(Dec. 10, 3:16 p.m.) Rainy weather, followed by cold weather, in Ecuador and Peru is severely limiting the number of mangoes being exported to the U.S. this season, importers and industry officials said.

But because of the slumping U.S. economy, markets may not strengthen as much as might be expected, though they could hit $6 for a one-layer flat.

Heavy rains during the flowering period prevented many trees from flowering in both countries, said Gilmar Mello, operations manager for Amazon Produce Network, Glassboro, N.J.

Then, when harvest time drew near, cold weather put another dent in production — in addition to delaying shipments by about two weeks, Mello said.

The result is about an expected 50% drop in Peruvian shipments and a 40% drop in Ecuadorian shipments, he said.

The same was true industry-wide, said Wendy McManus, marketing director for the Orlando, Fla.-based National Mango Board.

“Volumes are way off this year,” she said.

In late November, for instance, when Ecuadorian shipments often peak, weekly volumes hovered around 500,000 boxes, down from about 800,000 boxes last year at the same time, according to the mango board.

In this economic climate, being short isn’t necessarily a bad thing, said Michael Warren, president of Central American Produce Inc., Pompano Beach, Fla.

“Things are looking good,” Warren said. “They always look good when you see more potential.”

Prices for Brazilian product were lower than expected, Warren said. Now that Brazil is out of the deal, markets should continue to strengthen, possibly hitting $6 for one-layer flats.

On Dec. 9, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported prices of $4-4.50 for one-layer flats of tommy atkins size 7-12 from Ecuador, up from $3-3.50 last year at the same time.

Peru would begin to take over the bulk of the deal from Ecuador in late December, Warren said.

In addition, McManus said, there could be gap this year, probably in late December, after Ecuador finishes or all but finishes and before Peru ships in any but very small volumes.

By the second week of December, Ecuador had passed its peak and Peru was beginning to take over the deal, Mello said.

Very light shipments of tommy atkins and hadens in mid-December would yield quickly to kents, with volumes peaking from about mid-January to Feb. 1, Mello said.

About 90% of mangoes imported by Amazon are kents, he said.

Despite the sharp decline in volumes this season, markets were not expected to go through the roof, Mello said.

The U.S. economy is to blame.

“The price is going up — we foresee good prices — but I don’t expect them to be too high,” he said.

Mello reported very good quality on product shipping in December, with fruit sizing larger than normal.

Warren reported great quality, with sizes peaking on 9s and 10s.