This essay narrates a simple idea. Connect the dots. India is the world’s largest mango producing country. In India, Uttar Pradesh is the biggest mango-producing region.
This adds up to tens of thousands of tonnes of fruit, very significant exports (49,658 MT in 2019-20 according to the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority or APEDA) and around 1,000 varieties spread across the country. Uttar Pradesh is the biggest producer of mangoes in India, and by that virtue, the biggest such fruit-producing region in the world.
This also means a lot of mango leftovers, thousands of tonnes of it. What can Uttar Pradesh do to simultaneously leverage its mango production ability and create a whole new sustainable industry that would create thousands of new jobs and raise the productivity of its giant mango production industry?
Consider inputs from new technology. A Dutch start-up Fruitleather, based in Rotterdam, and a French start-up called Vegskin, based in Wattrelos, are pioneering the technique of converting fruit waste to vegan leather. Fruitleather notes in its mission statement that each year, consumers around the world throw away 1.3 billion tonnes of food, around a third of the production; 45% of the fruit produced is wasted. Around a third of the agricultural land used produces food that will be thrown away, and farmers destroy around 40% of their crops because the produce does not look good on the shelves of supermarkets and therefore is unlikely to be bought. At the same time, each year, “more than a billion animals are slaughtered so that the hides can be used. The cleaning process that the hides undergo produces worldwide approximately 650 million kilos of CO2”. That’s where vegan mango waste-based leather comes in. London’s Luxtra fashion label is already using this vegan mango leather successfully.
Now imagine what the introduction of this technology could do in Uttar Pradesh—which is adept not only at growing mangoes but is also one of the biggest leather hubs in India. In fact, illegal animal slaughter and processing for leather has been a major cause of industrial pollution in the state. What this mango waste-based vegan leather technology could do is take the expertise of the state and its farmers and leather-makers and turn them towards a sustainable global product that could see high demand in the country and around the world.
This could be pitched and exported as a unique product from India and sold in countless items within the country as a sustainable, non-violent and animal-cruelty-free product.
To understand the demand for such non-animal-based leathers, note that Bolt Threads, a start-up that specialises in using Mylo—a leather alternative made from mushrooms—has not only won support from fashion giants like the Kering conglomerate and sporting major Adidas, but also has the designer Stella McCartney using its products. A new report by Material Innovation Initiative (MII) consultancy suggests that non-animal leather is about to explode in the same way as non-animal meat and is set to hit revenues of around $2.2 billion by 2026.
So, imagine this vision—a global fashion tech hub in Uttar Pradesh, maybe in Noida, or even in Kanpur or Lucknow, specialising in non-animal leather made from mango waste, and supplied around the world. This would include not only technological inputs from global partners, but also ESG (environmental, social and corporate governance) sensitive investments from around the world.
Uttar Pradesh has both the raw material, the technical know-how of leather, and the size to give this project real scale and become a global leader. It would also showcase how using the latest technology, a new fillip of productivity can be given to Indian agriculture, marrying it to best practices in manufacturing.
Such ideas and connecting the dots are critical in the leap UP is poised to make as it aims to hit $1 trillion in state GDP in the coming years. Such a target needs revolutionary breadth of vision and not incrementalism, and the mangoes of Uttar Pradesh could be a vital element in this jump.
Vice President & Head of Research at Invest India, GoI’s national investment promotion agency