Mango marketers have a lot of product to move this spring, thanks to a crop from Peru that was measured at nearly 270% higher. The country’s Ministry of Agriculture said it could be a record crop.
According to the ministry, Peru’s northern regions of Pirua and Lambayeque combined for 267,000 tons of mangoes, or 85% of the country’s total mango production, from January to October 2010.
“There’s a lot of fruit in Peru this year,” said Greg Golden, partner in Mullica Hill, N.J.-based Amazon Produce Network.
The U.S. is Peru’s top export market, followed by the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and Canada.
Golden said the flood of Peruvian fruit has caused the market to fall drastically.
“It seems 2010 was pretty smooth over the entire year,” Golden said. “This year started off with prices way up in the sky and then came crashing down and still hasn’t recovered.”
The market went from limited supplies in the latter half of December and early January to an oversupply situation, Golden said.
“All the fruit just poured in from Peru in mid-January, and the market went in the other direction, and it still has not recovered, and we’re in the middle of March right now,” he said. “We’re still selling mangoes below the break-even mark for the growers.”
Prices were in the $3-3.50 range in a lot of cases, Golden said.
William Watson, executive director of the Orlando, Fla.-based National Mango Board, said the Mexican crop was shaping up well.
“Weather in producing areas has been encouraging, with exception of freeze in northern Sinaloa,” he said. “Weather in southern and central Mexico has allowed the plants to put on solid blooms, which should result in good, reliable production.”
Because of that, he said he expects reliable, good-quality supplies from Mexico all season long. Supplies from northern Sinaloa will be lighter than last year, he said, but he wasn’t sure how much lighter.
“With Peru, Guatemala, Nicaragua and southern Mexico in the deal all at the same time, the market has reacted with lower prices,” Watson said. “We anticipate the market will react favorably once supplies tighten up a bit more, which should be soon.”
Sabine Henry, sales manager for tropical fruits for Central American Produce, Pompano Beach, Fla., called it a full market.
“Prices were very low, and we had a very heavy supply from Peru,” she said. “We saw in the Northeast it dropped to $2-3, so the growers have been losing money the last three weeks because of high volume and the weather, a lot of snow, it was very cold. Now we finish in Peru, and hopefully in a week or two, Peru will be done.”
Shipments were beginning to pick up out of Nicaragua and Guatemala by mid-March, and Mexico’s southern region was starting, as well, she said.
“I think the market will be more stable,” she said. “Prices will go up and it will go up to between $3.50 and $4, and that’s where the market will be until May or June. We may see it higher if there’s a shortage, but we don’t expect it to be worse for three months.”
Weather problems across the U.S. over the winter slowed movement a bit, said Richard Campbell, director of tropical fruits for Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden Research Center, Coral Gables, Fla.
New varieties in different shapes and colors might help to speed up demand in a sluggish market, Campbell said.
“I’ve always contended that we have to have special, new, better product. I think that’s what all the markets are demanding,” he said. “The chains want something different, something their clients get that’s exclusive.
“I’m seeing a lot of that.”
Pompano Beach-based Southern Specialties just completed a “record-volume season” in Peru, with Mexico, and Central America just getting under way, said Charlie Eagle, vice president of business development.
“What we’re expecting are supplies through early June and then lower volumes, with the cold weather Mexico experienced about a month ago,” he said. “We’re going to be pricing mangoes for promotions through April.”
A few of the early-season ataulfos out of Mexico were a mixed bag on quality issues, said Tony Godinez, president of Hidalgo, Texas-based Godinez International LLC and Freshrite Produce LLC.
“That is fairly typical of some of the early Mexican mangoes,” he said. “This next push will be from the Michoacan area as we get into late March and more packers during their seasons. I think currently while there’s not a lot of product coming across now, the quality is certainly better on ataulfos. Tommies are starting to come across now.”
The big Peruvian crop and earlier-than-normal production out of Guatemala are having an effect on the market, Godinez noted.
“That’s keeping prices on red-skinned varieties lower than we have seen in the past, particularly in this early part of the season,” he said.
The market was expected to accelerate, once the Peruvian fruit had cleared the market by the beginning of April, Godinez said.
“Demand will pick up,” he said.
Indications suggest particularly the southern part of Mexico will have a strong crop, he said.
“The jury’s still out on the northern part that was affected by the freeze in February,” he said.