Since mid-January, the U.S. mango market has been stronger than what is typical at this time of the year, and all indications are that the hot market could last at least into late March.
"This week Peru is at the peak of its shipments and the market is still strong," Bill Vogel, president of Vision Produce Co. in Los Angeles and the current chairman of the National Mango Board, told The Produce News Feb. 19. "After this week, Peru's shipments are going to start to decline and Mexico is lagging a bit behind its normal volume. In fact, Mexico is running about two weeks behind."
Vogel said by the third full week in February, Peruvian exporters had already sent more mangos to the U.S. market than they had the entire 2012-13 season, yet at higher prices.
"That's a testament to the good eating quality of the fruit," Vogel said. "Kents (Peru's main variety) is a variety that all of the ethnic groups really like."
He added that there is a lot of retailer movement from the ethnic chains, which has kept demand very high and the market price strong. Because of the increased volume during the week of Feb. 17, the market did drop a bit to $6-7 for a flat of mangos, which was about $1 less than the previous week. But Vogel predicted it would go right back up next week (Feb. 24) and possibly even strengthen over the next several weeks.
Gary Clevenger, managing member and co-founding partner of Freska Produce International Inc. in Oxnard, CA, concurred.
"Every time we open a container, we have customers just waiting for us to ship the fruit," he said. "There has been no storage time on any of this fruit from Peru."
He said there was a small gap in supplies in mid-January that caused the mango market to jump, and it has remained strong ever since, even as supplies have increased. And now with the delay in volume from Mexico, he said the market should be strong until mid- to late March.
"Right now (Feb. 19), we are getting $8.50 on Mexican reds, although there are only a few out there," Clevenger said. "There is even a better market on Ataulfos."
The Mexican mango season typically begins in February with shipments from the states in the most southern region, including Oaxaca, Chiapas and Guerrero. The yellow-skinned Ataulfo typically dominates the early shipments with red-skinned mango varieties following behind by a couple of weeks.
Both Vogel and Clevenger pointed to a light first bloom on those most southern trees for the below-normal Mexican shipments in February.
"But the second bloom was heavy," said Vogel.
While most of the month of March will see light mango supplies, April should bring very good volume. Vogel predicted that pricing in April will be attractive for retail promotions.
Again Clevenger concurred.
"Beginning in late March and all through April, May, June and July, we should see great volume from Mexico and great opportunities for promotion," he said. "Every year Mexico seems to set a new record [for mango shipments to the United States], and I think it will be the same this year. Each year we see more and more fruit come into the United States."
Vogel said the efforts of the National Mango Board deserve some of the credit. He said the board does an excellent job of promoting the fruit and the industry continues to see increased volume and higher prices. He characterized that situation as a "win-win."
Wearing his NMB chairman's hat, Vogel also spoke about the board's upcoming second annual Mango Food Safety Conference, which will be held on Thursday, March 6, in Philadelphia, PA. This annual conference is free to attend and industry members at all levels of the mango supply chain are encouraged to register.
Since mango imports were hit with a contamination issue a couple of years ago, the board has redoubled its effort to establish food-safety protocols and disseminate that information to the industry.
The Philadelphia seminar will focus on food-safety laws and initiatives, such as the Food Safety Modernization Act and Produce Traceability Initiative, providing insight on how these efforts will affect the mango industry.
Speakers will also provide attendees with information on the high-risk areas associated with mangos, as well as a crash course in recall management.
More information on the seminar is available on NMB's website (www.mango.org).