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South American deal brings unique situation, says Tavilla executive

Mangos are the most popular fruit in the world and have made big sales gains in the United States during recent years. The year-round availability of the crop from many different countries is an important factor in that growth, and the mango importers work hard to create a smooth transition from one production area to the next.

But that doesn’t mean that all areas are the same. In fact, Bill Vogel, president of Tavilla Sales Co. of Los Angeles, said that the South American deal has unique challenges that are quite a bit different from what confronts the Mexican mango deal, which is the main supplier of mangos to the United States from early spring through the summer. While some Mexico mangos from the Yucatan Peninsula are shipped by sea into Miami, the vast majority of loads sent to the United States come by truck through Nogales, AZ, or McAllen, TX.

While that has its challenges, it is far different from what faces South American mango shippers. “Mexico mangos can be packed one day and be into the United States the next day,” Mr. Vogel said. “From South America, the growers and shippers have to be much more organized and much more sophisticated. They have to grow, pick and pack to meet the ships’ schedules. The growers down there have to work with the steamship companies well in advance, which makes it a much more complicated deal.”

Additionally, the fruit in many of the South American production areas is packed at large, independently owned packing plants where the packer might be working with a half-dozen or more labels at any one time. Again, coordination is the key. For the most part, Mexican growers own their own packingsheds and have greater control over their own fruit.

Mr. Vogel said that the South American mango shippers do have an advantage in that they have the ability to ship their fruit to other markets around the world. While almost all of the Mexico mangos destined for export end up in the United States, that is not the case for Brazil, Ecuador or Peru mangos. Both Europe and Asia are big customers of South America mangos and take as much as 50 percent of the mango volume that is exported. There is also a strong domestic market, especially in Brazil.

Mr. Vogel said that these factors combine to give South American mango shippers both higher costs and extra leverage when making U.S. sales. Because they have other options, exporters will not send their fruit to the United States if the market is too low.

In mid-September, Tavilla was sourcing from Brazil and also was buying a few mangos from the only commercial mango production in California. “They’ve got a pretty good deal down at Corona College Heights [in California],” said Mr. Vogel. “It’s a short deal, but they get a very good price for those local mangos.”

Mr. Vogel expects both Ecuador and Brazil to have fairly normal-sized crops this year, but said that it was too early to forecast the size of the Peruvian deal this year. “Peru sends us fruit in January, February and March,” he said. “For much of that deal, the fruit hasn’t set yet. It won’t set until October or November, so nobody can tell you this early how big the crop will be.”