Aurora Magazine

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The Kachelo Mission

Sadia Kamran reports on the efforts made by Kachelo Fruit Farms to bring A-grade quality produce to Pakistan’s domestic market.
Updated 15 May, 2024 03:54pm

Although Pakistan’s annual mango production is approximately 2.3 million tons, only five percent of the production is of A-grade quality as per the standards set by the International Trade Centre (ITC) for export (source: Profit Magazine). The remaining produce falls into the B-grade category due to poor harvesting and handling techniques and is sold domestically. Kachelo Fruit Farms (KFF) also operates within this domestic market and their goal is to bring A-grade quality mangoes to local consumers. In this way, they have become a pioneering brand in premium-packaged mangoes.

The Kachelo legacy dates to Haji Mohammed Kachelo, who established his mango farms in Sindh in the 19th century. After his death, the farmlands were divided amongst his descendants and today, KFF is run by Zulfiqar Ali Kachelo and his wife, Nadine Kachelo, who is the managing director and handles all the marketing, sales and operations of the business.

In a country where mangoes are considered an open market fruit sold by vendors on fruit carts, KFF has set their mangoes apart by guaranteeing pure breed mangoes as opposed to the hybrid varieties commonly available. With a farmland area of 30 acres, KFF’s annual produce amounts to approximately 1,500 tons.

According to Zulfiqar Ali Kachelo, “the branded mango category has very few players – namely Sindh Mango Growers & Exporters, Rahuki Farms and Gardezi Farms – and the differences in our geographical spread and mango varieties mean that none are a direct competitor to KFF. The branded mango category is at its nascent stage and claims a mere 0.001% of the total market.” Branded mangoes, as per the KFF formula, are preservative and chemical-free and grown from seeds collected by Kachelo’s forefathers from various regions in India at the end of the Mughal period.

Kachelo says that to grow this category, “we have to create more awareness about mango species and their quality compared to the breeds available in the local market, and focus on supplying the local market with A-grade mangoes by implementing international cultivation standards and meeting the labour safety and compensation standards set by Global Good Agricultural Practices.”

To this end, KFF has introduced what they consider to be a more efficient and modernised form of mango agriculture based on improved technologies and techniques.

KFF has also diversified into other fruit and vegetables, such as strawberries, onions, tomatoes and “guava breeds sourced from several countries are under research and we hope to introduce them to the market very soon.” In 2021, KFF introduced their gelato line under the banner of Kachelo Foods.

The rationale for diversification comes from KFF’s approach to minimise waste and a question of boxes. Kachelo noticed that when it came to packing, only the bigger and pulpier mangoes made it into the boxes, while the smaller (yet very sweet) mangoes were left out due to their size. This led to the idea of using the pulp of the smaller mangoes to make gelato without adding any artificial flavouring, colours or stabilisers. To this end, Nadine Kachelo took a gelato-making course in Paris, where the required equipment was also procured. Today, Kachelo Foods offers 12 flavours, including mango, strawberry, cookies and cream, vanilla cinnamon and coffee.

As for individually wrapping each mango and putting them in a box, the idea came from Kachelo’s grandfather, Abdul Samad Kachelo, who sent a box of his mangoes to Queen Elizabeth for her coronation. Today, KFF partners with corporate clients to create gift boxes and since 2016, their mangoes and strawberries have also been available online through the KFF website and several e-commerce platforms.

KFF products are sold at premium prices and according to Zulfiqar Ali Kachelo, “our customers are willing to pay a premium for the guarantee that they are buying ethically and sustainably grown products using controlled quantities of fertilisers and pesticides, from original rootstocks and generations of acclimatised varieties that are hand-picked.” An example of sustainable agricultural practices at the farm includes biological interventions such as fruit-fly traps instead of pesticides to deter insect attacks.

Kachelo’s vision supports modern and environmentally friendly farming practices. He says all KFF farmers are compensated with fair wages, a non-deductible income and insurance coverage.

“This farm is not only about uplifting the brand; it is about uplifting the community that creates the brand.”

In terms of sustainable practices, several innovations have been introduced, including a periodic harvesting system. Previously, all mangoes were picked on a pre-decided harvesting date. Now, KFF farmers are asked to pick the larger, plump fruit first; this frees up the tree’s nourishment resources so that the smaller fruit has a chance to grow in size and taste. Another innovation is the installation of drip irrigation systems, which have reduced water intake by 20-30%.

Mango farming, like every other crop, is heavily dependent on climatic and environmental factors; heat waves, droughts, and floods can affect the year’s produce. Speaking about other significant challenges, Nadine Kachelo points to the lack of standardisation in agricultural practices. In her view, “bringing technology and knowledge to the farmer and involving him in the process is an important way to overcome the quality barriers our produce faces in the international market.”

Looking to the future, Kachelo is looking towards adding more fruit and vegetable varieties, but only if he can introduce original variety seeds and ensure a quality product. He also wants to make product traceability achievable (knowing the origin tree of each mango sold).

Sadia Kamran is Marketing Manager and an English language instructor, Anees Hussain.