In South Africa the mango harvest season is in full swing, with most Tommy Atkins fruit off the trees and Kent and Keitt the current focus. Mango volumes look significantly better than a year ago, when a 17% drop in yields was not only caused by drought conditions and water restrictions, but also by severe hail storms affecting a range of subtropical fruit crops.
According to Fanie Meyer of Unifrutti South Africa, an improvement in production is especially evident in certain mango-producing regions like the Hoedspruit, Groblersdal and Marble Hall areas, where dam levels are much improved. However, in the Letsitele Valley and Onderberg, the situation is still tenuous with worryingly low dam levels and tight water restrictions. Some mango growers have only 20% of their usual water allocation.
After a disappointing harvest last year because of a devastating hail storm in the Hoedspruit area (harvests measured a mere 30 to 40% of the average in 2016) trees have bounced back with a larger than usual harvest. Mangoes grown in the region of Malelane usually ripen slightly earlier than Hoedspruit which lies more to the north but this year both harvests peaked simultaneously, logistically complicating matters. “There’s a large Keitt harvest hanging on the trees that will be picked over the next six weeks. The large volumes have put pressure on prices compounded by mangoes from Peru that have saturated the European market, so we’re not looking at that market this year. We’re sending mangoes to the Middle East, Singapore and even a bit to Russia,” says Erwee Topham, marketing manager at Alliance Fruit.
Derek Donkin, CEO of the South African Mango Growers Association, says that volumes are good, but exact figures will only be available after the harvest season at around the beginning of May. “The local market for mangoes is strong, absorbing the majority of domestic production. However, this season growers have experienced pressure on prices due to high volumes during peak season.” Unripe, immature green mangoes are used for making achaar (an Indian pickle condiment). Fresh mangoes, drying and juicing make up the other segments of the South African market in roughly equal proportions.