Dwindling harvests, a drop in demand and export supply chains hit by the Coronavirus are biting into Pakistan's mango industry. Across Pakistan's "mango belt" in Punjab and Sindh provinces, farmers say a long winter and changing rain patterns have slashed production by up to half this year – just as COVID-19 lockdowns led to trade restrictions and spiralling export costs.
"There are multiple problems that mango farmers are facing," said Rana Muhammad Azim, whose family has been producing the fruit in Punjab for generations. "The situation is extremely worrisome for us. The mangoes are ready, but no exporter is willing to take the risk and place orders," he said, adding that he was already suffering from a 40 percent decline in the harvest.
Pakistan produced more than 1.5 million tonnes of mangoes in 2019 – and exported a record 115,000 tonnes worth US$80 million – making it the sixth-largest exporter of the fruit in the world.
The fruit also helps sweeten diplomatic relations, with Pakistan sending crates of its best produce to India's prime minister every year, regardless of the political climate between the hostile neighbours. With much of the world's air traffic grounded by the coronavirus, exports of the best prime, ripe fruit by plane to the US and Europe have been particularly hard hit, but ground transport has also been badly affected.