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M&M sees strong Haitian deal

After a difficult 2010 season hurt by the devastating January earthquake, Haitian mango producers have bounced back this year with a good-sized crop.

“I don’t know the exact figures, but we’ve had a good start to the season, and I think we will have normal supplies this year,” said Joe Horowitz, sales representative for M&M Farms Inc. in Miami. “They had a bad season in 2010.” The earthquake, a 7 magnitude on the Richter scale that occurred Jan. 12, 2010, “did affect the blooms, so it affected the size of the crop, and it also impacted the infrastructure, which made it difficult for them to get the mangos they had to market.”

Mr. Horowitz said that the Haitian mango deal is always a difficult one to predict because the industry is made up of hundreds of growers, many of whom might only have three or four trees. “The growers take their fruit to a central buying office, where it is hot-water treated and packed in a shed certified by [U.S. Department of Agriculture] inspectors.”

Until that fruit is brought into the shed, there is no way to know the true volume. Mr. Horowitz said that the season typically starts in the middle of March and continues until late July. “This year, we had a little too much fruit at the beginning of the season, but it all worked out, and we are expecting good supplies the rest of the season.”

He added, “We have the summer deal from Haiti, and we have a winter deal with supplies from Ecuador and Peru.”

The Haitian deal is confined to yellow mangos similar to the Ataulfos grown in Mexico. “It is similar to the Manila mango from the Philippines, which is a cousin of the Ataulfo.”

The Haitian mango is larger than its cousins, averaging an eight to 12 count per carton, while the Ataulfo typically is much smaller with 18 to 20 per carton. Mr. Horowitz said that the vast majority of the Haitian mangos are sold in the U.S. Northeast corridor to ethnic groups that come from Caribbean island countries who are familiar with the variety.

Because it is unique and has unique customers, he said the fruit tends to have its own market. “It does not follow the Mexican [red] mango market at all. The closest thing it follows is the Ataulfo market, but it really creates a market of its own.”

As the season moves forward, Mr. Horowitz said the only thing of concern is the level of fruit flies that may surface in June and July. “Unless there is a hurricane, we expect good supplies the rest of the season. The only other factor that could limit supplies is if there is a fruit fly problem. If the fruit fly population gets too large, the USDA will shut down the packingsheds. But we don’t expect that to happen.”