Peru has cut mango exports dramatically as growers there respond to dropping prices.

“Our growers have sent only half of what we hoped for,” said Homero Levy de Barros, president of Pompano Beach, Fla.-based HLB Specialties LLC.

Shortly before Christmas, growers in San Lorenzo Valley, Cieneguillo and Alto Piura announced a 15-day suspension of sales. The price paid to farmers for 20 kilograms of mangoes had fallen from the equivalent of $10.58 to $3.13 in less than a month, the Peruvian newspaper Diario Correo reported.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, as the year came to a close, Peru had exported 59 million pounds of mangoes to the U.S. this year, compared to 1.19 billion pounds at the end of 2011.

U.S. importers like Larry Nienkerk, partner in Burlingame, Calif.-based Splendid Products, had expected Peru’s mango volume to be up 20% or so over last year. The slowdown and suspension left some scrambling.

“I’m buying mangoes from other people in the market,” Levy de Barros said Dec. 28. “Whoever has it, I’m buying it in order to maintain my programs. Ecuador’s had enough but now Peru has issues. And we had worried because Peru said it would come on very strong. That’s agriculture.”

“The problem is that Ecuador is supposed to go at least the whole month of January,” he said. “It was said to end sooner than normally expected, but now it’s a few more weeks. Maybe after Ecuador is gone the price will go up and we’ll see more volumes.”

If or when Peru exports hit full stride, smaller sizes will predominate on the U.S. market.

“It’s going to be very heavy to 12s, along with 10s and a lot of 14s,” said Nienkerk, who before the suspension was expecting Peru mango volume to pick up by the third week of January. “The trees are loaded with fruit so the sizes are smaller.”

Not just nature, but economics too has something to say about size.

“A larger percentage of big fruit than I like to see is going to Europe,” Nienkerk said. “They pay more and it doesn’t have to be treated so it’s less of a cost to the packing shed or grower. We especially like to see the big fruit here as we come up on the lunar New Year. That’s our big play for larger-sized fruits for the Asian community in the first week of February.”

Peru’s deal is expected to go through March. Nienkerk anticipates starting Mexican mangoes in late February. Levy de Barros looks to turn to Guatemala and Nicaragua in March.

Kents predominate in Peru; tommy atkins in Ecuador. One-layer flats of tommy atkins 7s and 9s bound for South Florida ports were mostly $7.50 on Dec. 26, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Year-ago prices were $6 to $6.50.