(April 6, Mangoes Marketing Profile) Although mangoes from Mexico started earlier and stronger than normal this year, demand seems to be keeping up so far. Most shippers expect supplies to lighten up in April, then to pick up again by early May.

“Mexico’s season started much earlier than normal and with much more volume than normal,” said Chris Ciruli, chief operations officer for Rio Rico, Ariz.-based Ciruli Bros. LLC.

Ciruli Bros. ships exclusively from Mexico, usually starting in mid-March. The company started importing mangoes in February this year.

Ciruli said volumes were starting to come down in late March, and he expected them to pick up again at the end of April, when more areas in Mexico are producing.

“We got into the field so much earlier, so we’re already into the second harvest,” Ciruli said. “As well as you’ll generally see a labor shortage April 8-14. You typically see that during Holy Week.”

Ciruli said his company expects to be about 3 million boxes above last year.

“It’s a bumper crop year,” he said. “You’ll see it overall with imports out of Mexico.”

Princeton, Fla.-based New Limeco LLC also expects to ship more mangoes this year, possibly 100,000 boxes more than last year, said Eddie Caram, general manager. The company started importing from Mexico the last week of March, and is still importing from Guatemala.

The company ships mostly tommy atkins year-round, but does some kents and keitts when they become available. Caram said he expected to start with keitts in August. Quality of tommy atkins is very good right now, he said.

“Right now they’re very mature, have a lot of red blush,” Caram said.

Freska Produce International LLC had hoped for larger volumes than it has received, although supplies are up from last year.

“We were expecting a lot more volume coming into April, and things look like there’s not as much as we thought,” said Chuy Loza, managing member of the Ventura, Calif.-based company. “We thought we were going to get bombarded, but it hasn’t materialized.”

Loza said there could even be a small gap before the Nayarit region in Mexico starts producing.

“In May, we expect a gap,” Loza said on March 25. “We won’t have significant volumes again until June. On yellows, we’re experiencing a little gap as we speak that should last until Nayarit the first of May, so we’ll be tight in April.”

Loza said Freska Produce has been able to spread out the harvest well to avoid unwanted supplies.

“Shipments out of Mexico have been pretty projected,” he said. “We haven’t had a large peak one week to the next. That’s gotten us in trouble before.”

Shipments have crept up from 800,000 boxes the week ending Feb. 21 to 1.4 million boxes the week ending March 21, he said.

“Those are very, very manageable increases,” Loza said. “There have been increases, but no doubling from one week to the next. This year’s growing season allowed us to harvest with steady peaks.”

Nogales, Ariz.-based Farmer’s Best International LLC may be down a little bit in overall mango imports this year.

“It’s hard to say what to expect, but I do think with what we’re hearing as far as production, it may be lighter,” said Rick Burkett, salesman for Farmer’s Best. “The last I heard we’re going to be 5% down.”

Burkett said the decline may be due to a warmer winter, which plants weren’t accustomed to, so they may have tended to produce a little less.

Farmer’s Best had been shipping ataulfo, or “baby” mangoes, for five or six weeks by the end of March. The company started with tommy atkins and hadens March 30.

“It’s pretty much on time for us,” Burkett said. “We prefer to leave ours on the tree a little longer so it can mature and develop sugars.”

Farmer’s Best markets ataulfo mangoes under the Soliel label early in the season, but also uses its Farmer’s Best label for the same variety from different growing regions. The company should have ataulfos until the first of July, when it starts with kents, which are larger and green-skinned.

Burkett said should he have keitts by Aug. 1 through the end of September. Keitts are similar to kents, but have some red blush and grow farther north in Mexico, making them a later variety.

Loza agreed Mexico’s season started earlier than normal, with ataulfos from the country being imported by early February. Red mangoes from Mexico started later in February, right on time, Loza said. Freska Produce also imports from Brazil, Ecuador, Peru and Guatemala.

Central American Produce, Pompano Beach, Fla., is bringing in Nicaraguan and Guatemalan fruit, but waits for Mexico until May, said Sabine Henry, sales manager for tropical fruits. The company strictly imports tommy atkins from those two countries, but starts with hadens, kents and keitts when Mexico comes in.

Glassboro, N.J.-based Amazon Produce Network used to focus its year-round mango program on offshore imports, but has picked up a program from Mexico.

The company also imports from Nicaragua and Guatemala, said Greg Golden, sales manager and partner.

Ataulfos came in heavy and fast from Mexico, Golden said. The company brought in its first shipment of ataulfos and tommy atkins from Mexico the first week of March.

If market conditions allow, Amazon Produce Network could double its volume on Guatemalan mangoes this year. Guatemala’s production is up about 10%, said Gilmar Mello, grower relations manager and partner.

In the last few years, it has been very advantageous to have Guatemalan fruit because freight costs from Mexico were so high, Golden said. Last year, it was an extra $1.35 a box, but is down to 95 cents a box this year, he said.

“A big advantage has been lost,” Golden said.

Ciruli Bros. markets the Champagne, a trademarked name for the ataulfo variety. The company doesn’t ship tommy atkins or haden at all, but ships late season kents and keitts in July and August, after it wraps up with ataulfo. About 95% of the company’s production is ataulfo.

Mango sizes are lining up pretty normal this year, peaking in the middle, but still yielding both large and small sizes.

“Sizing has been running a little ahead, peaking on 18s and 16s this year, mid-sized fruit,” Ciruli said. “So the fruit has good size this year.”

Other years, crops have peaked on smaller sizes, which is not nearly as good, Loza said. This year is ideal for Freska Produce.