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Ciruli predicts mango volume to be similar to 2013

by Tad Thompson | March 12, 2014

RIO RICO, AZ — The Feb. 18 USDA report indicated that so far in this young season, 620,000 cases of Mexican mangoes have crossed the U.S. border. 

As of the same date in 2013, that industry total figure was 850,000 cases, according to Chris Ciruli, chief operating officer of Ciruli Bros. LLC, based here.

These first days of Mexico’s mango deal reflect that axiom that mango trees have a large crop every other year. 

Mexico had a bumper mango crop in 2013.

The Mexican deal begins “in the extreme south, where there are not a lot of new plantings,” Ciruli said. 

Adding that on Feb. 21, as the deal moves north this spring, newer plantings will be coming into production, thus adding on to fruit numbers vs. 2013.

Overall, Ciruli predicts “the volume will be fairly similar to 2013, but not a bumper crop.”

Chris Ciruli, chief operating officer of Ciruli Bros. LLC, stands in his board room, which overlooks the company’s sales floor in their office in Rio Rico, AZ.

Generally speaking, he expects Mexican mango production to have a long period of growth at the rate of 10 percent per year. “Consumption needs to continue to grow,” he said.

 “You have an untapped market. There is still market share to gain.”

Ciruli noted that mangoes are the world’s most-consumed fruit. 

That is not the case in the United States, “but it’s a good product that eats well. There is a lot of room to grow.” 

The industry must boost growth by providing “consistency and flavor.”

The avocado industry can stand as a role model for mango marketers. 

In the last 20 years the United States consumption of avocados has sky rocketed, “but they haven’t sacrificed price. People are satisfied with avocados. The ‘ripe and ready’ program has satisfied that. You will see more mangos consumed. The question is getting more consumer and more repeat business.”

It’s important to “grab the younger generation” and create mango buyers.

It’s a big advantage for fresh mango marketing that the mango flavor is being widely used in processed foods. McDonalds offers several variations of mango smoothie drinks. Consumers have access to blended juices with mango, mango pulp, chocolate-covered mango slices and dried mangos.

Such products are helping generate consumer awareness of fresh mangoes, Ciruli said.

About 60 percent of the mango volume sold by Ciruli Bros. is sold in 10-pound flats. Roughly speaking, the other 40 percent is sold in individual retailers’ customized, smaller consumer packs.

The 10-pound packs were designed to reduce labor at retail stores by laying out an entire flat at one time. 

The interesting thing is that most mangos sold in United States’ grocery stores are sold in bulk displays. Therefore, Ciruli said, it makes sense to ship mangos in larger cartons.

So, why not make a shift?

Ciruli said that a Nogales mango shipper once tried shipping a double-layer, volume-filled package. “That was not well-received,” he said. 

But, he predicted, “at some point you will see some style of larger package.” 

That push will need to come from retailers, he noted.

Ciruli added that the Asian or Hispanic grocers, who enjoy very strong mango sales, enjoy the volume of selling case volumes to their customers. 

Ciruli praises the National Mango Board for its work to increase production.

As to shipping this spring, Ciruli noted, “The vast majority of what we’re receiving now is yellow fruit. This will continue to be the case into April.” 

“Yellow fruit” in this case almost entirely means the Ataulfo variety, which is Ciruli’s specialty.

 Another yellow variety is Manila. 

The yellow-skinned Manila is a major production variety — a sweet and very popular domestic variety in Mexico, “but very, very few are exported.”

Some retail stores serving Filipino communities in San Francisco and New York carry Manilas. The variety originated in the Philippines. “They look like Ataulfo but are a paler yellow,” Ciruli said.

Ciruli said his company will be receiving “low (volume), steady supplies until the latter part of March.” 

Mexico’s southern mango shipping states are Chiapas and Oaxaca. 

The Mexican mango deal will run into the first week of July. 

Harvest after that point will depend on the weather. If there is not much rain, the Mexican mango deal could possibly run into early August. A late mango push from Los Mochis in northern Sinaloa can run into later August.

Ciruli said Mexican mangoes don’t face a lot of competition in the early shipping months. But the summertime onslaught of stone fruit, melons and other fresh fruit creates a challenge for mango marketers.

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