x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Farms urged to plant mangoes, lemons

The UAE provides a good environment for mangoes, which need deep soil for their extensive root systems.

Judges inspect lemons and mangoes during the Liwa Date Festival.
Judges inspect lemons and mangoes during the Liwa Date Festival.

LIWA // The mango and citrus plantations on Fujairah's coastline could soon be facing stiffer competition as farmers across the country are encouraged to increase their production.

As the Liwa Date Festival introduced both fruits to its competitions a few days ago, hundreds of mangoes were gathered from farms in Liwa, Ras al Khaimah, Abu Dhabi and Al Ain.

The UAE provides a good environment for mangoes, which need deep soil for their extensive root systems.

"The sandy soil in the UAE makes it very suitable for mango trees to grow," said Dr Ahmad Fathallah El-Shiekh, a fruit specialist at the Ministry of Environment and Water in Fujairah. "It allows water to access the tree's root system much easier than clay soil and the high humidity in Fujairah is also key for their growth."

The fruit is native to southern Asia, but it is also found in eastern Asia, eastern and northern Africa and Florida. There are thousands of different types with colours ranging from green to yellow with red cheeks.

"There is no best type of mango in the world," Dr El-Shiekh said. "Every country has a different best type and it varies according to people's taste buds".

"But for example, in Egypt, the best variety is Awais because it's not watery, it has a high amount of sugar, its pulp colour is very orange and its skin colour is yellowish green which is perfect".

He said the texture of the mango was also firm, even when ripe. Ideally, there should be 26 per cent of sugar in a good mango.

Of the UAE's 140,000 mango trees, around half are on the east coast of Fujairah because of its suitable humidity and temperature. The environment ministry works with 25 different cultivars, local and imported, including Zebda, Taimour and Alphonso.

"People are trying to make mangoes even more popular in the UAE by planting their seed in the ground to increase their production," said Dr Oda Eshkandi, the head of the date palms and fruits department at the Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority's experimental station in Al Ain. "They're seeking to establish it in the country and get farmers more involved in the process".

Last year, the environment ministry launched a two-year programme to help protect mango trees from disease and now the festival is doing its part to raise the fruit's popularity with Emirati farmers.

Mubarak al Qusaili, the head of the festival's judging committee, said this year's event would serve as the "gate to discover all the necessary information on mangoes and lemons".

The ideal mango is meant to be clean, undamaged and free from pests and infections. Inspectors look for sweetness and the fruit's overall flavour.

"It must be free from fibres or contain edible fibres that you can determine once you taste the fruit," said Dr El-Shiekh. "The volume of the fruit matters too, for instance, European countries tend to like mangoes below 2 kilos".

Judges at the festival announced relatives of the late Abdullah Ali al Muhairi as winners of the best local mango contest, taking a Dh25,000 prize. Mohammed Khalfan al Muhrizi won second place with Dh20,000 and Mohammed bin Saqr al Falahi received Dh15,000 in third spot.

Mohammed Khalfan al Muhrizi also won the first place in the international mango grown in the UAE category and received Dh25,000. Hassan Ali al Mazimi was announced second with Dh20.000 and third place went to Mohammed Issa al Mansouri with Dh15,000.

cmalek@thenational.ae