True, Real Life Changing Jamaican Mango Stories

A wide assortment of mangoes

Succulent, golden yellow, and decadently delicious. Yes, perfectly contoured, textured, just the right size, and juicy to the core. A sampling of these delicious Jamaican mangoes includes Julie, Sweety, Blackie, East Indian, Bombay, Number 11, and Long.

Fluxy stringy and hairy mangoes, please excuse yourselves, disqualified you are from such acclaim.

Early morning mango bush

  

Winners at mango collection during mango season lived by the tacit community agreement, they knew early risers enjoyed the most options for a favourable mango harvest. At dawn they stirred. Containers in hand they moved effortlessly, quietly, and deliberately. Barefooted. Silently, so as not to betray their actions. In the near early morning twilight darkness, they slithered from mango tree to mango tree, quickly filling large containers with the pick of the crop.

And just as quickly they returned to base ready to unfold the day’s plans for their harvest. Some mangoes were for home consumption, others for sale, and some as gifts to friends. The mangoes were tiered to align with the appropriate distribution category. All these activities were completed very early each day, long before it was time for school, to facilitate the completion of other morning chores.

Fall from the mango tree

Despite the numerous, frequent, exhortations by his mother Big Boy found the neighbour’s laden Number 11 mango tree irresistibly titillating, truly tempting. “Watch out, I am coming” he shouted to his younger brother poised under the tree to catch the perfectly ripened mango just too far from the tips of his fingers for Big Boy to fully harness.

The ominous creaking from the slowly breaking tree limb telegraphed its deathly intent. His younger brother, Katcher, was just able to nimbly skip out of its path escaping serious injury as the large, heavy, tree limb crashed to the ground. Big Boy screamed from the excruciating pain in his injured left shoulder.  The local hospital incapable of adequately treating that kind of major shoulder dislocation immediately arranged his transfer to one of the islands tertiary hospitals.

Under conscious sedation the shoulder displacement was successfully reduced.  Wiser and chastened, Big Boy, on his return home the following day vowed never to be seduced by another mango still dangling invitingly from that Number 11 mango tree. His distraught, conflicted mom, though vexed, was glad, he, though not fully recovered, had finally learned an invaluable life lesson in obedience. 

Mango basket left on bus

  

Big Boy’s youngest brother, Determined, was excited as his basket full of mangoes had been successfully sold, and in quick time. That was his first excursion to the local town selling mangoes. Earlier, at six, that morning he had boarded the only bus heading for Kingston with his wares. Not sure what to expect he moved from place-to-place shouting “nice black mangoes”. “Good price, support my back to school, tuition, books and uniform effort”.

Overwhelming success followed as people flocked to this industrious 14-year-old boy trying to honestly work his way out of poverty.  Pursuit of education was wise some of his customers advised. Tips flowed, even from the under and uneducated. Soon Determined faced a new challenge. The bus home was not due to arrive for another three hours. He had been too efficient selling his mangoes.

With his empty basket cemented to his hands he passed the time taking in the scenes from the local town. Lots of hustling and bustling. Bicyclists, small framed, beautiful, perfectly figured, Jamaican women busily moved about. Construction activity on the towns new bank appeared frenetic, and it seemed forty or fifty men were working on that one project. Fisher folk hawked fish they had hanging from short stings.  All this hustle and bustle in the moderately sized town.

Eventually the bus arrived. The sideman threw Determined’s basket onto the top of the bus. On arriving at his destination, he excitedly exited the bus and scurried home. So excited by his success Determined totally forgot his basket. As he gleefully described to family members the events of his successful day a jarring reality hit.  He had left the basket on the bus.  Fortunately for Determined he was able to lay wait the bus on its return through his village later that day and retrieve his basket.

Mango drinks and things

In Big Boy’s family Sweety mangoes were not for sale. These small, sweet, and especially juicy mangoes were not commonplace.  The 2 small Sweety mango trees they had were some distance from where they lived. They only yielded small numbers of fruits with each crop, and were not enough for the immediate family, much less others.

Families in Big Boy’s village found other ways to ensure maximum benefit from mangoes during the mango season.  Some made mango drinks.  Others juiced their mangoes and then froze them to be consumed later as suck-suck. Mango chutney and ice cream was reserved for the more affluent folk in his community. Still many thousands of mangoes rotted during a very productive season.

 Exporting Jamaican mangoes was limited to the connected and the wealthy. There was no country wide system in place to harvest, grade, process, and ship mangoes. Industrial processing of mangoes on a large scale for later consumption in the tourism industry was not practised. Our country’s economy missed out on the opportunity to optimise income for this vastly replenishable resource.  The major mango producing parishes of Jamaica which included St Thomas, Clarendon, St Elizabeth, and St. Mary thus failed to fully prosper form this source of income.

Jamaican mangoes to the world again – exporting now a focus

  

Today mangoes are again being exported from Jamaican.  Jamaica, not too long ago, was able to meet the established US standards and satisfied the requirements to enable export of large quantities of Jamaican mangoes. 

Still, it appears the market for Jamaican mangoes in the United States is far from being satisfied.  Many small Jamaican mango producers are unable to independently engage in mango exports because of economic constraints. Some are unfamiliar with the know-how to fully engage. Many small farmers do not grow adequate quantities of mangoes that would allow them to become independent mango exporters.  For these small farmers the challenges they face seem to defy the long-repeated claim that where you end up in life is not dependent on where you start, but instead of your determination to succeed.

They conclude the system is totally fixed against them thus completely obstructing every path to possible success. Large mango producers, they insist, have not fully engaged small mango farmers in a cooperative like approach to guarantee success in the mango growing sector. Have investment opportunities in the mango sector been overlooked by Jamaican business leadership including organisations like the Urban Development Corporation (UDC), Tourism Product Development Company, Jamaica Promotions Corporation (JAMPRO), the Jamaica Manufacturers and Exporters Association, and the leadership umbrella of the Jamaican trade unions, and church organisations?  

Imagine the transformation that would result if all harvestable mangoes in Jamaica were included in some manufacturing process.  A few possibilities include mango nectars, mango chutney, mango ice-cream, mango drinks and juices, and mango suck-suck. Many other mango products could also be pursued. These offerings could result in a major injection of foreign exchange, and improvement in the Jamaica economy.

Family success and community engagement by Determined and siblings 

At family reunions, Big Boy, Determined, Katcher, and their other siblings, still fondly recount the good old mango days. Katcher, an expert in Jamaican heritage, helped in researching and promoting many of the heritage sites in Jamaica. Big Boy advised people on how to set up their own businesses, including managing the books for the business.  Determined, always committed to his village, returned home as a medical doctor to provide an array of health care services to the many that seek his expertise. While they reminisce, they acknowledge the heights to which those mango days have elevated them. And they relish the fact that all their children have completed university, making major contributions to our Jamaican society. They count doctors, information technology experts, teachers, business professionals, pilots, chartered certified public accountants, lawyers and dentists in this hugely successful group.

The future for those depending on Jamaican Mangoes

Jamaican mangoes if properly exploited can lift many more Jamaicans to improbable heights. Just image if the society united to maximally harness this renewable asset, and what a remarkable economic improvement the society could realise.

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