Reliance also grows mangoes
The 7,500-acre complex of Reliance Industries at this Gujarat port town may be home to the world's biggest grassroots refinery, but it also boasts of the largest mango plantation on earth with some 110 varieties.
What started as a statutory requirement for the Reliance group - one of India's largest private sector conglomerates - to set up a green belt on the 33 sq km industrial complex allotted for its refinery has turned this arid area into an oasis, thanks to intensive plantation of trees.
"Mangoes earns us the same amount of money in the international markets as our polypropylene," Hital Meswani, director of Reliance Industries, said jocularly to reporters here during a plant visit.
According to a company official - introduced as "Mr Mango" to reporters for his 23-year experience in cultivating the king of fruits - the 1,627-acre green belt here has 34 varieties of plants, of which 10 percent comprise mango trees.
Other crops produced at the facility include bell peppers of different colours, figs, guava, tamarind, cashew, Brazilian cherries, sapodilla or chiku, pears, pomegranates, medicinal plants and teak - all raised commercially. Some of them were offered to reporters for sampling.
"No mango tree is more than 10 feet high. We have gone for high density planting and dwarfing that gets us a yield of around 10 metric tonnes per acre," he said, adding that one tree had produced a record 734 mangoes last season.
Company officials said 90 percent of the variety grown here was kesar, a speciality of Gujarat, while the remaining trees also include some exotic ones imported from Israel and Florida.
The water for the large green belt comes from the company's desalination plant that purifies the sea water. "Since water here is scarce and the land is arid, we use drip irrigation with simultaneous fertilisation," an official said.
Reliance is now excited about the prospect of the United States opening up its market for import of mangoes from India, especially after President George W. Bush savoured Indian mangoes during his visit earlier this month and wanted them to be available in his country. "We have been selling our mangoes only locally. But now we are gearing up for exports in a big way," the official added.
Reliance has formed a company called Jamnagar Farms Private Limited and feels the new agri-business venture will fit well into its proposed entry into the country's retail trade industry.