that are artificially ripened.

Recently, officials from the Food Safety and Drug Administration Department seized and destroyed 4,500 kilos of chemically ripened Banganapalli and Sendhoor mangoes from two fruit stores in Gandhi Market. “Many traders simply want to see a quick profit during the summer months when mangoes are in demand,” R. Ramesh Babu, Designated Officer, Food Safety and Drug Administration, told The Hindu. “They spray the fruits with ethylene gas to speed up the ripening process, which is banned. A plucked mango ripens naturally in two to three days; the spraying reduces this time considerably, and also frees up storage space in godowns,” said the official.

Tiruchi district has 1,933 hectares under mango cultivation, covering Marungapuri, Manapparai, Vaiyyampatti and Anthanallur, besides smaller orchards in other parts. The region is known for Neelam, Imam Pasand and Banganapalli varieties, with at least five tonnes being produced in a year.

“This year’s season is dull because of the delayed flowering. While the larger orchards may be able to make up the yield, rain-fed mango mango cultivation in areas like Marungapuri will be hit,” said a Tiruchi Horticulture Department official.

Government horticulture departments stress on natural ripening using hay, he added.

Farmers should learn to become businessmen and sell their produce directly to consumers in order to break the cycle of illegal ripening, said Prabhuram Rajagopal, president, Tamil Nadu Mango Growers’ Federation.

“Due to the erratic nature of the monsoon, and the demand from places like Bengaluru and Mumbai, farmers have started harvesting mangoes that are just 60% ripe. Since an A-class consignment can fetch at least ₹1500 per kilo, farmers, middlemen and harvest contractors are plucking them early and ripening them artificially. The irony is that while a mature mango will naturally ripen in two to three days, fruits that have been harvested early will take at least 15 days to change their colour. Calcium carbide and ethylene are being used to quicken this process. It is a crime to artificially ripen immature fruit,” he said.

Deep borewells had increased the salinity of the water used to irrigate the mango orchards of Krishnagiri and Dharmapuri, said Mr. Rajagopal. “Farmers have to opt for rootstocks that can tolerate salt, otherwise mango cultivation will decline drastically in the next decade or so.”

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Printable version | May 5, 2022 4:34:19 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Tiruchirapalli/illegal-ripening-charge-hits-the-king-of-fruits/article65384327.ece