Excellent weather in Mexico and strong expected volumes are pushing mango suppliers to seek promotions and differentiation for a competitive advantage.

Eddie Caram, general manager of New Limeco LLC, Princeton, Fla., said the lower volumes in spring mean better returns for suppliers and ultimately growers.

“It’s a good item for the summer and for May,” he said.

Chuck Ciruli Jr., partner in Ciruli Bros LLC, Nogales, Ariz., which only imports mangoes from Mexico, said favorable weather in southern Mexico has meant an early surge in picking that caused a gap in mid-April but should encourage a busy May, June and July.

“The season is running ahead of schedule,” he said. “We were able to get in and start picking three weeks earlier than previous years, which made for a very busy February and March.”

Luis Diaz, salesman for Diazteca Co., Nogales, who sources from the Mexican states of Oaxaca, Chiapas, Sinaloa and Nayarit, said he expects a steady supply of kents and keitts out of Mexico, thanks to the perfect climate, but very few tommy atkins.

“We have our own production in 2,500 acres for this year, so we are going to have a lot of production,” he said. “That is the difference we have from the other guys. We can be very aggressive with the prices, and we handle quality.”

Diaz added 85% of mangoes they export are from company-owned groves.

Mark Falkner, sales director for limes and tropicals at L&M Cos., Raleigh, N.C., said he is bringing some extremely nice tommies from Oaxaca.

“The blush on these is 65%,” he said. “Probably 400,000 boxes of mangoes will be coming to us until September — but if we can make it through July, I’d be happy.”

Doria Potts-Blonder, sales and marketing director of New Limeco LLC, praised the high quality of mangoes from Guatemala, which is growing as an early supplier ahead of Mexico’s peak.

“I think it is a very pretty mango; it has good blush on it,” she said. “From a marketing standpoint, that’s what a consumer looks for … It’s an easily marketable mango.”

Falkner, who sources from Mexico, Guatemala and Nicaragua, said although he seldom eats mangoes he has seen “a big increase on the mango movement.”

Ciruli said that growth means Ciruli Bros. adds to its orchards annually.

“We continue to plant trees every year, but it takes four or five years to get those trees into production,” he said. Nonetheless, the fervor has fueled Mexican mango production is showing results this year. Ciruli said an early March report had mango imports at 3 million boxes, compared to 1.5 million by the same time a year before.

“That’s due to warming weather and getting into the crop earlier,” he explained. However, he added, “What will matter will be where we end up at the end of the year.”

Ciruli said that with a growing understanding of mangoes retailers are starting to ask for more.

“They are more six-pack clamshells in retail and demand for pre-ripened fruit,” he said. “They want to naturally ripen everything, which is a matter of picking it with more maturity.”

Charlie Eagle, vice president of business development for Southern Specialties Inc., Pompano Beach, Fla., said mangoes will get inexpensive during the Mexican season, which will create good promotional opportunities during the course of the year.

Eagle applauds the National Mango Board’s efforts to spearhead promotional efforts.

“I think that they are aggressive, they are energetic, I think they have an excellent Web site,” he said. “I think they do a good job of updating the produce community, and they have some excellent recipes up on the Web site.”

Falkner agreed that the Mango Board’s work of late has been helpful.

“Anything out there that you can use to your benefit helps,” he said. “They provide a lot of information for us.”

He said the information included commodity movement, market trends and about food safety.

“There are a lot of things that add up to what they do.”

Like other suppliers, Diaz is hoping for a strong late season push for mangoes.

“Quality is coming great, we’re eager to promote,” he said. “That’s for sure especially on kents and keitts. We’re going to have aggressive prices on those.”

Robert Schueller, director of public relations for World Variety Produce, Los Angeles, said World Variety’s introduction of mangoes from India in 2007 has gotten some “really exciting feedback from consumers.”

He said unlike the fibrous flesh of the tommy atkins, Indian mangoes are creamy, sparking consumer appeal.

Ricardo Crisantes, general manager at Cris-P Produce Inc., Nogales, said it is still too early to determine the market for organic mangoes from Mexico this year.