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Cultivators levelling mountains for the cultivation of mangoes

On the European mainland, Spain is the only cultivator of mangoes. Of the enormous land area available on the Iberian Peninsula, however, only a relatively small strip in the far south of Spain is suitable for this type of cultivation. At the end of October, Roelant Komen from Fairtrasa visited cultivators in this area who supply organic mangoes to the Dutch importer. “Demand for organic mangoes increases annually,” he says.

“The cultivation of mangoes is only possible in the far south of Spain, near Malaga,” Komen says. “It is a relatively small area, and mangoes and avocados can be cultivated there.” The strip concerned is about 100 kilometres wide and about four kilometres inland. That coastal strip has a microclimate ideal for this tropical fruit. “Cultivators can actually not expand their area, because there is no room left. One cultivator told me there are plans to level a mountain in order to expand the area somewhat.”

Peak in pricing at the end of the season
The mango season finishes at the end of November. “We have had a good season, with good quantities and prices” Komen continues. The season starts with Tommy Atkins. “It is not the most popular strain, but it is an early strain.” Three to four weeks later, Osteen enters the market. The season ends with Keitt. “Keitt is cultivated less, so every year, we see prices increasing towards the end of the season, because supply decreases.” 

Fewer organic mangoes
That increase in price at the end of the season is partially caused by the small amount of organic mangoes on the market. “There are not a lot of alternatives. Brazil starts with small volumes, Ecuador also does not have large numbers yet, and Peru does not start till December. Because of that, there is a hole on the market for a few weeks, so prices increase.”

“We have noticed Spanish cultivators are no longer planting Tommy mangoes, and that these orchards are being switched to Osteen or Keitt,” says Komen. With that, the organic market follows a trend also seen on the conventional market. The stringless strains grow at the expense of other varieties, which are grubbed up.

Although the transportation time from Spain is considerably shorter than from Latin America, Spanish mango is not always harvested ready-to-eat. “It is not happening on a large scale, which is mostly to do with shelf life,” says Komen. Were the fruit to be picked ripe, it would mean it had to be sold quicker. “The mangoes are picked riper than were they to come from Brazil or Peru, but still the ripening process is finished after harvesting. The mangoes have a better shelf life because of this.” Demand for ready-to-eat organic mangoes is also large. “We see an increasing demand for ready-to-eat mangoes by supermarkets, but that demand is not very extreme.”

The mangoes are distributed throughout Europe by Fairtrasa. The Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Denmark and Iceland are some of the markets. Traditionally, Germany is a large market for organic products, but organic is also becoming increasingly commonplace closer to home. The market in the former Eastern bloc is also growing.

Fairtrasa in Spain?
Spain might seem like an odd choice considering Fairtrasa’s aim, which is supporting small-scale cultivation projects in mostly Latin American countries, and helping cultivators doing so. However, the choice for Spain can be easily explained. “If you want to be a partner, you need to be able to offer a complete package,” says Komen. The Peruvian mango season lasts two to two-and-a-half months. However, Fairtrasa’s customers want products on the shelves year-round. “The seasons do not overlap, so we can offer a year-round mango programme with Peru, Spain and Africa,” Komen concludes. 

For more information:
Roelant Komen