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Devgad’s farmer co-op society of Alphonso mango farmers in Maharashtra expands online

Originally Published in The Economic Times Here
Prachee Kulkarni, ET Bureau Mar 28, 2013, 07.52 PM IST

 

Pune: In a unique example of modern technology connecting to farms, the co-operative society of Alphonso mango farmers in Maharashtra’s Devgad taluka is expanding its online ordering initiative devgadmango.com. Two years ago it started exploring e-commerce to take Alphonso mangoes directly from its farms to customers. The society is targeting a sale of Rs 1 crore this season from the online model, up from Rs 5 lakh it achieved in the test phase.

Devgad, located the offshore Arabian Sea, comprises 70 villages, whose major breadwinner is the Alphonso mango trade. Alphonso is grown on 45,000 acres in Devgad and reaches 50,000 tonnes in a year of decent production. This year the farmers are staring at a lean period in production and the taluka is scheduled to reach about 30 percent of its normal production.

The society, now in its 25th year, has 700 Alphonso mango farmers as its members. It is the largest and oldest co-operative society among mango farmers in the country. This is the first time any group or co-operative society of those who otherwise depend on mandis to sell their produce – is venturing online in a direct-to-home initiative. The society has also appointed a chief marketing officer, a newly created position and also the first such in a farmers’ co-operative society, to lead the online initiative.

The online portal serves a dual purpose for the farmers; first, they are able to maintain quality control and are also able to generate judicious returns for their produce, Adv. Ajit Gogate, founder, director and chairman of Devgad Taluka Amba Utpadak Sahakari Sanstha Ltd said. The farmers are also able to fast recover the money, either before or within two days of the sale, unlike in the traditional system where it takes nothing less than 6 months for them to get their money. The taluka generates about Rs 130 crore annually from the sale of Alphonso mango alone. Fishing and tourism are other sources of income in Devgad, raking in a fraction of that from Alphonso mango.

Gogate said the society decided to explore the online medium in February 2011, when bad weather wiped out 80 percent of the mango crop. “The idea then was to maximize returns from whatever crop our farmers would be able to salvage.” “However, customers gave an encouraging response. Many were buying a fake ‘Devgad’ Alphonso mango from the market for years, but realized the authentic taste only from the fruit they bought from us,” he added.

The society then decided to focus on the online model and strengthen various processes like payments, mango purchases, deliveries and storage in Pune, the first city it explored in 2011.

The society now wants to create a model in e-commerce for perishable products like fruits and wants to share it free with any other co-operative society of farmers who wants to create a similar model for whatever they produce.

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Nine-Year Journey of The Devgad Mango

 

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Order Alphonso Mangoes

You know it takes nine months for a human being to be born. Did you know it takes the same number of years for your Devgad Alphonso Mango to take birth? We are sure you didn’t, did you? You and patrons like you have loved the Devgad Alphonso Mango for years, but many of you were curious about how divine fruit grows. So we thought as we prepare for the mango season 2017, we should take you through the nine-year journey that your favorite Devgad Alphonso Mango goes through before it comes to you as a juicy fruit. Read on to know the Journey of The Devgad Mango.

Well, one fact to start with. Devgad Mango does not grow out of a seed. If you plant the seed after eating a Devgad Mango fruit, you will get a mango tree, but it will bear mango fruits of a different variety and taste. The journey of the Devgad Mango begins as a small twig cut out from the mother plant… like this…

Mango Seed Grafting

It is then grafted on to a stem that has grown out of a mango seed of a sturdy variety…. like this… Some times one twig is planted into a combination of two stems from two seeds…

Mango Grafting

The graft is then tied up and wrapped with plastic tape, neatly covering it from all sides, like below. It is similar to tying up a wound of a human being or an animal and needs similar care.

Mango Tree Grafting

It is planted into a plastic bag and put under intensive care for the next four years…

Mango Grafts

It is kept in the bag for some months and then planted into a tin-can until it grows to a height of about 5 feet till about the fourth year. Only three out of five survive till the fourth year. In the fourth year, the bags are cut out and the little tree is planted in the orchard. Only four out of five survive till the sixth year till they become like this…

Mango Tree

Over the next three-four years, the tree needs good care, with regular pruning so that it grows sideways, equally all around, like this

Watering Mango Tree

Around the end of the eight-year, the tree starts to blossom, like this…

Mango Tree Bloom

and this…

Mango Tree Bloom

A Devgad Mango tree in full bloom looks like this…

Mango Tree Bloom

It starts bearing good fruit since the ninth year. Since its a grafted tree and well maintained, you have fruits hanging between 0 to 25 feet from the ground, like this..

Devgad Alphonso Mango

and this…

Devgad Mango

and this…

Devgad Hapus

The maturity of a Devgad Mango is defined in India’s traditional ‘anna’ system of currency, where 16 annas make up a rupee. A ’16 anna Devgad Mango’ is a 100% mature mango. Devgad Alphonso fruits are harvested at 14 anna level of maturity, by expert harvesters, who have acquired, by experience, the skill of identifying mature fruits from distances that can go as long as 25 feet. The fruit is harvested using a tool called as ‘zela’ in the local language. It is a loose nylon-net basket held by a metal ring and attached to a bamboo pole. A sharp V-shaped cutting tool is at the front of the ring. The harvester, after identifying a mature fruit, holds the zela from one end and carefully raises its basket-end, till the fruit is lowered into the basket and its stem rests against the V-shaped cutting tool, at a point over 6-9 inches from the fruit. Then the harvester tugs at the zela in a specific and careful manner, which does not disturb other fruits held from the same branch, does not result in any pull for the branch and yet cuts the stem from which the fruit is held, ensuring that a significant part of the fruit stem is still intact with the fruit. The fruits are taken out, and laid into a crate and immediately moved into a cool, shady place so as to shield the fruits from sunlight and heat. The crates with harvested fruits look like this.

Harvested Mango Crates
Representation Pic (This picture is of mangoes collected from the ground after strong winds brought them down. Harvested mango crates also look like this)

Some farmers take the harvested fruit crates to their homes and do the sorting there. For sorting at home, the crates are emptied on a paper bed, like this

Mangoes

and this…

Fresh Alphonso Mangoes

And the good, marketable fruits are arranged in a neat line for observation over the next two days, like this…

Fresh Mangoes

Most farmers get the crates of harvested fruits directly to the co-operative society, where they are graded, sorted and the farmer is paid accordingly. When the farmers get their fruits to society, they are first sorted in front of the farmer like this. The one sitting on the chair is the farmer.

Devgad Mango Crates

In sorting, each fruit is manually checked for hit marks, bird fly stings, pest scrape marks, sap burns, and other anomalies. After sorting, the mangoes are graded according to their weights, like this.

Alphonso mango crates

Once graded, they are dipped into an anti-fungal solution and then arranged into crates and covered from all sides with hay, and kept for ripening, like this…

Mango Crates

If the weather is a bit bad, the crates are covered or if the weather is very bad, the crates are moved to a temperature-humidity controlled building, like this…

temperature-humidity controlled building

When the fruits show signs of yellowing over the next two to five days, they are taken out and packed in wooden crates like this…

Mangoes in Wooden Crates

this…

Packing Mangoes

and this…

Devgad Alphonso Mango Boxes

or into paper boxes like this…

Packing Mangoes

And the fruit is dispatched to customer’s homes, either by ST parcel, or through a truck or tempo, or through relatives’ cars or bus or courier. It’s ripening process continues during the journey and becomes ready to eat in the next two to five days. A fully ripened, ready-to-eat Devgad Mango looks like this.

Devgad Alphonso Mango

Next time you enjoy your Devgad Mango, do remember the nine years of delicate care it took to grow this divine fruit. If you liked our presentation, please leave your comments below and also forward it to your friends. If you have any more questions, please ask them in the comments.

If you are not registered yet, please click http://bit.ly/devgadmangoregistration to register for Season 2019.

 

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Orders Open for Pune and Mumbai: Season 2012

We are pleased to inform that we have started accepting orders for Mumbai and Pune. As you are aware from our earlier posts that the production of Alphonso Mango has been affected and so we will be extremely short of supply. Please bear with us that we will not be in a position to supply mangoes for all orders. Please visit devgadmango.com to place your orders.

Kindly note that due to the extreme shortage, we will process orders only on prior payment. There has been a huge loss of our member farmers due to cyclones and rainstorms, and so prior payment will help us pay our members immediately. We have activated a cash-pick up facility for Mumbai and Pune. We have tied-up with cash collection company Gharpay, which will collect money on our behalf and will give you the receipt.

Also note that on Monday 9 April 2012, we have also started sale centers in Pune and in Mumbai at Thane, Dadar and Girgaon looked after by our personnel. We will send some mango there that will be immediately available. Below are the addresses and the numbers of our personnel available there.

Pune Sale Centre
Bendre Blocks, Sadashiv Peth, Next to Perugate Police Chowky. (Directions: From Perugate Police Chowky, as you start traveling towards Hatti Ganapati, enter the first gate on the left side): Contact: 8600411173

Mumbai Sale Centres:
Thane:
Kamate Bhavan, Sambhaji Road, Vishnunagar, Opposite Satyam Collection, Naupade, Thane West. Contact: 9422584166

Dadar:
Sunshine Heights, Shop No. 1, P.L. Kale Guruji Marg, Opposite, Samarth Vyayam Mandir, Jain Health Centre Lane, Dadar West. Contact: 7350018691

Girgaon:
Tarabhuvan, Ground Floor, Shop No. 10, Nanubhai Desai Road, Khetwadi, Third Lane, Near Wilson Highschool, Girgaon: 4
8600411940, 9892136449

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Devgad Mango Devastated This 2012 Season

It has been a very devastating time this season. In December 2011, we were looking forward to a decent crop this Alphonso Season 2012. Then all of sudden Cyclone Thane swept across Southern Indian. It was the strongest tropical cyclone of 2011. While everything was going fine till then, the after-effects of the cyclone took away the winter and cold weather. We were expecting winter to stay till mid-January and then start getting warm, which would have helped good production of the mango fruits. However, after the cyclone, it started to get warm immediately and remained warm till January end. This adversely affected the production of mangoes.

As fate may have it, it started getting cold in February and it stayed cold till the last week of March. This pushed the season further and the expectation was that Season 2012 will start by 7-10 April 2012 at least. As the cold stayed back for a longer time, it created a favorable atmosphere for the Thrips pest, which wreaked havoc on the trees. The new species of Thrips discovered last year made its appearance this year too and there is no pesticide available on it as yet.

Then adding insult to injury, a strong mini-storm swept across the Alphonso Mango producing belt in Devgad and Ratnagiri, April 2 and 3. It uprooted many mango trees and took down a huge amount of the standing mango crop. See the photo below. The storm also brought sandstorms and rains along with it, with created widespread devastation.

Click on it to read the full news of Devgad Mango Loss

In totality, this has been a devastating season for the mango producing farmers in Devgad and the entire Konkan region. Whatever mangoes have been left on the trees will mature by April 20 and barely 30 days after that the Season 2012 of Devgad Alphonso Mango will end!

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Devgad Mango Season 2012

We have a heavy heart as we write this season update. We had expected the season to start by 15 March or latest by 25 March this year. However, prolonged winter and a pest attack again this year has pushed the season forward. With cold setting over the last fortnight across Devgad, fruits have been falling off the trees and there was no surety of the quality of the fruits leftover. Because of this, we will not be able to give mangoes to you in March as promised and we are sorry for that. We are now hoping the season will start after 7 April.

However, we expect the season to be very short, a maximum of 45 days, and deeply regret that we may not be able to supply mangoes to everyone. You would see mangoes in the mandis soon, but as you know under the Devgad Mango brand, we only supply the best and quality assured Devgad Alphonso fruit, which will be short in supply.

As a priority, when the season starts, we will supply mangoes first to the people who enrolled in Mango Bonds, starting with people who have already paid. Then we will supply to those who opted for cash/cheque pick up, but we have not been able to collect money from them yet. We have been trying to get a cash/payment collection partner, and it took us a long time to get a reliable partner.
Those who opted for a bank transfer and cheque courier, are requested to kindly make their payments so that we can process your Mango Bond orders.

Thereafter we will open the orders for everyone. In Pune, we have made arrangements for home delivery, while in Mumbai we have made arrangements for pick up centers at around 14 locations of a courier company! This is a difficult time for Alphonso mango growers as Nature is being a bit unfavorable. Last year it was the aftermath of the Tsunami, which disturbed the earth’s rotation and brought rains in December and cold waves in February. This year it was the aftereffects of Thane Cyclone, which took away winter in December end and brought it back in March. We request your support as we battle it out and struggle to get a good Alphonso Mango production!

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{Season 2012: Update 1] Devgad Alphonso Mango for Ganapati Festival For Pune

UPDATE AT 12.20 PM, August 22, 2011. Thanks for your overwhelming responses. We are out of stock for Modak, Pulp, and Jam at this point. You can still place your order if you are okay getting deliveries after the Ganeshotsav. Goods transport operators do not operate from here during the Ganeshotsav so we will be able to honor any further orders only after the Ganeshotsav.

Dear Patrons,

We are pleased to get you the first update on our way to Season 2012. The Ganapati festival is approaching and we aim to bring the Devgad Alphonso for you and the Almighty Lord Ganesh arriving in your homes. We have prepared Modaks, Jam and Pulp, all made using only and pure devgad alphonso mango for the Ganeshotsav. We have also made arrangements to deliver them to your homes (only in Pune as yet).

Please send us your order in the following form and we will send the products to your place as soon as possible, before the start of the Ganeshotsav. Details like rates are mentioned in the form. Please give a minimum order of Rs 200. While the tin, bottle, and pouches are of standard size, the modaks are bite-sized, unlike the white modaks. Please have a look at the photos posted below the form.

Mango Flavoured Modak
The 21s and 11s packs for Devgad Alphonso Mango Modaks

Mango Modka
Devgad Alphonso Mango Modaks on the hand for size reference

Devgad Alphonso Mango Modak
Devgad Alphonso Mango Modaks on a saucer for size reference

Devgad Mango Modak
Devgad Alphonso Mango Modaks on a saucer for size reference

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A Walking Mango Tree in Gujarat!

An old mango tree has become the pride of this Gujarat village, not merely because of its age – which, according to the villagers, is over a thousand years – but also because of its ability to “walk”.

Ask any villager in Sanjan Bandar in Bulsar district of south Gujarat, and he will insist that the mango tree in late Vali Ahmed Achchu’s farmland has moved about 200 metres from its original place in more than two centuries and is continuing its “walk”.

Walking Mango Tree in GujratThe mango tree (Mangifera Indica), which finds mention in the list of 50 heritage trees of Gujarat, has several unique features not seen elsewhere, says H.S. Singh, additional principal chief conservator of forests.

Its branches grow parallel to the ground from the main stem. Roots develop from a part of the branch that touches the ground, which develops in the form of a stem and the original stem dries off, he points out.

The branch keeps on growing parallel to the ground from the new stem and new roots appear in the same pattern.

“This process has continued for several hundred years, perhaps over a thousand years”, Singh says, explaining the villagers’ claim that the tree is “walking”.

Data collected by forest officials and information handed down through generations of villagers indicate that the mango tree may have been planted by early Parsi settlers about 1,300 years ago.

The age, however, still remains unverified.

Sanjan is believed to have been founded by Zoroastrian refugees who sought asylum in Gujarat in 936. They are said to have named the settlement after Sanjan in Greater Khorasan, the city of their origin.

Sanjan town is located close to the union territory of Daman, a former Portuguese colony.

Vali’s 30-year-old son Altaf says that the farmland with the “walking” mango tree was purchased by his grandfather Ahmed Achchu over 100 years ago.

The Achchu family – Altaf, his eight brothers and their children – owns a total of 22 acres of farmland.

Many old timers claim that the tree has “moved away” from its original site and still keeps moving towards the east.

Altaf says that the tree has moved by about 20 metres between two generations, as vouched for by his parents.

Diwal Kaka, a 90-year-old tribal who has never travelled outside the village, also vouches for the leisurely walk of the mango tree.

“It must have moved about 200 metres over the past 250 years – three to four metres every 20 to 25 years,” he claims.

Altaf remembers how the late Ganglibai, another old villager who tended to the tree, used to talk about the mango tree for hours.

Altaf also claims that parts of the tree carry medicinal properties.

The mangoes from the tree are comparatively smaller in size and turn flaming red when ripe.

According to Singh, the tree has been the subject of many studies and all efforts to graft it have failed.

“Last year the forest department took almost 500 samples from the tree for grafting, but officials later told me that all had failed,” he said.

 

Original article published on http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2011-06-13/travel/29652649_1_heritage-trees-gujarat-village-mango-tree

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A Fruitless Debate (a writer’s perspective on Alphonso)

Alphonso is grown in Devgad and our relation with Alphonso is the same as of a mother with her child! While Alphonso will always be closest to our hearts, we were pleased to read a writer’s perspective on it. Reproducing it for here in the service of our patrons!
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Oh to be in Mumbai, now that summer is here. This is the song on the lips of all those who once lived here but now reside somewhere else, for while the summer brings heat and humidity it also brings that most famous visitor to Mumbai — the Alphonso. The Alphonso, or hapus as it is locally called, is universally called the ‘King of Mangoes’ and anyone who has tasted it knows that this is not a hyperbolic tag-line invented by some smart alec from the advertising industry. This is the absolute truth.

A Fruitless Debate

So devoted are Mumbaikars to this fruit that they shed their reputed cosmopolitanism and switch to a jingoistic mode. Nothing — not Marine Drive, Bollywood or even Sachin Tendulkar — can evoke such hyper-chauvinism in a Mumbaiwallah (and he/she may have left the city years ago) as the Alphonso.

No one from the city will even countenance the possibility that other varieties of mango — safeda, langda, chausa, and several other strange-sounding names — come even close to the Alphonso in taste, texture and smooth elegance.

The ‘payri’ is considered acceptable, but only to make ‘aamrus’, a puree that is often eaten as part of the meal. Nevertheless, it cannot hope to aspire to a higher ranking and must know its place. The rest, of course, simply do not matter.

The Alphonso, probably the only mango in the country with a proper name, has the ability to bring people together. Families sit together and eat it with the requisite respect, in silence and stopping only to pick up another succulent slice. But it can also divide. I know of non-resident Mumbaikars married into other cities who have fought bitterly with their loved ones on this issue come summer.

A friend from Mumbai, whose Delhi-bred husband insisted she eat only the local variety, was contemplating filing a complaint about mental cruelty and incompatibility. It was only when a relative air-dashed from Mumbai with the requisite supplies of Alphonso that peace returned.

Indeed, flights out of Mumbai during summer are full of boxes of Alphonso being carried by friends and families. Luggage carousels in Delhi groan under the familiar yellow and red cartons that spread such a lovely aroma that the travails of just having hovered over the airport for half an hour are soon forgotten.

When former US President George Bush made a friendly gesture by allowing mangoes to be imported into the US, it was the Alphonso that was sent.

Every April families go into a huddle to get their hands on the best Alphonso’s and call up their regular suppliers. The first flush is usually expensive but prices settle down soon enough and then boxes upon boxes arrive in the house, all timed for ripening at scheduled intervals.

The season is a short one after all and no one wants to be caught short.

What is it about this noble fruit that makes it so sought after? Why do Mumbaikars, normally such a chilled-out lot and open to new ideas and influences, sneer at all other varieties and are ready to pick up a fight? I can go on and on about how wonderful it tastes, but frankly, I cannot bring myself to get into an argument.

The Alphonso is the Alphonso — that is it.

A simple statement of this fact on my Facebook page recently evoked thunderous reactions from my so-called friends, from the incredulous (‘You can’t be serious’) to the hysterical (‘langda, langda, langda’). One or two even threatened to unfriend me. But as Gandhiji taught all of us, the path to truth may be a thorny one, but you cannot waver.

So here it is, said baldly and truthfully once again — the Alphonso is the best mango in the universe.

(Sidharth Bhatia is a Mumbai-based writer. The views expressed by the author are personal)
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Published in Hindustan Times on Friday April 22, 2011