Big prospects for Philippine mangoes

First of Two Parts

There are several varieties of mango grown in the Philippines.  But when people talk about the fruit, they are actually referring to mango carabao.  The fruit is elongated and kidney-shaped, weighs about 240 grams, with thin, yellow pulp, very tender taste and slight aroma.

The Philippine mango is one of the best mangoes around the globe.  In fact, former Agriculture Secretary Leonardo Q. Montemayor said the variety has found its way in the Guinness Book of World Records as “the sweetest of its kind in the world.”

During the “Mindanao Mango Stakeholders’ Forum,” the current Agriculture Secretary, Emmanuel F. Piñol, was quoted as saying: “You talk to anybody and they will tell you that the best mango in the world is the Philippine mango.”

So popular is Philippine mango that about 147,166 hectares were planted to this kind of variety as of 2016, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA).  That year, about 659,014 metric tons of Philippine mangoes were harvested.  In comparison, some 187,834 hectares were planted to other varieties of mango, with 814,055 metric tons production.

Most of the Philippine mangoes in 2016 were planted in Davao del Sr (131,44 hectares), followed by Davao del Norte (1,039 hectares), then Davao Oriental (860 hectares), Davao City (569 hectares), and Compostela Valley (505 hectares).

In terms of production, Davao del Sur also topped in 2016 with 39,023.68 metric tons with Davao City as second (3,975.25 metric tons), then Davao del Norte (2,275.64 metric tons), Davao Oriental (1,612.65 metric tons), and Compostela Valley (325.08 metric tons).

After banana and pineapple, mango is the third most important fruit in terms of volume of production.  But in recent years, production of mango has been declining. From 1.5-million metric tons in previous years, the production plummeted to only a little over 800,000-metric tons in 2016, according to Piñol.

The production fares no better in 2017.  PSA data showed that for the third quarter (August to September) dropped by 5.4% – from 58,600 metric tons in 2016 to 55,400 metric tons in 2017.

The PSA attributed the low production in the third quarter of 2017 to lesser trees induced due to the anticipation of rainy weather in Zamboanga Peninsula (Zamboanga del Norte and Zamboanga City) and Northern Mindanao (Misamis Occidental).

According to PSA, Central Visayas topped all the mango producing regions contributing 33% to the national total.  Northern Mindanao ranked second with 20.5% share and Caraga with 12.1%.

Carabao mango contributed 80.8% of the total mango production during the period, according to PSA.

The Philippines is one of the world’s leading mango producers and exporters.  Karina Fernandez-Stark, Vivian Couto and Gary Gereffi, authors of “The Philippines in the Mango Global Value Chain,” pointed out: “The Philippines holds a relatively significant position in the mango global value chain (GVC).  The country has been an important player in the global market since the 1980, with exports taking off in the 1990s.  By 2015, the Philippines ranked seventh in exports of fresh and dried mango, with US$91 million in fresh and dried mango exports for a 4% share of the global market.”

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said the Philippines accounts for an average of 10% of the world fresh and dried mango exports.

“Leading processors have been steadily gaining access to regional and global markets,” the three authors wrote in their paper.  In 2015, the major export destinations were the United States (24%), Hong Kong (17%), South Korea (13%) and Japan (12%).

Among its other foreign markets are Australia, Singapore, and some European countries (Belgium, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Finland, Poland, Italy, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom).

As a fruit, mango is eaten as dessert (ripe) or relish (immature), depending on fruit maturity.  However, it can also be processed into a number of unique products such as dried, puree, juice, nectar, chutney, pickle mango scoops, roll, powder, and halves or scoops in light syrup.  In addition, mango can be used as flavoring for ice cream, bakery products, and confectionaries.

“The Philippines is primarily present in the production and processing stages of the chain,” the three authors noted.  “Fresh mango exports are limited given poor performance in cold chain management, packaging, and pre-export SPS treatments, which prevents exporters from complying with standards required by key markets.”

SPS refers to sanitary and phytosanitary compliance.  The three authors, in their introduction, wrote: “While it has been a strong player in the industry for some time, a series of constraints undermine the Philippines’ potential to upgrade its position.  One of the main problems limiting export performance of fresh mangoes is the failure to meet strict SPS requirements in key markets.”

Despite the clamor of Philippine mangoes abroad, the production is still low in the country.  “Mango production in the Philippines is often small-scale,” the three authors reported.  “In 2015, the average farm size of mango producers was only 1.34 hectares.  As a result, participation in fresh mango exports is often tied to yield more than farm size.  Lower yielding farms frequently sell to the local market and to processors.”

Mango production occurs throughout the country, with the largest production in Luzon followed by Mindanao and the Visayas.

Because of the demand of Philippine mangoes all over the world, the government is batting for its production in the country.  Among the prospects and strengths of growing mango include the following:

Mango growing is in line with the initiatives of both government and private sectors in terms of production, processing and marketing support;

  • Once productive, a 10-15 year old tree will yield approximately 500 kilograms;
  • There is a niche market for both fresh and processed mangoes, locally and abroad. The export market is expanding;
  • Technologies from propagation to post-harvest handling have been tested, verified and adopted nationwide;
  • Processing technologies are also available and continuing efforts are exerted to develop new products;
  • There is a pool of experts in the country that can be tapped to provide technical assistance to mango growers and processors;
  • Research and development activities on emerging pests and diseases are given priority by relevant agencies of the government. (To be concluded)