(Nov. 15) ATLANTA — With an imminent mango grade standard and pending generic promotions, the U.S. mango industry will soon have two things it long has been denied, speakers said at the annual mango industry meeting Nov. 6.
The meeting, held in conjunction with the Produce Marketing Association’s Fresh Summit 2005, featured presentations by Ron McCormick, vice president and divisional merchandise manager for produce and floral for Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Bentonville, Ark., and Leanne Skelton, chief of the Fresh Products Branch of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Marketing Service.
McCormick addressed packaging issues for mangoes, explaining the chain’s preference for reusable plastic containers and display-ready cartons. He said RPCs deliver environmental advantages and better-conditioned fruit at retail.
Meanwhile, Skelton told the group that the USDA could release its final version of the voluntary grade standard for mangoes within weeks.
“My expectation is that we will have the final rule in place before the end of the year,” she said. Skelton noted that inspectors have performed thousands of inspections of mangoes in recent years, even though a grade standard has not been in place.
She thanked the industry for its input in establishing the mango grade standards and urged continued communication with the agency about how the grade fits the needs of the industry.
The mango meeting was organized by the Nogales, Ariz.-based Fresh Produce Association of the Americas and the National Mango Board, which was slated to meet later that week.
At that meeting, the board planned to select an advertising company among three finalists to spearhead the generic promotion campaign for mangoes, said Chuck Ciruli, chairman of the National Mango Board and chairman of Nogales, Ariz.-based companies Ciruli Bros. Inc. and Amex Distributing Co. Inc.
The mango board has been collecting mandatory assessments since the beginning of the year of a half-cent per pound and was earlier projected to collect about $2.5 million per year.
Ciruli said the mango board has formed an industry relations committee to create a free flow of information to key stakeholders of the National Mango Board.
He also pledged the board would be representative of growers and exporters in all countries that supply to the U.S., though the board does not have members from key suppliers Brazil and Guatemala.
Ciruli expressed optimism that the board — sought for six years by mango industry leaders before the USDA finally approved the board in 2004 — will be effective in raising consumption.
“Mangoes are like soccer, the most popular (sport) in the world, but still catching on in the U.S.," he said.
Ciruli said the board would spend about 52% of its funds on promotion, 22 % on research and 26% on education.