MULTAN: With the advent of the rainy season, mango festivals and feasts become a staple feature of South Punjab. The sweet fruits produced in the province are revered within the country and abroad. In other words, attempting to define South Punjab without mentioning mangoes is impossible.
Mango orchards are located on thousands of acres in South Punjab. In terms of cultivation, Multan is at the top with mango orchards located on over 31,000 hectares. Not far behind are Rahim Yar Khan, Muzaffargarh and Khanewal with orchards located on 26,000 hectares, 19,000 hectares and 14,000 hectares respectively.
Mango festivals have been formally organised in Multan since 2016. The aim of the event is to provide locals with a recreational activity and to promote the ‘king of fruits’ at a national and international level.
“Scores of ambassadors from different countries are invited to the festival every year,” said Muhammad Nawaz Sharif University of Agriculture Multan (MNSUA) Vice Chancellor Dr Asif Ali. The varsity hosts a mango festival every year.
The main purpose of inviting ambassadors is to introduce them to the exotic taste of local mangoes. Similarly, people also visit the mango orchards for recreation which is important for promoting tourism in the region, he maintained. Over 100 varieties of mangoes are put on display during the festival. In 2019, the festival will be organised on July 5, he said. Usually at mango festivals, there is a cooking competition, where students from different varsities prepare different dishes using the fruit, he said. Students come up with new and unique dishes which are lauded by locals and other visitors, he said.
Similarly, the mango festival yields positive results as it offers a platform for growers, where they are able interact and share their knowledge and experiences.
Growers are able to learn from the festival, the vice chancellor said. Some of them are able to enhance their income by improving different aspects of the cultivation process such as orchard management, packing and identification of high-end markets.
“The farmers are taking an interest in marketing their produce,” he maintained. Earlier, they used to sell their produce to middlemen and contractors, earning a significantly lesser amount. Now, they have begun to market their fruits and have also introduced their own brands, he explained.
And customers are ready to pay more for the fruits as they prefer the quality and the presentation, he said.
Mango feasts, enjoyed by scores of families, are also a common sight in the district. Hordes of people throng swimming pools and tube wells to enjoy large feasts featuring locally produced mangoes.