Big prospects for Philippine mangoes

Secretary Emmanuel Piñol addresses as well as listens to various concerns confronting the country’s mango industry during the Mindanao Mango Stakeholders’ Forum held in Davao City. (Photo by Che D. Palicte DA-11)
Secretary Emmanuel Piñol addresses as well as listens to various concerns confronting the country’s mango industry during the Mindanao Mango Stakeholders’ Forum held in Davao City. (Photo by Che D. Palicte DA-11)

Mango, known in the science world as “Mangifera indica,” is the country’s national fruit.  “The delicate balance between sweetness and acidic taste is one reason that makes the Philippine mango world famous,” says Roy C, Alimoane, the director of the Mindanao Baptist Rural Life Center in Kinuskusan, Bansalan, Davao del Sur.

But it’s not only Filipinos who love this fruit – even foreigners.  Larry Stoffel, an American who is married to a Filipino, confirmed this. “The rich juicy flavored mango from the Philippines is the most fantastic fruit I have ever tasted,” he revealed. “It’s true that we import mangoes from other countries but those imports cannot duplicate the mangoes I have eaten in Bohol. I miss the mangoes and can’t wait until I can have some more when I go back there.”

Mango is very popular around the world because it is a vitamin powerhouse.  “One small mango provides a quarter of your recommended daily allowance for vitamin C, nearly two thirds of your daily quota for vitamin A, good amounts of vitamin E and fiber. They also contain vitamin K, phosphorus and magnesium. Mangoes are particularly rich in potassium,” wrote Fiona Wilkinson, author of “Health Benefits of Mangoes.”

Mango is also considered a ‘high volume’ food; it means you get a lot of food for a relatively small amount of calories.   “One mango contains around 135 calories,” wrote Wilkinson. “However, they are quite high in natural sugar with one mango containing around 30 grams.”

Mango, being high in calories and carbohydrates, is good for those who are trying to gain.  As it is high in iron, mango is said to be very good for pregnant women as well as for people suffering from anemia.

“Mango has three times the vitamin C of a single orange or apple and important minerals essential to prevent cancer and other diseases,” said Dr. Martin Hirte, a German health food researcher and pediatrician.

The Philippine mango – also known as the carabao variety – is one of the world’s most famous fruits. And no other country can produce it the way the Philippines does. “The taste of our mango will be difficult to achieve elsewhere,” the late national scientist Benito S. Vergara explained.  “Certain fruits or plant products are uniquely of high quality when grown in a certain location and flowering at a certain time of the year.  For instance, the aromatic, extra-long rice balled ‘basmati’ is best from Pakistan.  Since it is the most expensive rice in the market, Thailand, India, United States and other countries have tried to produce it but the aroma and cooking quality of the basmati rice from Pakistan could not be duplicated.  The right combination of environment is needed to produce the aroma and taste.  In the same way, Taiwan, Thailand, Mexico and other countries have tried to grow the Philippine mango – but only the best quality comes from the Philippines.  We have the unique advantage in the world market.”

In the past, Philippine mangoes were available only during certain months of the year.  Today, Filipinos can now enjoy mango fruits throughout the year.  This was made possible by the research of Dr. Ramon C. Barba.  His discovery of using potassium nitrate in flower induction of mango has been hailed by many scientists around the world, as there was no such thing recorded in the past.

In 1978, “Reader’s Digest” tagged Dr. Barba’s work as the most significant breakthrough in mango research.  Dr. Vergara of Dr. Barba’s research: “Agricultural technologies usually take more than 10 years from discovery to field use, whereas the mango flower induction technology became accepted nationwide within two years.  In comparison, it took 40 years before our farmers accepted hybrid corn.”

Karina Fernandez-Stark, Vivian Couto and Gary Gereffi, authors of “The Philippines in the Mango Global Value Chain,” said the Philippines is now one of the world’s leading mango producers and exporters.  They wrote: “The Philippines 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.”

Indeed, there is big prospects for mango production in the Philippines.  However, the three authors pointed out that it can never be an important mango exporting country unless it also addresses several constraints, particularly those at the farm level.  “It also needs to address issues of post-harvest and certifications,” they added.  “Finally, coordination among value chain actors is essential to strengthen the competitiveness of the industry.”

Among the challenges the three authors stressed in their papers were the following:

  • Lack of scale economies at the production level: The dependence on small-scale, non-commercial production fails to create the scale economies required to supply processors with sufficient raw material to deliver to their clients abroad. Global buyers tend to favor suppliers that can consistently and reliably deliver on time, price and quality.  Repeated failure to do so generally results in exclusion from their supply chains.
  • Lack of modern production and harvesting techniques: Due to limited knowledge on available technologies, little formal training/education and lack of financing, farmers continue to produce mango with outdated agricultural techniques and poor management.

A case in point: “From 2010 to 2014, the farmgate price of Philippine mango increased by roughly 8%, while the cash cost of inputs (that is, fertilizers, flower inducers) increased by 23%, thereby significantly deteriorating the profitability of mango production.  Even in large-scale and technically sophisticated agribusiness firms, technology use is far below that of competitor countries such as Mexico and Peru.”

  • Poor post-harvest management and SPS control: Compounding the effect of poor production practices is the lack of capacity to comply with quality and SPS standards due to shortcomings in the cold chain system, poor SFS management and lack of packing skills.  Cold chain management is almost non-existent or deficient across the agricultural sector.

 

  • Lack of coordination between industry stakeholders and high levels of bureaucracy: The public sector is characterized by multiple government agencies offering similar services. The Department of Agriculture and the Department of Trade and Industry have both issued separated roadmaps and planning documents for the mango industry. The implementation of these national strategies is uneven due to the autonomy of local governments to select which recommended initiatives to undertake. In addition, high costs of bureaucracy are often mentioned as constraints for accessing information, training and financial resources.

Recently, there were reports that the Philippines may export mangoes to Sweden.  This was after Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol talked Sweden’s Ambassador to the Philippines Harald Fries.

When Roberto C. Amores, president of the Philippine Mango Exporters Foundation, Inc., heard about it, he urged the government to “help local mango producers ramp up their production and go into value adding” so it may be able to increase their share in export receipts.

“We cannot compete with other (Asian) countries due to air freight cost and transit time,” Amores was quoted as saying.  As such, he suggested, “We should focus on processed mango products as local production is not even enough to supply the requirements of Asian markets.”

Meanwhile, during the recent mango forum in Davao City, Piñol said that while the price of mangoes these days seem to be fluctuating, improved productivity and increased in yield could still boost farmers income.

“I want to address this problem because we have taken for granted the God-given gift which is the Philippine mango,” Piñol pointed out.

For its part, the regional office of the agriculture department is doing some intervention for the mango industry in Davao region.  It is doing some rehabilitation of existing mango trees through provision of the following: fertilizers, flower inducers and chemicals (fungicides and insecticides).

“Only mango who has 10 years old and above unproductive mango trees are given such set of inputs,” points out Arlene Seguiro, the focal person of the department’s mango commodity.

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