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Mangoes; Sweet Money If You Get The Mathematics Right!

by Joshua Kato
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Paddy Sagi has been growing mangoes for about 12 years now, having been initiated in 2010. He started with 50 seedlings that he bought at sh1,000 each. Today, there are about 250 mango trees on four acres of land at his Ngango I, Igorora estate. They include varieties like Billy, Tommy and Keith. Mangoes are planted at spacing of 21 by 21 feet to allow for good growth.

“I earn sh3m from mango sales in low season, which increases to sh5m during peak season, December to January, keeping other factors constant,” he says. But there are threats too,  For instance, the plantation was destroyed by hailstorm in 2020 which greatly impacted on output.

Background

The mango is a stone fruit produced from numerous species of tropical trees belonging to the flowering plant genus Mangifera, cultivated mostly for their edible fruit. Most of these species are found in nature as wild mangoes. Worldwide, there are several hundred cultivars of mango. Depending on the cultivar, mango fruit varies in size, shape, sweetness, skin colour, and flesh colour which may be pale yellow, gold, or orange.

Three types of mangoes common in Uganda include; Small canopy: Florigon, Glenn, Dancan, Early Gold, Erwin, Palmar, Palvin. Medium canopy and fairly early yielding varieties: Zillate, Pinero, Alfonso, Apple, Kent, Keitt, Tommy. Large canopy and fairly early yielding varieties: Boribo, Ssejjembe, Bire. Bire, Ssejjembe, Ssu and Kate are some of the local selections.

Growth requirements

Mangoes can be grown in most parts of Uganda. The mango is adapted to both tropical and subtropical conditions. Temperature range is 21- 25°C. Rainfall of at least 600 mm/year and an altitude of 1,500-2,000 m are ideal for the crop. The crop is intolerant to salty conditions. Farmers should carry out soil tests to determine salty levels in soils.  A dry period of at least three months is necessary for flowering. The tree requires plenty of sunshine for optimum growth and fruiting. Soils and site selection: Mangoes require deep soils with good drainage not necessarily fertile but mangoes can thrive in a wide range of soil types.

Land

Commercially, you can start with half an acre. You can lease or rent land to grow oranges or buy it for the purpose. Leasing or renting costs between sh700,000 to sh1m in most of the central region per year or about sh200,000 to sh400,000 in other parts of the country.

-Buying the land costs about sh25m per acre in the central region outside Kampala and Wakiso and about sh10m in other parts of the country.

-Avoid rocky places because they disturb root development, avoid stony or murram areas because in case of a storm, it will not withstand the storm. Swampy areas produce weak roots that may not support the mature tree.
-Mangoes do not do well in places with shade such as tree shades

-The soil should be sandy, loamy and deep.

-Remove natural vegetation and anthills from the land during land preparation. The two main methods for this are chemical application (use of weed masters, herbicides) and manual method (mechanical use of farm tools like pangas and tractors). This costs sh100,000 to sh150,000 per acre. Avoid bush burning as you end up killing lots of other useful bacteria as well as compromising soil pH and nutrients.

Spacing

 Mango spacing depends on the rainfall pattern and soil fertility.  If soils are fertile, then plant more trees. In Uganda, the recommended spacing for optimum plant population is 8m x 8m (24x24feet) giving 60 plants per acre. This means that at sh2,000 a seedling, you need sh1.2m for the seedlings alone.

Watering

 When planting is done during low rainfall season, the young plants should be watered at least once a week to avoid drying. It is also advisable to give water during flowering, where possible, to avoid flower abortion. Watering after fruit set reduces fruit abortion and increases fruit size. A tree needs about 3litres per week. If you invest in direct irrigation, you need at least sh10m per acre as a one-off expense however if you sink a deep well and manually use watering cans or flooding method, the cost is lower. A deep well costs sh4m as a one-off expense while using men to water the trees per week may cost sh50,000.

Fertiliser requirements

Apply manure once a year at the beginning of the rainy season. Put at least 2 placements of  (eddebe or cut jerrycan) of at least 5kgs per tree, applied around one metre from the tree. For artificial fertilizers, put about 1 plastic tumpeco around the tree at least every after three months. Avoid putting too much nitrogen fertilizers to your mango plants during productive stage.  This costs between sh1-2m per year.

Common mango diseases and pests
Agronomist say fruit fly is the major pest that attacks the mangoes. These insects lead to loss of 80 per cent of the orchard. It is highly recommended that the affected fruits be removed and buried immediately. For an acre, you can buy at least six fruit fly traps. Each costs sh20,000 which makes sh120,000.

Risk factors

Some losses arising from rotting are experienced where fruits are kept in farm storage for a number of days. This specifically happens in situations where traders give the impression that they prefer fruits that had spent some time in farm storage because the skin would develop some resistance to breakage and, thus minimize damage during transportation.

When are the fruits ready for harvesting?

Maturity Period: 12 – 16 weeks after fruit set

 Some indicators of maturity include:

– Well developed hedges

– Skin changes from green to yellow

–  Sugar content increases. Farmer can find this out by tasting some of the fruits

• Do not knock or drop the fruits. Fruits should be harvested with 3 – 4 cm stalk  

-Drain the latex from the fruits by turning them upside down.

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