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A Miyazaki miracle in Rajasthan

Rakhee Roy Talukdar | Updated on July 09, 2021

Ruby red: The Miyazaki mango has 15 per cent more sugar than other varieties   -  IMAGE COURTESY: Shreekishan Suman

They are his most precious treasure at the moment. Award winning cultivator Shreekishan Suman on growing the world’s most expensive mango variety in the Indian desert state

* Away from media glare, three small saplings are being nurtured in a small orchard in Girdharpura, about 15 km from Kota

* Its flaming red appearance, extremely sweet taste and amazing texture make the Miyazaki mango an exclusive variety

* Suman has also propagated the sadabahar variety which fruits throughout the year

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It’s the world’s most expensive mango, sometimes fetching as much as ₹2.7 lakh for a kg. The fabled Miyazaki mangoes from the Kyushu island in Japan— resembling large red eggs — have been trending in India ever since news broke that an orchardist couple in Madhya Pradesh who were growing it had employed four security personnel and six dogs to guard the fruiting tree.

 

However, the Miyazaki mango magic is now set to unfold a little away from Madhya Pradesh as well, in the barren deserts near Kota in Rajasthan. Here, away from media glare, three small saplings are being nurtured in a small orchard in Girdharpura, about 15 km from India’s coaching hub.

Evergreen show: Shreekishan Suman was awarded the Farm Innovation Award in 2017 for propagating the sadabahar   -  IMAGE COURTESY: Shreekishan Suman

 

Tending to these saplings is farmer and horticulturalist Shreekishan Suman, well known in agricultural circles as the creator of sadabahar — an evergreen variety of mango that fruits throughout the year.

Three Miyazaki mango saplings were given to Suman by his friend Siddharth Rai who procured it from Thailand at a nominal price three years ago. The three plants, originally from Japan, have grown to about four feet over the past three years in Suman’s orchard, gaining a foot a year, and bearing three fruits each.

“These are like my most precious treasure at the moment and I am guarding them on my own along with my family members, unlike the orchard owners in Madhya Pradesh who have hired guards,” says Suman. “Not many here know that I too have the world’s most expensive variety in my orchard,” he adds. “By the time I am able to grow more saplings by grafting and re-grafting, I may need to hire armed guards too,” Suman says.

Its flaming red appearance, extremely sweet taste — it has 15 per cent more sugar than other varieties — and amazing texture make the Miyazaki mango an exclusive variety. It has a jelly-like pulp and an edible peel. A kilogram of Miyazaki mangoes can cost anywhere between ₹21,000 and ₹2.7 lakh in the international market, says Suman.

The mango nicknamed ‘Egg of the Sun’ commands such an exorbitant price as buyers bidding on behalf of large distributors, offer high amounts as an incentive to encourage farmers, according to a report on the website stickymangorice.com

The sadabahar

Before the Miyazaki came along, Suman’s heart was set on the sadabahar. He was awarded the Farm Innovation Award in 2017 at the ninth Biennial Grassroots Innovation and Outstanding Traditional Knowledge event for propagating the sadabahar cultivar. The tree blooms throughout the year and flowers thrice annually, producing fruit in clusters, says Suman. . Pottering around in his organic orchard, it has taken Suman 15 years of hard work — grafting and experimenting with mango saplings — to finally create the sadabahar dwarf variety.

At the request of the Gandhinagar-based National Innovation Foundation, an organisation promoting grassroots technological innovators and traditional knowledge, Suman did not sell the sadabahar saplings for 11 years. During this period, a scientific team studied the growth of his saplings in various parts of the country and verified his claims. Only after their go-ahead, did he start selling this cultivar. Sadabahar gives a higher yield, fruits throughout the year and has a sweet taste with a deep orange and less fibrous pulp. It is resistant to the mango malformation fungal disease.

At his orchard spread over nearly 70,000 sq ft, over 1,500 mother plants of sadabahar have been planted during the pandemic last year. They have also been exported to the US, besides finding a place in the presidential estate — the Rashtrapati Bhavan. The total production of sadabahar mangoes from these saplings can go up to 2 to 2.5 quintal annually, and the saplings are priced between ₹1,700 and ₹5,000, depending on the maturity of the sapling and how soon it begins to fruit.

But now with the Miyakazi saplings being nurtured in his orchard, Suman’s attention is divided. The Japanese cultivators grow them in a greenhouse, encasing each mango with small nets. The budding fruits are enmeshed to ensure they get maximum nutrients and are not damaged when they fall to the ground. Suman, however, is not growing them in a greenhouse, but in the open orchard.

While the Covid-related lockdowns derailed the supply of mango saplings in April and May, fortunately the orders kept pouring in from various parts of India, says Suman. “What I found heartening in this pandemic is that people made advance payments of up to ₹ one lakh to me, despite the lockdown and uncertainty about its transportation.” The goodwill and trust Suman had built over the years in the mango trade proved crucial.

“Now with unlocking, the supplies to Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Kerala and Chhattisgarh have resumed. We are also supplying to the smaller orchard owners,” says Suman.

A full-fledged Miyakazi harvest may still be a while away. But Suman assures the evergreens will keep coming.

Rakhee Roy Talukdar is an independent journalist based in Jaipur

Published on July 07, 2021

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