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Greater efficiency highlights growth of mango production in Ecuador

by Tad Thompson | October 12, 2009
ANAHEIM, CA -- Ecuador's mango industry has dropped acreage and increased production in the last six years. Such efficiency is key to the industry, according to Bernardo Malo, president of the Guayaquil-based Mango Ecuador Foundation.

In 2003, Ecuadorian growers utilized 20,000 acres of mangos; by 2009 that number had dropped to about 13,800 acres, according to Mr. Malo.

Part of the decline is because "mangos had not been what growers thought they would be," Mr. Malo said. Ecuador faces an oversupply situation when competing with Brazil and Peru in international markets. Of the three countries, Brazilian mango growers are always first into the market, followed by Ecuador, then Peru.

"But all three countries overlap," he noted.

Peru's mango production is 50 percent greater than Ecuador's, but because a large portion of Peru's mangos are exported to Europe, the neighboring countries export about the same volume to the United States. Mr. Malo said that virtually all Ecuador's mangos are exported to the United States because of the fast sea transportation links.

Ecuador exports "no more than 140 containers in any week," he said. The mango shipping season runs from the last week of September until mid- January.

The smaller growers in Ecuador were the least efficient, so they were the first to get out of the business. Yet, with the exception of a 35 percent decrease in volume last year due to weather problems, Ecuador's mango export volume has consistently grown for the last 10 years. Part of the increased efficiency comes from mango trees maturing and becoming more productive.

Mr. Malo, who spoke with The Produce News Oct. 3 at the Produce Marketing Association's Fresh Summit, here, said that his organization was founded in 2000. Mango Ecuador Foundation is made up of grower-packer-shippers that use the group to address phytosanitary issues with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, to share technical production information and to promote Ecuadorian mangos. The foundation has a staff of 12, including field engineers.

A quarter of the foundation's members are GlobalGAP certified -- a number the foundation is working to increase.

Ecuadorian mangos continue to undergo hot-water treatment to meet USDA phytosanitary regulations. Mr. Malo said that his foundation is considering a move to irradiation to disinfest the fruit, but extensive testing is needed before that becomes commercially viable.

Sixty percent of Ecuador's mango exports are the Tommy Atkins variety, with Kent accounting for 30 percent. Several varieties make up the remainder.