When Sankalp Singh Parihar planted a “special” mango sapling, one he’d bought while traveling, from a man who was sitting beside him on a train, he never imagined he would one day need to hire a security team to protect his crop.
Fast-forward four years, and Parihar and his partner are now growing the world’s most expensive mango variety.
Parihar was reportedly in search of hybrid coconut seeds when he bought the mango sapling from a fellow traveler for $33. “I did not know what the mango breed was, but I named it Damini after my mother and planted it,” he told Vice. “I grew it [the sapling] like an ordinary mango plant, but a few months later, saw that it had developed a beautiful red [color].”
Word spread that Parihar was growing these unique, red mangoes, generating buzz among businessmen around the country.
Soon, he learned that he’d apparently (and unwittingly) come into possession of the coveted Miyazaki mango, a variety primarily grown in Japan, where it’s also known as the “egg of the sun.” Each Miyazaki mango reportedly costs around $50, making it a luxury good. Since then, Parihar has reportedly received offers as high as $283 for a single piece of fruit.
As reported by the Miyazaki Local Products and Trade Promotion Center, in Japan the growth of Miyazaki mangoes is highly regulated at every stage. Each fruit must weigh at least 350 grams and contain a sugar content of at least 15 percent in order to reach consumers. Unlike most fruits, the mangoes are harvested only when they are fully ripe, making them extremely fragile. A “net harvesting” method allows the fruit to naturally fall from the tree at its peak ripeness: instead of falling to the ground, the fruit is gently caught by its net casing.
In India, however, Parihar has reportedly been able to plant the mangoes as he would any other variety and they appear to be thriving in the country’s climate. He has grown about 52 mangoes so far, says Vice, but has yet to sell a single one. “These are our babies and our focus right now is to keep nurturing them and using the fruits’ seeds to plant new ones,” explained Parihar. According to The Times of India, he has planted 150 Miyazaki mango trees at his orchard, but only four are currently producing fruit.
However, successfully growing the new varietal has come with its own set of challenges. “Last year there were theft incidents and so we decided to increase security here,” explained Parihar to The Times of India. “We had one dog last year, now we have nine of them; six are German Shepherds and [three] are local breeds. And we have deployed three security guards too.”
Looking ahead, Parihar told Vice that he hopes to not only fill his entire orchard with Miyazaki mangoes, but that he aims to share the wealth with Indian farmers across the country. “My vision is that every Indian household should be able to afford this mango,” said Parihar. “In Japan, it is expensive because it is grown in an expensive environment. In India, we can grow it naturally and cut down on expenses.”