Sometimes, what you pay for may not be what you see on the packaging.
In this instance, a fruit company named Myanmar Golden Produce Pte Ltd (MGP) — which supplies a type of mango called Sein Ta Lone mango — is accusing a Singapore importer of selling inferior mangoes under their brand.
Sein Ta Lone mangoes vs regular mangoes
According to MGP, this is what a genuine Sein Ta Lone mango looks like, complete with a sticker bearing its logo:
However, MGP asserts, mangoes of another variety were packed in wrapping bearing the company's name and logo. The company shared some photos of these "pirated" mangoes in a Facebook post on May 25:
A Sein Ta Lone (or one-piece diamond) mango is known for its sweetness as compared to other varieties. It's also one of the more popular varieties cultivated for export.
According to NTUC FairPrice's website, the usual price of a pack of two Sein Ta Lone mangoes is S$5.55. In comparison, a pack of two mangoes (not of the Sien Ta Lone variety) from RedMart costs S$2.90.
The Facebook post included the following message:
"Dear friends of MGP,
Over the past 8 years, we worked very hard to make sure that we protect and preserve the reputation of our famous Sein Ta Lone mango. We shed a lot of blood, sweat and tears, often without people knowing, in helping farmers develop better techniques, in experimenting how to lengthen shelf life for export, and also share with our people around the world about this beautiful mango of Myanmar.
Thanks to all your support and help, we managed to have some little achievement and in Singapore, not only to let our Myanmar friends enjoy a taste of home, but also to share with our foreign friends about this mango.
We built our MGP brand with blood, sweat and tears and it is important for us because this is a promise we make to you of our quality and our purpose and mission for our country, Myanmar.
Unfortunately, our importer in Singapore does not share nor respect our values, and as a result, they packed other mangoes into our MGP packaging. This is not acceptable for us and not made known to us.
MGP mangoes undergo multiple treatment, cleaning and cold chain processes. We have a duty to ensure your food safety and quality control, and we take serious pride in it. The little farmer girl logo is a symbol of your confidence in our product, and also a support in our mission to help the country and our farmers. It cannot be disrespected by putting together with others.
Because of this, we have to stop supply to this importer - Eastern Green Marketing Pte Ltd Singapore and also make it known to NTUC Fairprice to recall these mangoes.
Thank you for your kind support
Reaching out to NTUC Fairprice
The Singaporean distributor in question is Eastern Green Marketing (EGM), a company that imports fresh produce and distributes them for sale to local supermarkets and wholesale centres, including NTUC Fairprice.
MGP wrote in another Facebook post that it contacted NTUC Fairprice's CEO, Seah Kian Peng on May 27, and received a response from him on the same day (by the way, Seah also happens to be a Member of Parliament for Marine Parade GRC).
The post included a copy of the letter sent to Seah, which recounted how customers noted that the mangoes, which were individually labelled under another brand, were sold with MGP packaging.
It added that feedback over the "poor quality" of what were supposedly their mangoes had prompted them to act.
MGP also claimed that they had told their distributor to stop, and the latter has since "apologised and promised to rectify (the issue)."
Distributor explains error
According to a report by Shin Min Daily News on May 31, EGM admitted their error and explained the circumstances in a letter to MGP.
Unfortunately, when the EGM staff were packing the mangoes on May 18, they had mixed them up with 11 batches of another brand of mangoes, which were also from Myanmar.
This resulted in the mangoes being wrongly labelled under MGP's brand.
In response to queries by Shin Min, EGM replied with the following statement, translated into English:
"We are extremely sorry for the misunderstanding this mistake has caused, and have already re-collected the wrongly labelled mangoes. We will make sure a similar mistake does not happen again.
We would also like to clarify with consumers that although the wrongly labelled mangoes are from a different brand, they are still of high quality and are safe to eat."
Mothership reached out to both NTUC FairPrice and EGM for comment.
While EGM has not gotten back to us, a spokesperson for NTUC FairPrice had this to say:
"At NTUC FairPrice, ensuring high standards of product integrity, among other factors, is of utmost importance to us and we do not condone practices that infringe these standards. We are aware of the issue related to Myanmar Golden Produce (MGP) branded Myanmar Sien Ta Lone mangoes, which are packed by a local distributor.
We have since withdrawn the product from our stores as we seek further clarification from our supply partners. We will not hesitate to take prompt and firm actions on any of our suppliers if they are found conclusively to engage in unauthorised practices."
The spokesperson also added that NTUC FairPrice is "in touch" with MGP, and that an investigation is ongoing.
Top image adapted from Myanmar Golden Produce's Facebook page.