A real time peak into the Mexican mango orchards
Back in April, right before the transition from the southern regions to the northern regions, we reported about the little Ataulfo mangoes and the drought that was causing them. We further reported that the transition north would result in similar sizing on not just Ataulfos but the round mangoes as well and that the same drought, is running up the continent.
Eventually the rest of the industry followed our lead and starting talking and reporting about the northern regions alarming predictions for small fruit. Here we are now a few weeks into the Nayarit season and we still encounter disbelievers, folks that want to order 6 and 7cnts and are not willing to budge.
Trust us, trust the others, the fruit is small. In Nayarit and Sinaloa.
I was lucky enough to have my boots on the ground in El Rosario, Sinaloa visiting Empaque Don Jorge this past few weeks to examine the circumstances first hand. I’m certainly no farmer, but I have spent many years visiting mango orchards all over the globe and even I could see and feel the difference of this season; of the drought and the unseasonably cooler temperatures.
Typically, I visit the pack house shortly after it opens at the end of May. I noticed right away on my first day the normally hot as heck weather felt cooler. The nights were cool, not hot like I normally remember and the sweltering heat felt bearable and it usually does not. They told me in addition to the lack of water the cooler weather has contributed to the fruit staying small.
Mangoes need cold weather during blooming and fruit set and then eventually a few months later, they need water and heat to grow big. The cold weather during blooming came but the water and heat didn’t follow. It’s possible it comes and we had some rain in El Rosario already which will help our Sinaloa crop, but Nayarit for sure will remain small for the duration of the season.
As I had reported earlier in the CROP REPORT for the northern regions- the majority of Mexican mango production is irrigated by the rains naturally. Only a small portion of growers ( the large ones) use irrigation -we are one of those- so the industry as a whole is really suffering with the average size coming from Nayarit currently is a 12 for round mangoes and 20/22’s on the Ataulfos. Similar expectations are set for the Sinaloa crop, which should begin harvest the last week of June.
Here is some of the intricacies, from my perspective.
It’s hard for a lot of people to understand how in a drought, there could be more mangoes than years prior. But it’s important to note that most large growers have been increasing production over the last several years as we have so, despite a lot of drought related problems there are a lot more mangoes in production this season, both in Nayarit and in Sinaloa. That means a lot of little mangoes. Growers and sellers both are suffering trying to move small fruit in an industry that isn’t as nimble as we need it to be. As I wrote to one of our customers today, those that don’t size down will simply sell less fruit this season.
What does small mean anyhow? It means 12 and 14cnt round and 20/22/24cnt Ataulfos. Normally the fruit starts small and sizes up. Many folks are waiting for the fruit to size up. It can only size up- as a whole- with heat and water- so far, especially in Nayarit there is neither so the fruit wont size up. Of course there is some big fruit- these are orchards after all so some trees are healthier than others, or have more water or whatever, but again as a whole- the majority of fruit is and will remain small.
The drought does a lot of weird things to fruit, I’m learning. As I toured the orchards, I saw a lot of things I had never noticed before that were very blatant this time, especially in the orchards with little water. The first thing I noticed was a significant amount of fruit drop. The trees literally drop or abort fruit so as to take care of the healthier fruit on the tree. Fruit drop at all stages are normal, but I hadn’t seen this much before.
Cluster Deformities and Stunted Growth
Another anomaly I saw, that stuck out more than normal was the mangoes within the clusters (mangoes often grow in clusters) that had deformities or stunted growth. The trees just stop supplying nutrients, again, to the fruits that it doesn’t think will make it, as to ensure the stronger ones do.
Those fruits, that the tree doesn’t supply nutrients to, it picks and chooses which mangoes to supply which is crazy, eventually dry up and shrivel. I saw a lot of this, I hadn’t really noticed it in the past.
Some Rains, Some Heat/The Sinaloa Outlook
As we get closer to the Sinaloa crop the big question on all our minds is- what will be? Will the fruit get bigger? Will it rain? Will it get hot?
The answers are complex. The weather is getting hotter, which will help the fruit size some with or without water. A little rain did come this past weekend, but not everywhere and not for everyone. It rained around El Rosario, which is where we are, but it did not rain around Esquinapa where the majority of other mango producers are located.
We are super cautiously optimistic about the Sinaloa region. One one had we think the fruit will be bigger than it is now in Nayarit, averaging more 10’s. On the other hand we don’t think we will get that much big fruit which gives us greater sales outlets so we anticipate the struggle of selling smaller fruit on ongoing one.
Jorge’s Secret Weapon Orchard
I am a positive person so when Jorge, the most positive person I know, took me on a tour to our orchards that lie adjacent to the Baluarte River, just outside Crespo hometown el Rosario, it was a super positive afternoon.
This is where we currently have over 150 hectares of certified organic mango orchards of all varietals and where plans for another 100 are securely in place. Thai, Tommy Atkins, Kent, Keitt and Ataulfos. These orchards were incredibly healthy, with greater volumes of “large” fruit. The wells here are ample enough with water, despite the river being incredibly low this year because of the drought.
When I saw these orchards I felt relief and positivity but I also have to sell small fruit from the other orchards so as I keep saying, we have to all size down and work hard to get through this little fruit season, who knows, it could easily become the norm for all we know.