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Peru: The big challenge for mango producers is to improve production yields

Last season, the Peruvian mango industry achieved a historic record: it exported 7,900 containers of fresh and processed mango. 90% of the fruit was shipped through the port of Paita, in Piura, where 75% of the Peruvian mango is produced. The rest of the production is cultivated in Lambayeque (15%) and in Ancash (10%), in the Casma valleys. Of those 7,900 containers, 7,100 were shipped by sea and the remaining by air and by land, the latter exclusively for the Chilean market, according to data from the Peruvian Association of Producers and Exporters of Mango (APEM).

Juan Carlos Rivera, the general manager of the APEM, stated that the Peruvian mango industry had been a world power for a decade and that one of its main achievements was that it had displaced Brazil as the second biggest exporter of this fruit. Mexico continues to lead exports because the US market is right next to it.

Why is the Peruvian mango so good? "Mango requires a lot of heat and different temperatures in the day and at night. Piura's dry climate and many hours of sunshine are perfect to grow mango. They give it good organoleptic qualities and producers don't need to apply many phytosanitary products because there aren't many pests. That differentiates us a lot from the Ecuadorian production, for example," Rivera said.

The problem is that the mango doesn't have a very long post harvest life. A mango's shelf life lasts a maximum of 40 days, from the moment it is collected until it rots. In addition, the fruit is embarked one week after being harvested. That is the main difficulty.

The recent rains didn't affect the crop because the mango is a tropical fruit. In fact, the rains were good for the crop because they hydrated the soils, the lands were filled with silt, the trees were strengthened and, as a result, there was a good flowering. Therefore, the General Manager of APEM expects there will be a good production in this campaign, which, he predicts, will be equal or better than the last one.

Is there an overproduction in the Peruvian mango industry that could result in low prices? "I don't thinks so," said Rivera. "The problem is that there is a lack of efficiency. We produce an average of 315,000 tons and there are, more or less, 28,000 hectares planted," he said. The great challenge for small, medium, and large producers is to improve productive yields, which average 11 t/ha. "You could say that there is a balance between supply and demand, but we have a much greater potential," said the manager about an industry that is currently very fragmented, as the nearly 28,000 hectares are in the hands of 14,000 producers. "We can't have an economy of scale if each producer has 2 hectares. The sector can't be efficient. Mango production is like an archipelago: there are thousands of islands producing. That is our weakness and strength. One could also say that mango is an inclusive crop; How many owners of land are there in the grape sector in Peru? Just a few. But there are thousands in the mango sector," said Rivera.

Asian dream
He also said that, from a phytosanitary point of view, Peru was in all the markets where it should be. The goal, however, continues to be Asia. Korea, Japan, and China are already open. However, exporters can't send large volumes to Asia by boat: the transit time and the mango's post-harvest life do not allow it. Faster boats are needed. "Mango producers dream about selling mangoes to the Chinese via sea," said Rivera.

Another sensitive point has to do with logistics; transferring the product from the packing facility to the ships is very expensive; twice as expensive as in Ecuador. In Ecuador, for example, that service costs US $600, while in Peru it costs US $1,200.

But the mango is currently doing very well in Peru, and this will become even more evident in the next campaign. The economy of the farmers in the Piura region is hit, and this mango campaign could be the light at the end of the tunnel, especially for those who also produce table grapes. According to Rivera, there are two challenges: "arriving to the Asian market and having a more efficient productivity."


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