One of Australia's leading mango producers will be increasing its export volume by 25 per cent as it re-enters markets and increases supply to long term partners.
Manbulloo has been exporting Kensington Pride and R2E2 mangoes for 10 years, and Managing Director Marie Piccone says it is about selecting markets that can make profit for the company and our in-country marketing partners, through strategic relationships and a focus on providing value and homing in on consumer preferences.
"In the past we have exported to most markets in the world that want Australian mangoes," she said. "We are re-entering the Middle East, and we are expanding our volumes in the U.S.A and Canada based on potential and demand. We are also expanding volumes into South Korea. Mango Road (Manbulloo’s export company) exports about 95-98 per cent of the annual volume of Australian mangoes into South Korea, and we are the major exporter of mangoes that are shipped directly from Australia into mainland China."
The company has five sites in Queensland in addition to their largest mango plantation in the Northern Territory. Harvesting began in Katherine last week on the Kensington Prides, which is the first of the varieties to hit the markets. Ms Piccone says that it makes up three quarters of production at Manbulloo, because of its taste and popularity with consumers in Australia and globally.
"We are running at a very high level of premium fruit in the Kensington Pride," she said. "We will be starting to harvest R2E2s in about one week's time. We pick Kensington Prides here at Manbulloo Katherine (Northern Territory) for 6-8 weeks, and R2E2s for about 4-6 week. As far as outlook goes, it's a normal crop, it's not a heavy crop or light crop, it's what we regard as a normal crop."
Manbuloo experienced small amounts of fruit drop but it was not "horrific", but Ms Piccone says each year poses different challenges, so it is about managing any problems that arise.
"We always have major challenges in this climate," Ms Piccone said. "We had warmer than usual winter conditions, so that made some of the flowering challenging, and we had very hot temperatures in September, hotter than normal. Then we had hot dry winds. But the Manbullloo Katherine team managed to cope with all of that."
Ms Piccone expects demand for mangoes this season to again be driven by the Kensington Pride, saying that "eating a KP mango can provide an emotional experience. As a matter of fact, one of the children (4 years old) who live on the Manbulloo farm said to her mum yesterday that the taste was so good it made her whole body happy.”
She added: "Consumers are getting one of the great tasting mangoes of the world. They then go 'ah, wow, this is superb' and they go out and buy some more. There is also an iconic image of mangoes in Australia, especially now that the weather is starting to warm up. For Australian consumers, the start of the mango season means summer is coming. So there are two things that drive demand; first is that mangoes have a special emotional place in the hearts and minds of Australians and the season kicks off with the Kensington Pride variety that tastes amazing, and that drives repeat purchasing."
Manbulloo is this year engaged in the Seasonal Workers Program and employs workers who travel from Pacific countries such as Samoa and Vanuatu to work with the Manbulloo team to pick mangoes. The company has been involved in the Seasonal Workers Program since 2009 and believes the benefits for Manbulloo and the pickers are mutually beneficial. The aim of the program is to help Australian farmers find workers, while allowing people from the less wealthy nations to gain both money and experience.
"One of our pickers, Sapati who has been coming annually for eight years told me this morning that the house he built back in Samoa with the money he made here in Australia, has been named Manbulloo - were both smiling after he told me" Ms Piccone said. "He's now built a house for his mother as well. So the Seasonal Workers Program and the relationships we have built up with the pickers have been an absolute cornerstone to our success. It's a good win-win - they are making money and getting experience that they cannot get at home. We are getting top class workers."
Harvesting at the company's Queensland farms is expected to begin in mid-November, and Ms Piccone says early indications of expected quality and volume are very pleasing.
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