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What a difference a year makes.

Last season, mango-producing regions in southern Mexico produced an early bumper crop that resulted in large supplies of the yellow-skinned Ataulfo variety mangos in the marketplace in February, with many handlers having about twice the volume as they did a year earlier for the same time period.

"This year it is going to be just the opposite," said Bill Vogel, president of Tavilla Sales Co. of Los Angeles. "February and March are going to have 50 percent of their regular volume."

Mr. Vogel added, however, that the second and third blooms would produce very good volume by the end of March carrying into April and May. By then, the more northern regions of Mexico will be in production. But it is too early to tell how that volume will play out this year.

Mr. Vogel, who in late January was in Chiapas, Mexico, which produces most of the early yellow mangos, said that most packingsheds are not expected to open until late in February. The surrounding states of Oaxaca and Michoacan also have Atualfos, but not nearly in the same volume as Chiapas.

Christopher Ciruli, chief operating office of Ciruli Bros. LLC in Nogales, AZ, agreed with Mr. Vogel's assessment about February, but he thinks the shortage will end sometime in March. He said that rain in early January in southern Mexico has delayed the crop and caused the initial production to be later than usual with less volume.

"We are expecting promotable supplies in March and April," he said. "Last year, we had a lot of volume in February, but we are not going to have that this year."

But that might be a good thing, said Mr. Ciruli. "Last season we had great supplies in February, but the weather on the East Coast was terrible. I think we might have a better marketing situation this year."

Ciruli Bros. specializes in what it calls its proprietary Champagne mango, which is an Ataulfo mango.

Another early-season shipper is Freska Produce International LLC in Oxnard, CA, which is one of the larger year-round importers of mangos. Jesus (Chuy) Loza, co-owner of the firm, also agreed that the early volume of Ataulfos will be down, but he said that Freska would actually be up about 15 percent.

"There are lots of microclimates down there, so everyone is a little bit different," he said. "We expect to [open] our packingshed on February 22, which is about the same timing as last year, and we expect to increase our volume."

But in general, Mr. Loza said that there would be a shortage of Ataulfo production into March, and he expects the market on the yellow mangos to be very strong.

"I think the larger sizes -- 12s, 14s and 16s -- will open in the teens [dollars per carton], but I think the smaller sizes -- 20s, 22s and 24s -- will probably be in the $8 to $10 range."

Mr. Loza told The Produce News Jan. 26 that the U.S. marketplace was currently in a demand-exceeds-supply situation for the red-skinned mangos as well, which were mostly being sourced from Peru. Although Peru's total production is up and many containers were headed to U.S. ports, the current supply situation was a little tight. "The market is about $5 right now," said the Freska executive. "I think it will go up to $5.50 by the end of February and to $6 in March."

While some unfamiliar U.S. consumers might classify all mangos under one umbrella, Mr. Vogel of Tavilla Sales said that the red- and yellow-skinned varieties are two different items and have different markets that are unrelated to each other.

"They might as well be apples and pears," he quipped.

Mr. Vogel said that there was currently no yellow-skinned fruit in the marketplace, and the red mangos were selling very well on the West Coast, justifying the fairly good $5 market.

He said that it was a different story on the East Coast, which is the landing point for most of the offshore mangos. Supply and demand were in better balance, and a $4-$4.50 price per carton prevailed in late January.