Chris Ciruli, partner at Ciruli Bros. LLC, expects a good mango crop out of Mexico this year. “We look for a very nice set of yellow fruit and a lot of promotable volume for chain stores between March and April,” he said in late February. ( Photo courtesy Ciruli Bros. LLC )

The 2019 Mexican mango deal got off to a slow start in January and February, and some importers say it likely will be mid-March until volume starts to pick up.

The Orlando, Fla-based National Mango Board projected that overall volume from Mexico through mid-May will be 11% lower than last year — about 27.9 million 8.8-pound boxes.

The Mexican mango season began the second week of January and is expected to run until the first week of October.

Mexico’s main varieties are tommy atkins (32%), ataulfo (honey) (27%), kent (22%), keitt (13%) and haden (5%).

As of the week ending Feb. 9, Mexican growers had shipped approximately 608,336 boxes to the U.S. this season.

During the same period last year, Mexico had shipped about 1.5 million boxes.

Rio Rico, Ariz.-based Ciruli Bros. LLC expected its first mangoes — the yellow Champagne brand — to arrive in Texas and Nogales, Ariz., by early March.

“The first flower looks nice,” partner Chris Ciruli said in mid-February. “We look for a very nice set of yellow fruit and a lot of promotable volume for chain stores between March and April.”

Production should be good until the week before Easter, he said, when picking slows because of labor challenges during Holy Week.

“We should come out of Easter (April 21) with a bigger second set than the first set,” he said.

Then he anticipates a “natural transition” into business for Cinco de Mayo ads.

Round mangoes from Mexico, like hadens and kents, probably won’t kick in until the second week of April, he said, and volume won’t get heavy until after Easter.

F.o.b. prices on round mangoes could be “extremely high” until mid-April, Ciruli said.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture was not reporting prices on Mexican mangoes as of Feb. 19. However, kent variety mangoes from South America had f.o.b. prices of $7-7.50 for seven- to 12-count one-layer flats. 

While many importers already had started their Mexican mango deals, Hackensack, N.J.-based Vision Import Group still was winding down its Peruvian deal in mid-February and didn’t plan to kick off its Mexican program until the first week of March, said partner Ronnie Cohen.

It appeared that some suppliers were “jumping the gun” in order to take advantage of the strong mango market, Cohen said. 

The company will start its ataulfo mango program in Chiapas and kick off its tommy atkins deal in Oaxaca before moving to Michoacan, he said.

Cohen said he expected a “smooth season” as the harvest moved through various growing areas.

“I think there will be a lot of promotional opportunities this year,” he added.

Freska Produce International LLC, Oxnard, Calif., was only shipping ataulfo mangoes from Mexico in mid-February, said Gary Clevenger, co-founder and managing member.

“Quality has been good, and supplies have been limited so far,” he said. “We are behind last year’s numbers at this time by about 1 million pounds.”

Weather issues during flowering resulted in this year’s reduced volume, he said.

Amazon Produce Network, Vineland, N.J., received its first ataulfos the week of Feb. 11, said partner Greg Golden.

The first arrivals were “not the cleanest fruit in the world,” he said, because they came from the first flowering that was rained on in late November and early December.

He expected to see some improvement with later shipments.

“We expect March to have an abundant supply of quality ataulfos,” he said.

But he anticipated the opposite for round varieties.

“We expect that there will be a real shortage of round mangoes (such as tommy atkins and hadens) throughout March,” he said.

Conditions should improve by April.

“We expect an avalanche in April and May with a lot of Mexican fruit combined with a lot of Central American fruit — mainly from Guatemala but also from Coast Rica and Nicaragua,” he said.

Jessie Capote, partner at Miami-based J&C Tropicals, said in mid-February that he is glad his company sources from several growing areas.

“Mangoes are a mess right now,” he said in mid-February. “Mexico is very behind and expected to be very short.”

J&C Tropicals was receiving Peruvian mangoes until March 1 and had other sources available in Central America and South America to supply its customers’ needs, he said.

“It’s going to be a very turbulent month of March for mangoes,” Capote said.