Sluggish start for South African mango season amid oversupply issues
South Africa's mango grower body has reported an "all-round better harvest" this season compared to the 2015/16 deal, but has noted some market issues by way of oversupply and low demand.
The South African Mango Growers’ Association (SAMGA) said improved fruit size and quality, along with greater volumes, would be some of the characteristics of the current season.
"Indications are that the 2016/17 harvest will be larger compared to the previous season’s crop in which severe hail resulted in a loss of 17% of the total crop," the group said.
"There has also been less disease reported this year, resulting in better quality fruit, higher pack outs and increased fruit supply."
As with other local fresh produce sectors, mango production has been affected by prevailing climatic conditions, including high temperatures and once again, hail.
"This led to the season beginning around two weeks earlier than expected, with early-season cultivars like the popular Tommy Atkins being ready for harvesting two weeks ahead of schedule," the SAMGA said.
"As a result, Tommy Atkins producers in the Hoedspruit and Malelane areas simultaneously harvested greater volumes of fruit, leading to the market coming under pressure, which in some cases has led to an oversupply of mangoes delivered to juice factories."
It also noted a decline in orders for dried South African mangoes from international buyers had also "exacerbated the oversupply situation"- This could be attributed to increased competition from West Africa, Ghana and Burkina Faso, and higher production costs associated with local fruit drying.
"There has also been a minor shift in demand, with slightly less consumer and retailer demand for mangos this season to date," it said.
"However, this is in line with traditional seasonal fluctuations, such as continued pressure on household budgets following the festive season and the start of the new school and work year."
"Best eating mangoes" coming into season
Overall the fresh produce markets had demonstrated "good support" for local mangoes, with "positive movement" on shop floors. Growers also expected demand to increase as the season continues and other varieties market enter the market, the entity said.
"The green-skinned Kent and Keitt mangoes, for example, are due to arrive within the next two weeks. Producers have reported a good crop of these mangoes, and anticipate a good supply to market with improved prices," it said
"This encouraging harvest of Kent and Keitt mangoes – which will be available until the end of March – provides an opportunity to further consumer awareness of the use of green-skinned mangoes, which this year will focus on recognising readiness in these mangoes, which become a lighter green when ripe.
"Consumers will also be educated around additional uses for these typically larger mangoes as well as the fact that they are sweeter, have excellent flavour and are very versatile in the kitchen."
Other, less common varieties like Shelley, Irwin, Haden and Heidi, which the SAMGA describes as the "best eating mangoes" are also now beginning to come into season.