Commentary • Number 876 • Friday, August 12, 2011

90% of Nevis mangoes go to waste
By Clinton Swanstoni
Share |

As I sampled a mango from the backyard I was happily impressed with the taste and questioned myself as to why I've never tried that tree before. It was deliciously awesome through to the seed.

Clean, juicy, sweet, and an absolute delicacy. Hundreds had rotted and others were in no condition to be eaten. I'm sure thousands more perished from those trees. It has been a tremendous waste. Driving through the villages and around the island, multiple amounts of yellow and green mangoes are seen on trees and even more on the ground beneath.

Some roads are dirty with crushed mangoes, skins and seeds. It truly sickens. Nevis mango season is a time of plenty, more and even more than plenty mangoes. Sadly, with so many around there is very little or no scope for selling. Often times people refuse any offer for the same reason, too many mangoes around, everyone has. Nevisians tell you straight up, if is not amory pollies, I don't want them. We seem to eat two or three different types of mangoes and therefore the others are ignored. Brazier syrup, round ball, polly, long mango, rosy cheeks, teenie, grafted, julie, are just a few of the species available. I'm not sure if the name "amory pollie" has anything to do with the taste but most people crave for that type while most others are rejected without even tasting. It is awesome! It seems that the pigs and monkeys also have ignored the mangoes this year and it has been an enormous waste.

This begs for the question, what can be done to benefit more from our mangoes? Our mangoes are highly rated and I know they are accepted in neighboring islands, including the USVI. Our mangoes are healthy and right here for the taking. Is this an opportunity for an investor?
Is the agriculture department truly at work on this? What about tourism and what role can they play in making an impact with one of our most natural resources?

I am reminded that about four years ago our agriculture department returned to invest in cotton production. Many, with the possible exception of the agriculture minister, knew it would not be a successful adventure. Cotton generation and the entire process were abandoned in Nevis about 50 years ago and it was fool hardy to think it would work in 2007. Our rocky soil, our higher standards of living, the man power for this type of hard work, all was too challenging to make economical sense. However, cotton was re-tried and it failed. Our mangoes come annually and reaping is a simple task. The opportunities to make it into a worthwhile enterprise must be investigated, established, invested into and brought to fruition. What are our collective minds doing?

Can we create and preserve mango products on a large scale and use or export them in order to boost our economy and also help to eliminate this wanton wastage? If we package our mangoes, export, put it in our supermarkets and label them as a Nevis product, would it be profitable?

How will it improve our health life styles replacing some of the imported "junk foods" that we so often devour? I have a haunch that if we get these mangoes preserved and packaged, they will disappear off the supermarket shelves.

I can attest to the fact that our children of today think it a challenge to eat mangoes and probably will not eat much. A fancy name with an American label might do the trick. After all, we now live with innovative situations.

Another thing that baffles me is the fact that our agriculture department does not initiate a healthy measure to export our mangoes. I wrote about this matter some years ago and was congratulated by one hierarchy within that department. There is a procedure for exporting mangoes and it makes it rather challenging for most individuals to send our mangoes off island. It certainly is not co-operative or export friendly.

One has to get the mangoes inspected and clearance given to export. It cost $5 and one has to take the produce to the agriculture department at Prospect in order to get this done. The major problem comes on weekends and holidays when the office at Prospect is closed. Yet! We claim to thrive and encourage agriculture and exporting. With thousands of mangoes wasting, couldn't there be an ease for allowing mangoes to be exported? Couldn't someone be stationed at the airport to facilitate the weekend and holiday travelers? Where is the wisdom?

We travel to St. Croix annually for the Agricultural Fair and claim to encourage agricultural exchanges, why can't the week-end return home Nevisian be allowed to take mangoes back to St. Croix? I speak about St. Croix because I know first-hand the hassle given here to take mangoes there and the glee and ease in which the agricultural officials and inspectors there receive our mangoes at that port. It is never a problem, never a hassle.

On the contrary, officials at our airport seem overjoyed in saying “you can’t take them with you unless you have a certificate”. Our mangoes therefore remain here to be trampled and perish.

Nevertheless, I must commend those entrepreneurs and others who make positive use of our mangoes in so many ways, even though 90% go to waste.

Our government needs off get off their laurels and do something positive about our mangoes. With so much going to waste while we import mango drinks and juices among other liquids for consumption, it makes absolute sense in seriously doing something positive about our mangoes. They will only need to be collected and taken to a facility capable of making good use of them.

There must be countries that can be approached to help us in this endeavor. What about Taiwan, Japan and those industrial countries that can help us? It is time we make the effort to make good use of our mangoes. Or, could it be that payoffs to ministers are not readily attractive?