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Pakistani mango growers slice into Indian market

Rajbah Chawan, Pakistan -- Pakistani mango growers are hoping to take a slice out of rival India's export market thanks to tough new European regulations.

The sweet yellow fruit is a contentious matter regionally, with both countries proclaiming it a national treasure and fighting over whose specimens are superior.

Economically, at least, mango exports are one area where Pakistan appears to have a slight edge.

According to respective official figures, Pakistan last year exported around 100,000 tonnes for a revenue of US$48.6 million over India's 56,000 tonnes for US$44.6 million.

But a European Union (EU) ban on India's prized Alphonsos, known as the “King of Fruits,” has presented Pakistan with a chance to widen the gap.

The embargo came into force on May 1 after many shipments were found to contain fruit flies and also affected four types of vegetable.

For Raja Ijaz Ahmed Noon, parliamentary secretary for Pakistan's breadbasket Punjab province, improving farming standards and learning where India went wrong is critical to cashing in.

“We are taking this development as positive. We are trying to learn from the mistake which India has made,” he said.

Noon was speaking after a seminar of 50 landowner-farmers at a fruit-farm 40 kilometers northeast of the central city of Multan to learn new methods of protecting mangoes from hazardous insects.

“We have a potential to export 40 percent of our total production of mangoes and this year we will try to improve our exports up to 16 percent,” he told AFP.

Sex-traps and Hot Baths

Syed Ismat Hussain, a senior pest control official, said his department was visiting farms and orchards to spread the word about the lucrative profits available if Pakistan can continue to meet EU standards.

“Fruit fly hasn't only affected India but has threatened our orchards also. So we have devised simple but scientific methods to control it,” he said.

Experts are busy hanging plastic bowls on mango trees that are laced with chemicals that mimic female-fly pheromones to attract males.

“The holes are for the flies to enter, but they never fly out,” said Hussain. The so-called sex-trap is fast becoming an industry standard.

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In this photograph taken on May 11, mangoes hang on a tree at a fruit farm 40 kilometers northeast of the central Pakistani city of Multan. (AFP)

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