Are mangoes moving further into the premium fruit category? “Five or six years ago, Tommy Atkins and Kents were the mango choices for our customers. That’s what people wanted,” says Dennis Sever of Exotic Growers. “Now our customers are tired of them and there are other varieties out there such as Ataulfo or Thai mangoes or Kesar mangoes. While Tommys and Kents are fibrous, these ones are like butter. They melt in your mouth, are very sweet and the seeds are very small so you get more bang for your buck in edible fruit.”
Indeed, Exotic Growers is underway with Ataulfo or “honey” mangoes from Mexico and shipments are starting to increase. Two weeks ago, FOBs were in the $12 range but now with increased volume, they’ve moved into the $6-$7 range.
However, its other key variety is on hold. Unrest in the country forced a halt by the USDA on Haitian mangoes back in October over safety concerns for its inspection staff. Meanwhile, for the shipper, it ships Haitian mangoes concurrently with Ataulfo.
“Both are sweet mangoes and one appeals to the Asian market while the other, the Latin American/Caribbean market,” says Sever. “During Haitian mango season, those mangoes are our bread and butter. That’s the mango we sell the most of--we do about two containers a week which for us as a small to midsize company, is plenty.” The Haitian mango season generally starts at the end of March or the beginning of April and goes throughout the summer.
Right: Ataulfo mango; photo: National Mango Board
Starting with Colombian mangoes
That said, while that’s put more pressure on demand for Ataulfo mangoes, it’s also opened up opportunities for varieties newer to the U.S. consumer. Exotic Growers will shortly begin shipping (irradiated) mangoes out of Colombia for the first time. “They taste like Indian mangoes which are very expensive because you need to bring them by air. They’re between $20-$30 or even $40 in the off-season,” says Sever. “These will be in the high teens or low $20s.”
While growers in countries such as Ecuador are also planting specialty mangoes, he says some domestic growers are turning to specialty mangoes as well. “A few growers here in Florida took out their dragon fruit because the market out of Florida is bad and they’ve planted varieties such as Mallika mangoes or the Po Pyu Kalay or “lemon meringue pie mango,”, the latter of which runs on a short 10 day to two week season. “It’s the sweetest mango you’ve ever had in your life.”
From Sever’s perspective, it’s a win-win situation. “It’s a fairly easy crop to grow that doesn’t take much attention--you’re not spending as much on fertilizers as you are with other crops and farmers make a far better profit from specialty mangoes,” he says. “Specialty mangoes also demand high prices. They can’t grow enough right now. Growers are selling out immediately once they’re ready for picking and they have pre-orders for them.”
For more information:
Exotic Growers, Inc.
Tel: +1 (305) 393-1556