Mangoes are late and prices are high this spring as suppliers scramble to make up for rain damage in southern Mexico.

“We know that Mexico’s crop is quite late, but we’re hopeful that later volume will make up the difference and they will end the year with similar volume as in 2009,” said Wendy McManus, director of marketing for the Orlando, Fla.-based National Mango Board.

Guatemala is shipping small volumes, but is also experiencing a delay of several weeks compared to 2009, she said.

“By late April, and certainly in May, volumes from both countries combined will be very strong,” McManus said.

The board has had a challenging time getting out the message to retailers that mango supplies can change dramatically from one year to the next.

“We need them to rely on their suppliers and on the board for information about the upcoming crop, rather than assuming that the patterns of previous years will hold true,” she said. “It seemed there was nothing we could say to convince some retailers that 2010 was a great year for Peru. Now, we’re struggling with the opposite situation in March.”

Luis Diaz, salesman for Diazteca Co., Nogales, Ariz., expects peak production by the middle or end of April.

“We were expecting volume now but there is still no volume,” he said.

Discussing the work of government inspectors, Diaz added, “There are a lot of commissions down in central and southern Mexico trying to figure out where the production is.”

Diaz said a combination of rain damage to buds and a scaling back of hours at mango packing facilities by Mexico’s mango export association could lead to continued low volumes of mangoes.

“We definitely think that’s going to slow down exports to the U.S.,” Diaz said of the reduction from two shifts to a 12-hour shift-and-a-half.

Diaz noted volumes at the end of last year slipped by 30% as a result of the new packinghouse policy. Diaz is more optimistic about the deal once it moves into the central and northern Mexican states.

“We are in the northern Mexico side and we know we are going to do OK in June, July and some of August,” he said.

Dan Lawton, president of Tavilla Sales Co., Los Angeles, also expects good crops of ataulfo mangoes from Nayarit in northern Mexico in April and May.

“We are expecting to do as many as a half-million boxes this year and we expect to run well into May,” he said. “There will be a very good supply of ataulfo mangoes — promotable, good volumes and priced reasonably.”

Quality in question

Heavy rains are affecting mango volume and quality in southern and central Mexico this spring, and some retailers warn of the danger of allowing low-quality fruit into the U.S. marketplace.

“We have reports that there is some quality issues in the ataulfos,” Diaz said. “We need to be very careful with quality and just send up to the U.S. the good stuff.”

Lawton said even though Guatemala is a relatively small deal, the country can be counted on for quality.

“They do a very nice job and it comes by ocean, so they have to be paying attention to quality if you are going to pack it and put it on an ocean container for five or six days,” he said.

Charlie Eagle, vice president of business development for Southern Specialties Inc., Pompano Beach, Fla., said his company plans to import tommy atkins and ataulfo mangoes from Guatemala in late April.

“We’re expecting that deal to peak around mid-April and will run through early May,” he said. “We are expecting Guatemala to have a greater volume as a country than it did last year.”