Cautiously optimistic early Mexican season start forecasted in Oaxaca & Chiapas
First, I want to apologize for the lack of news from Under the Mango Tree. I should have been reporting consistently during the off-season (for Ecuador and Peru), considering we are all in this mango thing together. Back in early November, I should have alerted you to the start of Mexican bloomage in the southern regions, but I have been busy uprooting my California life for a new life on a lake in the Ozarks in southern Missouri. (Read more here about what that means for the Crespo Organic Kitchen. In short, it means bringing more mango joy to the Midwest.) A big move like this – especially in the middle of a pandemic – takes time and comes with its hybrid set of hurdles, including both the normal and the pandemic kinds. I just didn’t have the bandwidth, but I’m moving through the obstacles.
I brought the Crespo Organic Kitchen and marketing office along with me to the middle of the country. We’ll be better equipped here to accommodate staff – on both the selling and customer service sides, as well as the marketing education and kitchen sides. We’ll also have more room for photography, video and recipe work, and more room to expand all of our mango education and outreach campaigns. There has been a lot happening behind the scenes, preparing our kitchen and marketing headquarters as well as our organic sales office, but here I am today, at my desk, ready to start the 2021 Crespo Organic Mexican mango season with great news right out of the gate.
The Good NewsFor the last several weeks, the brothers Crespo – Jorge, Roberto and Jose Angel – have been driving thousands of (masked) miles throughout southern Mexico to the tune of good news. After some initial hesitation in relaying some positivity, they concurred that it was time to officially announce an early start to the Mexican mango season in the earliest producing regions, Oaxaca and Chiapas. This is true for both Ataulfo and round mangoes. This is spectacular news because, for several consecutive seasons, the round mangoes have had major delays and sporadic consistency at the onset. Starts are dynamic in nature, by region and by season alike, but there is usually some degree of predictability.
Generally speaking, the southern region of Oaxaca has the first export-ready picks occurring sometime towards the end of January. Then, fruit lands usually on US soil by early February. (Side note: it’s important to remember that trucks from Oaxaca & Chiapas are coming from the south and can take upwards of 4-5 days to drive the full length of Mexico into US ports of entry.) The south is the most difficult logistically, and replenishment of the mango pipeline takes time. So, the onset of the season always feels empty. By the last week of March, things generally shift, and it begins to feel like mangoes all varietals are flowing nicely.
Varietals operate differently. Each varietal has different timing, according to the season within each region. Everybody’s favorite Ataulfo mango is always the first to start in every region. Since the south mainly has Tommy Atkins as their round mangoes, that varietal usually begins about 3 or 4 weeks later and even longer, as the last two seasons did. Those delays created quite a bit of turmoil on the market for quite a while.
If you couple those delays with some quality issues in the overlapping Peruvian season and figure in increased consumer demand, the math produces a market places with tremendous pressure on it, especially when it comes to organic Mexican mangoes. Inconsistencies and irregular crop yields as the norm for the past several seasons has been making accurate predictions almost impossible. In some ways, though, I would argue that this has stabilized markets. Specifically, it has made it more difficult for no-risk broker sellers to get their hands onto mangoes, allowing for more program and consistent business to be done and, thus, happier mango farmers, partner distributors and retailers and consumers.
The Timing & Projections
Assuming weather for the next 30 days cooperates, this season we expect more fruit to flow much earlier in the season. The southern orchards finished early last season which gave them ample time to go dormant and prep for their early debut. Just at blooming time, some very cold weather came in, which was excellent timing and what farmers refer to as “good stress”. We don’t always get the cold at blooming, but we want it and it happened. Otherwise, weather was fairly normal, cold but good. Rain ample.
We expect our Oaxacan packhouse to begin packing organic Ataulfos on or around January 20th, which puts fruit in Nogales/McAllen on or around the first of February. Although some conventional packinghouses in the south are opening even earlier (around the first week of January), we can’t (nor do we want to) open until there is enough fruit volume that registers the correct brix (sugar content). Many shippers ship fruit too green, so waiting to ensure proper quality is key for us. This is especially so considering how important the Ataulfo program is to our customers. Consumers deserve that those on this side do our jobs well.
Oaxacan round mangoes will begin around the first week of February, which puts them about a month earlier than the prior two seasons. Our Chiapas packhouse EDJ II is set to open around the second week of February, which again is about a month earlier than last season. They commence with Ataulfos, as well, and the round mangoes are literally right behind them, which means by the beginning of March we anticipate good volume of both Ataulfos and Tommy Atkins varietals. So between the Oaxacan packhouse opening in January and the Chiapas packhouse set to open soon after, we expect to have excellent availability to start the season and our customers off well.
There is always a proviso. So, I can’t deliver the good news without some caution. Like people, agriculture can be fickle and unruly. January in southern Mexico can be totally unpredictable, especially in Oaxaca. There is a lot to watch for, including the cold and windy weather phenomenon called “La Ventosa” where the area can experience gale force winds and extreme drops in temperature. So, despite the news of the fruit’s earlier appearance, we still need to make sure the weather cooperates. It has so far, so we are positive. And Chiapas, which doesn’t have the same weather issues is still set to start early so, all in all we look good for a decent start to the season.
The Program Advancements
All the advances that have occurred in the south make for even greater news. Not only is our new packhouse in Chiapas fully operational, expanded and improved, but the brothers Crespo have been hard at work expanding orchard volumes, too. New producing orchards, new baby orchards and some new secret experimental orchards that our Crespo Mango Man – aka Jorge Crespo is working on. The orchards are healthy, fruit set is spectacular and the quality of the fruit in general looks great.
In my opinion (and while it’s true that I’m biased, I am also known for my honesty), the brokerage game will continue to get extremely complicated and expensive with all the irregularities in production, timing, quality, and sizing. Growers like us, El Grupo Crespo, seem to have an advantage by owning our own chain: orchards, packhouses, trucking inside Mexico, as well as border warehouses and distribution across the USA and Canada. Mango production is supremely complex these days, even while production is increasing to try and keep up with growing mango demand.