( National Mango Board )

(UPDATED, 2:50 p.m.) Adding more than a million dollars per year in projected new revenue, the National Mango Board will now include frozen mangoes in their promotional efforts.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture published a final rule on Feb. 21 that said the fresh mango national research and promotion program — the Orlando, Fla.-based National Mango Board — will now include frozen mangoes.

Starting March 25, importers of frozen mangoes will be assessed one cent per pound on the fruit. The National Mango Board’s membership will be expanded from 18 to 21 with the addition of two importers of frozen mangoes and one foreign processor, according to the final rule.

Once this final rule becomes effective, the USDA said it will conduct a referendum to allow importers and handlers of fresh mangoes and importers of frozen mangoes to vote on whether they approve the continuation of the program with the inclusion of frozen mangoes.

The regulation exempts assessments for importers who import less than 200,000 pounds of frozen mangoes annually.

The move to add frozen mangoes to the national research and promotion program was recommended by the board in November 2016 and will allow “frozen mango stakeholders to participate in a coordinated effort to maintain and expand the market for frozen mangoes,” according to the regulation.

The process of adding frozen mangoes to the promotion group has been active for about five years, said Manuel Michel, executive director of the National Mango Board, 

“We’re very glad to see that the final role was published,” Michel said, though he noted that the USDA will conduct a referendum to determine if both fresh and frozen mango importers support the changes. The referendum is expected to be conducted from late March to mid-April, he said.

Michel said the mango board has visited extensively with members of the frozen mango industry from 2014 to 2016 about joining the promotion board.

“I would say over two thirds to 75% of the (frozen mango) industry members we talked to were in support of being included in the National Mango Board,” he said.

Looking ahead, he sees room to grow both frozen and fresh mango sales.

“We see a huge opportunity to promote mangoes in food service,” he said, noting gains in fresh cut mangoes in the past year. “If we can talk about frozen and promote them, we think we can make a lot of progress in mango consumption.”

Mango growth

The fresh mango research and promotion program took effect in November 2004 and assessment collection began in January 2005, according to the USDA.

Assessments are collected from first handlers and importers of 500,000 pounds or more of fresh mangoes annually.

Imports of fresh mangoes have climbed from about 575 million pounds in 2005 to almost 985 million pounds in 2016, according to the USDA. In 2016, about 45% of the mangoes imported into the U.S. were from Mexico, 22% were from Ecuador, and 18% were from Peru. Assessment revenue under the fresh mango program rose from $3.29 million in 2007 to $7.37 million in 2016, and the USDA said 99% of that amount was collected from importers. The current assessment rate for the fresh mango program is $0.0075 per pound, or three-quarters of a cent per pound.

Since 2008, the board has invested over $34 million of industry funds to help increase mango consumption among U.S. consumers, according to the agency. Per capita availability of fresh mangoes rose from 1.9 pounds in 2004 to 2.5 pounds by 2015, according to the USDA.

Frozen growth

The USDA said imports of frozen mangoes have increased from almost 32 million pounds in 2005 to almost 118 million pounds in 2016. In 2016, over half of the imports of frozen mangoes into the U.S. were from Mexico, 33% were from Peru, and 2% were from Guatemala.

In 2016, U.S. imports of fresh mangoes totaled 984 million pounds, compared with 117 million pounds of frozen mangoes.

Based on the 1 cent per pound assessment for frozen mangoes, assessment revenue for frozen mangoes would have totaled about $1.17 million in 2016, according to the USDA.

During the comment period on the proposal to add frozen to the promotion program, the USDA said the great majority of the comments were positive about the plan. The agency said a couple of comments brought up the possible conflict between fresh and frozen interests. The USDA dismissed those thoughts.

“USDA does not perceive this proposal as a conflict of interest between the fresh and frozen mango industries,” the agency wrote in the final rule. 

“USDA provides oversight to other commodity boards such as the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council and the National Potato Promotion Board that consist of both fresh and processed industry members. USDA’s experience is that both fresh and processed commodity industries benefit from participation in a research and promotion program.”