The Dominican Republic consumes a lot of mango and avocado. But the Dominicans are not the only ones who prefer these fruits. The taste and nutritious properties of the Dominican mango and avocado have won over different markets, such as the United States, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy, Spain and other countries in Europe.
Last year, avocado exports grew by 91.2%, going from US $16.6 million in 2015 to US $ 31.7 million in 2016. Meanwhile, mango exports increased by 28.8%, going from US $15.7 million in 2015 to US $20.2 million in 2016, according to statistics from the Ministry of Agriculture.
In 2015 the exports of both fruits fell considerably due to the strong drought that affected the country and to the presence of the Medfly.
Rafael Leger, president of the Mango Cluster, said that the United States' ban on the Mediterranean Fly did not affect exports that year because that country requires that the fruit be subjected to a hydrothermal treatment to eliminate the endemic Caribbean fly from the Dominican Republic.
However, he said, the drought harmed the harvest. "That drought caused exponential growth to slow down a bit, but we are back."
Meanwhile, Jose Rosa, the president of the Avocado Cluster, said that the Mediterranean Fly caused a decrease in exports to the United States, which is the main destination of that fruit.
"An important percentage had to be sold internally or destined to other markets that do not offer the facilities that the North American market offers," he said.
According to Rosa, the Dominican Republic produces 200 thousand to 300 thousand tons a year, of which it exports around 30 thousand tons (10%). The remaining 90% is consumed in the country.
This year, the outlook is better because there are more mango crops, stated Rafael Leger.
"We have had an incredible exponential growth and the international markets are starting to know us; before they did not know that we produced mangos."
He said that the country had some 17,000 tareas, i.e. a little more than one thousand hectares, devoted to this crop in 2003-2004; now, the country has about 100 thousand tareas, i.e. approximately 6 thousand hectares.
Meanwhile, the outlook for avocado producers is not that great because the recent rains, which occurred when the plantations were flowering, damaged the future harvest. "The excess of rain caused the flowers to die and the small avocados that had formed to fall. That is to say, the rains strongly affected the harvest that is expected for the end of the year and the beginning of 2018," Jose Rosa said.
In addition, the downpours destroyed the roads that give access to the area of Cambita, in San Cristobal, where 35% of the green avocado plantations are, and producers can not enter the plots.
Mango and avocado are stationary crops that are harvested at a specific time. The mango occurs from April to September, but the period has been extended by the new varieties that have been introduced and which start earlier.
Rafael Leger said that they sometimes start to harvest in March, depending on the weather, and that if there are not so many insects at the end of the productive year, they can continue producing it during the month of September.
Meanwhile the largest avocado harvest takes place from October to March, but 20% of the production comes out between April and September. "Right now the offer is quite low," Jose Rosa said.
Due to the stationary condition of the crops, the producers of both fruits are studying the possibility of introducing new varieties to commercialize them in the season when supply is lower and demand is greater, to obtain greater benefits.
Rafael Leger said that the Dominican Institute of Agricultural and Forest Research (IDIAF) was developing new varieties brought from the United States, which are niche markets in that country and in Europe.
According to Leger, these varieties will replace the ones that are currently being produced in a few years.
"They are analyzing 15 varieties from Asia, India, Pakistan, Israel, and the United States for the niche markets in England, Europe, Germany, France and Spain, where the emigrants want to eat their mango and but they only enter in one season. However, we produce them in another season and can take advantage of that," he said.
Jose Rosa said that the Avocado Cluster was also looking to reproduce avocado varieties that can have better opportunities and prices in the period of scarcity.
At the moment the main varieties that are exported are the semil 34, which people call the green shell avocado, the Hass (which is small and has a purple shell), and the carla variety, which is produced mainly in the area of Ocoa.
Most of the avocado production takes place in the South: in San Cristobal, Elias Piña, Pedernales, Bahoruco, San Juan, Ocoa, Padre de la Casas, and Barahona.
In addition, there are crops in Puerto Plata (Altamira), Moca (Villa Trina), La Romana, Hato Mayor, and El Seibo.
The most marketed mango is of the Keitt variety, followed by the mingolo, banilejo, gold grain, and golden drop varieties.
This fruit is mainly produced in Peravia, San Cristobal, Azua, San Juan, Barahona and Neyba
The president of the Avocado Cluster said that one of the sector's main problems was the lack of financing, as it takes four years to start producing.
"Producers can't get long-term financing. It is a crop that requires a great investment and if the banks don't lend producers money they have to work with their own resources. Unfortunately, not everyone has enough money to invest and wait four years for the return," he said.
According to the Central Bank's report for January-March this year, the country's agricultural activity registered a 7.5% year-on-year growth thanks to the support policies implemented by the Government through the Ministry of Agriculture and its dependencies.
Among these measures, the report highlights the rescue incentives based on the facility of credit to small and medium producers, as well as the contingency plan aimed at reversing the damages caused by the rains of late 2016 and early this year in highly productive areas, mainly in the Northwest Line and the Central Cibao, in addition to the continuous technical assistance, and supply of seeds and fertilizers.
It also highlights the disbursements made by the Agricultural Bank, which amounted to RD $ 4,612.5 million during the first quarter of the year, i.e. 43.2% more than in the same period of the previous year.
According to the assessments made by the Ministry of Agriculture, the Dominican Agrarian Institute and the Dominican Agricultural Business Board, the damages caused by the recent rains that hit the country were not significant and won't affect the sector's favorable growth prospects for the rest of the year.
However, avocado producers consider the rains did affect this year's crop.