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Rain over Lowveld could impact mango export volumes from South Africa

After a dry start to the summer, rain is bucketing down in the Lowveld, temporarily halting mango harvesting and packing activities. While everybody is very happy about the rain – Tzaneen, for instance, normally would have had around 1,000mm of rain by February; this year they were only at around 200mm – it complicates the post-harvest life of mangoes. 

Some producers have told FreshPlaza they have decided not to pursue any further mango exports this season, because of the heavy rain and the concomitant post-harvest quality complications and specifically the risk of anthracnose it brings. Other producers never export, even though they’d be in a position to do so, just to play it safe and besides, South Africans love mangoes.

A fraction of local production – around 3.5% last year, which was a bumper crop – is exported to the Middle East, Russia, Europe and Africa (for instance for fresh cut processing in Ghana). Locally prices are good – about R40 (2.77 Euro) to R50 (3.46 Euro) per 4kg carton. Heidi often commands higher prices, market agents say currently R50 (3.46 Euro) to R65 (4.5 Euro) per carton, depending on quality, but it has been known to go as high as R90 (6.24 Euro) a carton.

Mango harvesting in Hoedspruit is winding down in the next few weeks with Keitt, a high-yielding cultivar, so volumes will start decreasing on the market, leading to an expectation that these prices will hold until the end of the season. Tzaneen and Mooketsi have a few weeks left yet to go on Kent, Keitt and Sensation. The last mangoes in South Africa are harvested around the beginning of April.

Chairperson of the South African Mango Growers Association, Pieter Buys, says he’s quite pleased by the current season. “It’s been going well, volume-wise it fared better for some growers than they initially expected. The quality was very good because this has been a fairly dry year. Locally, the top prices might not have been as high as last year, but the average price has been steadier.”

In some areas Keitt fruit set wasn’t great with the result that fruit are peaking at sizes 6, 7 and 8, but overall, it’s considered a season with fruit on the small side. 

Juicing sector awaits new sugar tax while achar mango price is high
The mango drying industry takes a fair bit of South Africa’s mangoes, although there was some oversaturation after last year’s big crop and the unfavourable exchange rate might dampen South Africa’s dried mango exports this season.

The price for achar mangoes is very good this year. Achar is a spicy condiment of Indian origin, made with mangoes picked at an immature stage while the seed is still soft. The hub of South Africa’s primary achar processing sector is around Tzaneen. Achar manufacturers buy whole green mangoes, which they dice and to which they add spices. This achar is either sold fully spiced (in bulk or retail packaging) or is sold in bulk to packers who may add additional spices.

The juice sector is currently subdued in anticipation of the new sugar tax, which comes into effect on 1 April 2018. They wait to see what the consumers’ reaction is going to be to price increases on sugary drinks and this affects the amount of mangoes they’re taking. 

For more information:
Pieter Buys
South African Mango Growers’ Association
Tel: +27 15 307 3677

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