With Ecuador now entering the strongest months of mango production, growers are hoping for good returns with regulated export volumes and are planting new yellow varieties to tap growing demand. At www.freshfruitportal.com we catch up with Mango Ecuador Foundation executive director Johnny Jara to see where the industry is heading.
If Jara had to choose his favorite mango he would go for the yellow Ataulfo, but around 55% of his country's exports are of the red Tommy Atkins cultivar.
For an industry that has naturally declined over the last 15 years from 10,000 hectares to 5,500 hectares, Jara's taste reflects the current changes at play in both plantings and consumer demand.
"What is growing right now is the subject of the Ataulfo, an Asian variety called 'Nandoc Mai' and another one we've been planting is called 'Madame Francique' - a variety from Haiti," he says.
"They are yellow varieties like the Ataulfo but they're a bit bigger and more elongated. They are very sweet and have very few fibres.
"What is happening is that some branches of Haden (mangoes) are being cut and we’re grafting these varieties of Ataulfo, Nandoc Mai and Francique - it's a change to yellow mangoes, as their consumption has good growth in the U.S. The Ataulfo is a Mexican variety, and in the U.S. there are so many Mexicans."
He says around 10% of the countries mangoes are Ataulfos, while the Nandoc Mai and Francique mangoes are still starting out with less than 100 hectares of plantations.
Production, competition, regulation
The country's season officially starts with small volumes in October with its highest volumes in November and December. Harvesting officially continues until February, but rains tend to dampen production in January.
Jara adds that climate change has assisted the industry in recent years and fruit quality has been good too.
"The good thing about our climate that we’ve had lately is that we don’t have peaks that are as pronounced as they were before," he says.
In terms of competition, Peru has a much larger industry but has suffered from the price effects of peaks, while Brazil comes in earlier than Ecuador with a slight overlap.
To fetch better prices in markets, the foundation has introduced a policy to regulate volumes to North America, with between 140-150 containers weekly.
"Why do we do that? So that prices don't fall - with an export consignment you don't know how the fruit will arrive, or it's quality, because anything can happen on the journey," says Jara.
"But if you regulate the supply, while at the same time demand is growing a bit due to the help of the National Mango Board, people then consume more mangoes and prices improve.
"What we're doing is not just consolidating production, but market destinations and importers, because we have a long list of importers – some cheat us, some don’t pay."
The foundation's statistics show Ecuador exports 80% of its mangoes to the U.S., followed by Canada (10%), Europe (5%), Mexico (3%), New Zealand (1%) and Chile (0.5%).
He says if fruit that is not export standard is not shipped out of Latin America, and instead tends to stay in the Ecuadorian domestic market or goes to Colombia.
"We have a neighboring market in Colombia and they buy a lot of second class fruit. They have their juicing plants and they consume mangoes," he says.
"The thing is with North Americans, or all foreigners, is that if there's a little dent they think it's bad. As Latinos we know a dent is just a scratch – it’s nothing, because you don’t eat the skin but what’s inside, and the inside is good."