view current print edition







Mexican mango deal has slow start; big volume not expected until April

by Tim Linden | March 08, 2010
In three of the last four years, the Mexican mango deal has gotten off to a fast start with at least some shipments in early February, and some marketable volume by the end of the month. Last year, shipments began in January and were quite heavy by the end of February.

That has not been the pattern for 2010. In fact, shipments were non-existent in the first couple of weeks of February and U.S. importers are estimating that big numbers won't start to be seen until late March or early April. Mexico has been hit with lots of rain and well below normal temperatures in its southern states, which are the first mango-producing regions.

The daily report, circulated to the mango industry by Empacadoras de Mango de Exportacion, which goes by its acronym, EMEX, reveals that the first Mexican mangos shipped to the United States this year did not cross until Feb. 15. For the previous five years, the latest start date was Feb. 14 in 2005. Last year, shipments began Jan. 22. In 2008, Feb. 4 was the start date, while in 2006, the first shipments were sent on Feb. 6 and in 2007, the start date was Feb. 8. By Feb. 20 of last year, more than 1 million cartons of Mexican mangos had been exported to the United States. By Feb. 20 of this year, that number was only 75,000.

"It has been very, very slow," said Chuy Loza, a partner in Freska Produce International, the Oxnard, CA-based firm that is one of the top sellers of mangos in the United States. “I think that will remain the case until middle of April, at least with the reds (red-skinned mango varieties).”

As he spoke to The Produce News March 2, Mr. Loza said that Freska would have 15 containers of Peruvian mangos land into the United States the following week (March 8-14) “but that will be the end of that deal. The market will be tight for the next month.”

Larry Nienkerk, managing partner at Splendid Products LLC in Burlingame, CA, echoed the sentiments of others. “The early supplies have been light and the quality has been fair to good ... nothing excellent yet. Going into the Mexican deal the market has been very strong. We expect volume to pick up the last week in March and climb in April. There will be adequate supplies by Cinco de Mayo.”

As of early March, the mango market was at a strong $7 per nine- to 10- pound carton and expected to stay strong until volume picks up, according to the Freska executive.

Dan Lawton, sales manager and head of the Tropical Division for Tavilla Sales Co. in Los Angeles, said March 2 that mango volume of the yellow-skinned Ataulfo variety was down at least 75 percent from the same date last year “and I don’t think it will loosen up for at least two to three weeks.”

Ataulfos are traditionally the first Mexican mangos to hit the U.S. market each year.

Chris Ciruli, chief operating officer for Ciruli Bros. LLC in Nogales, AZ, said notwithstanding last year’s experience, March 10 is usually when mangos start to cross in volume and that his firm would be in line with that this year. Ciruli Bros. specializes in its own “Champagne” mango, which is an Ataulfo variety.

Mr. Loza said there would be promotable volumes of mangos in April but predicted that it will be late April before the industry sees the heavy volume numbers. When mango production is in full swing, with multiple Mexican states in production (usually from April to August), volumes can top 400,000 cartons exported to the United States per day. During March, shipments of 150,000 per day are more commonplace though last year many March days topped 200,000 cartons. In fact, every shipping day but March 1 topped 100,000 and half the days surpassed 200,000. This year might be following the pattern of 2005, which saw more than 100,000 cartons on fewer than half of the March days.

Although volume got off to a great start last year, the season didn’t last as long at the back end and total volume, at 43.2 million cartons, was very similar to the 2006 and 2007 seasons. In 2008, the volume was 40.7 million cartons and in 2005, it did not top 37 million cartons. Despite this year’s slow start, U.S. importers appear confident that when all the dust has settled total volume will be in line with the previous year topping the 40 million carton figure.

Mr. Nienkerk of Splendid said late volume should be better than last year. Speaking to a northern Mexican grower on one phone as he was talking to this reporter in early March on another, he relayed that the mango bloom in the northern states was very good. Of course, a lot can happen between March and July when those mangos are picked, but so far so good.