In Sunny, Sunny Perlis...

Where fruit is concerned, even more so tropical fruit, we’re spoilt for choice. Malaysians have, and will always be those fortunate enough to wander into the wet market and come out, arms laden with some tropical fruit or another at any time of the year. And sure, our tropical fruit is seasonal – but with a carefully managed system devised to make the best of our climate, combined with the sunny weather and rainfall we’re exposed to all year round, we’ve ensured the treasures of our agricultural practices are of world standard.

 

In a time where technology runs rampant, paving the way to modernised agricultural practices, how many growers practice the age-old art of taking life’s lemons and making lemonade with them? Of course, Malaysia is no stranger to technology in agriculture – yet something has to be said for the wisdom of planting within one’s capabilities. Malaysia’s claim to fame? Durians, pineapples, melons – and of course, the glorious, golden mango.

 

All these, of course, thrive in our tropical climate. The mango in particular is in for a good harvest season following a temperate start of the year. Plantations in the North report estimates for a fruitful harvest – no pun intended. And why shouldn’t they? The many different bodies involved in our plantations work hard – from the governmental bodies involved in promotion and marketing works, to the scientists and experts working round the clock to breed better strains, to the men and women who toil beneath the sun to nurture each and every lovingly- grown fruit. A good harvest is a well-deserved harvest.

 

It’s no secret that commercially-grown produce, where the bounty of the harvest affects more than the livelihoods of the farmers, require adherence to consistent processes and strict operating procedures. Unsurprisingly, these procedures are in place for the Perlis mango plantations in Malaysia. The trees are painstakingly looked after; abundant water, a specially-formulated pest-deterring concoction, and when the time is right, fertiliser to encourage growth and flowering.

That’s not nearly enough, however. What’s true for the wild is true, also, for these mangoes: the survival of the fittest at its best. The strong survive; the weak are culled. Skilled hands seek to cut away the smaller fruit of each bunch, leaving only one. In this manner, each mango allowed to ripen to maturity is granted an ample share of the nourishment its mother tree has to offer. That doesn’t mean the cut green mangoes go to waste – on the contrary, they are turned into jeruk, or pickles, which is vastly popular in the Malaysian market. On the other side of the spectrum, the over-ripened fruit becomes puree, juice, and chutneys. Of course, a wonderful product is only as good as its marketing arm. That’s where FAMA comes in. The Sala breed of mangoes, previously having come under fire for being a less-than-exceptional product, was in grave need of a makeover when FAMA came into play. Certainly, its worth as a product had already been increased through the efforts of government-backed authorities; but it is undeniable that what FAMA did propelled the breed forward even further. Under FAMA’s guiding hand, the Sala became the Perlis Sunshine, altogether allowing for the public to gain insight into the whole new mango it had become.

 

As an export, the Malaysian range of mangoes enjoys significant success. The Harumanis, loosely translated to mean fragrant and sweet, is in high demand. The Perlis Sunshine, through the efforts of FAMA and other government-backed authorities, has become an equal in its own right. As of the year 2010, 50 metric tonnes of the Perlis Sunshine were exported to Singapore – and of course, more to our other regional neighbours, satisfying the demand for local, sustainably-transported produce. Locally, Malaysians enjoy the sweetish-sour tang of the Chokanan breed, as well as the light, yet sweet flavour of the Waterlily. With the addition of the Perlis Sunshine into the line-up of mango greats, who’s to say what could come next?

 

One thing’s for certain; Malaysian mangoes are in for a Sunshine-filled future.

 

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