Q&A: NMB’s new president Albert Pérez discusses mango industry's biggest challenges

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Q&A: NMB’s new president Albert Pérez discusses mango industry's biggest challenges

The National Mango Board (NMB) recently announced Albert Pérez as its new president, with the Cuban-born produce industry veteran ready to tackle the sector’s most demanding issues.

Pérez, who is also CEO & Grower Relations for Continental Fresh, was already part of the National Mango Board, in addition to being a member of the United Fresh International Advisory Board and BLUE Missions Group, a non-profit organization.

With a background of over 36 years in fresh fruit and vegetable imports and marketing, Pérez was the only hispanic salesman when the company he worked for in the 1980s began importing mangoes. 

He was the only salesman at the firm who even knew what a mango looked like. Since then, he’s taken it upon himself to help promote the fruit in the U.S market.

"Mango is the fruit that has had the biggest impact on my career. Being able to offer something from my experiences and learning is something I see as my duty to contribute to something that has given me so much. For me, participating in the chamber of the National Mango Board and in this period being its President is a great honor," he told FreshFruitPortal.com.

What are the personal challenges you have set for yourself and what challenges do you have outlined for the organization?

As a personal challenge, I want to help get recognition for all the effective programs the chamber has in place and proceed with an open mind about what other methods can be implemented in the future to continue to promote mango consumption. 

I also want all growers to recognize how important and great it is to have this USDA-backed organization in the largest market in the world. 

It's an opportunity that many other products would like to have that is almost impossible to obtain.

What marketing strategies will be put in place during your run as president of the NMB?

Some of our most successful marketing initiatives include Mango.org's Origin Stories

These are a collection of micro-documentaries that reveal new stages of the epic mango journey, told by the people who live it, in communities around the world. 

These stories feature unique places like Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Mexico and we have more stories to come that will eventually feature Ecuador, Peru, Brazil and California. 

These food cultures that mangoes shape around the world help consumers discover what makes mangoes so great.

And our Fiesta with Mango Campaign provides many ideas for incorporating mangoes into your party menu. This specific campaign has showcased the versatility of the fruit while showcasing the nutritional and flavor elements.

In terms of sustainable production, will there be any new developments in mango research?

The NMB has created several tools to educate and guide the mango industry. We have available on our website the Sustainability Manual that is easily accessible and can be used by members to answer various questions related to efficient and effective resource management, as well as other sustainability issues.

We also have a sustainability website which provides a comprehensive assessment of farm, packinghouse and importing operations. This qualitative assessment aims to point out possible failures and propose (through the sustainability manual) an action plan to mitigate or correct them.

What about energy efficiency?

We have just created an energy management manual. It is aimed at promoting sustainable energy management in the mango industry, which will improve productivity and competitiveness. 

In addition, in order to follow up on this energy management manual, our board approved last November the creation of a quantitative evaluation tool for energy savings. 

This quantitative tool will serve to evaluate energy management parameters, energy efficiency projects, obtain economic metrics, baselines and energy balance, including the prevention of carbon dioxide emissions, all in a sustainable manner.

The tool will be easy to use, robust and comprehensive, so users will be able to quantitatively evaluate a large number of energy projects for installation as many times as needed.

How do you ensure that mangoes imported into the United States meet quality and food safety standards?

The National Mango Board and its governing regulations do not give it the authority to regulate quality or food safety standards. What the NMB does have is the authority to conduct research and provide education and information to the mango industry.

Therefore, board members identify research projects that address quality or food safety issues and the NMB also develops resources and tools for the mango industry.

Some examples of this are the development of the "Mango Postharvest Best Handling Practices Manual" and other similar "best practices" materials that were developed with the University of Florida and UC Davis.

The NMB has also funded research projects related to food safety, such as "The Impact of Wash Water Disinfectants" and "Factors Influencing the Introduction, Fate, and Mitigation of Foodborne Pathogens in Mango".

The NMB created and manages the website: www.mangofoodsafety.org, which provides food safety training materials in four languages (English, Spanish, Portuguese and Haitian Creole) for mango growers, harvesters, packers, transporters, importers and retailers.

Food safety standards are governed by the Food Safety Modernization Act and are enforced by the Food and Drug Administration.

What activities are on the agenda in terms of engaging with the mango growing and distribution community?

Each year, we hold an industry briefing to meet face-to-face with members of the fresh mango industry in each of the four U.S. districts. 

The goal is to continue to enhance the meaningful and valuable relationship with industry members in the U.S. and to provide an update on NMB programs and encourage voting during the continuation referendum.

With respect to mango producers outside the U.S., the NMB is working with the mango producer and exporter associations of the six major mango exporting countries to the U.S. to organize outreach meetings. 

The objectives of these meetings are to strengthen relationships with the industry, provide updates on NMB programs, present research project results and cover any other topics of interest that will allow growers and packers to increase their technical and economic efficiency and become more sustainable.

How do you measure the success of your initiatives?

Like so many other business activities, success is measured by results. What matters most to the NMB is that mango consumption and demand are increasing. 

Fortunately, these two metrics, as well as other key industry results such as value generated, continue to increase each year. 

The NMB measures and tracks many layers of its marketing, communications, research and industry relations activities, which are outlined in the NMB Strategic Plan. It is important to establish baselines, understand where we are when we start measuring, and if industry standards are available, then we use them to compare. We then build on the results over time and set goals.

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