The first mangoes of the year come from this Kerala town: Muthalamada

Fascinating piece by Anubha George. Had no idea about this.

In Muthalamada, a Kerala town, mangoes are available from Feb onwards:

Muthalamada is about 27 kilometres from Palakkad and if you walk six kilometres ahead, you are across the border in Govindapuram, Tamil Nadu. Mango orchards take up 4,500 hectares of land here and the town exports Rs 200 crore-worth of varietals a year. “Mangoes are either exported to Gulf countries or Europe, or trucked to Delhi, Mumbai, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana,” Vijayan said.

It grows local varieties such as priyor (a less fibrous, juicy fruit that’s the first to flood the markets in Kerala); neelam (a fibrous, firm and juicy mango that goes for days without perishing); chandrakaaran (a small fragrant fruit that is either sucked or used to cook with); and moovandan (a pest-resistant mango used for the first pickle in the south). For the North Indian market, Muthalamada grows varietals such as alphonso, totapuri, malgova and banganapalli.

India’s close competitors in the market for mangoes are Peru and Venezuela, but Muthalamada’s harvest is ready as early in February – which, according to the farmers, is ahead of everywhere else.

The lack of water led to people shifting from paddy to mangoes:

But Muthalamada wasn’t always known for its mango farming – paddy is what has been traditionally grown here. Balakrishna Vinod, a paddy farmer, said that with time, most farmers are moving towards mango cultivation – “Paddy is not just labour and cost intensive, but above all, water intensive. There’s a shortage of water here now, so staple crop fields are being turned into cash crop ones.”

This water shortage is down to the water-sharing agreement between Kerala and Tamil Nadu under the Parambikulam-Aliyar Project, which was signed in 1958. “The PAP has been controversial and often Kerala doesn’t get its share of water,” said Balakrishna. “So when there isn’t enough rain, and no water, paddy farming is impossible.”

So much to learn and figure about the country. I have always believed one should start teaching about Indian economic history from Kerala rather than North India as is usually the case. They were first at so many things and even mangoes are part of the list now..

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