The United States of America is the world’s biggest importer of mangoes, with over 350,000 tonnes imported annually, and the market is growing in both volume and value. The recent agreement of a pilot market access program between the US and Australia has meant that Australian mangoes now have the opportunity to make an impression on this market, whose consumers have an appetite for high eating quality mangoes.
US retailers and consumers are looking for a ripe and ready to eat mango, one that they can consume that day or next, and they don’t want to mess with trying to ripen it. Figuring how to achieve that value add from Australia will be an important challenge for exporters.
The two initial commercial shipments were sent in February and proved the market access pathway and will lay the platform for bigger programs in 2015/16 and beyond.
The initial shipment of Calypso left Brisbane bound for Los Angeles by air on the 5th February. This was quickly followed up by a shipment of Keitt on the 12th February, also to Los Angeles from Brisbane. Other than the initial shipment being diverted to Ontario, CA, for three hours due to fog at LAX, both shipments arrived smoothly. They were quickly cleared by the US CBP port inspector and transported to their respective distribution centres.
The first shipment was sold to Central Market, an up market supermarket chain in Texas. Australian mangoes arrived at nine Central Market stores on 11th February and were sold out by Sunday 15th February. The mangoes were immediately very popular with consumers and store staff alike. The bright yellow and red fruit has very high visual appeal and the fruit, which were mostly ripe, ate sweet and juicy. Consumers commented on the appearance and flavour, then purchased mangoes to take home or give as a gift or both. The average purchase seemed to be two fruits, with the occasional customer buying five! Australia resonated with the consumer and they liked the idea that they were buying the first mangoes from Australia.
Central Market, working with the importer, featured this first shipment ever of Australian mangoes with prominent, larger than normal displays and importer and store developed POS. The importer supported this with an active social media campaign on Facebook and Twitter, further POS and in-store sampling and tasting in five of the stores. The second shipment was sold to upmarket retailers in New York, Missouri, Arizona and Texas.
Different, but very enthusiastic, importers were used for each shipment. Once the fruit arrived, both importers wasted no time sending sample boxes of their ‘first ever shipment of Australian mangoes’ to retail and food service buyers throughout the country, introducing them to these new varieties from Australia and priming them for the 2015/16 season.
Australia has been negotiating market access since 1999. Since it was granted in September 2013 AMIA has been working closely with the Australia Department of Agriculture to ensure the working protocol was of the most benefit to Australian mango growers.
Once the pilot program was agreed between Australian and US officials December 2014, growers and packing sheds were invited to register for the US program. Once registered, they needed to pass a Department of Agriculture compliance verification before being audited by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), along with the irradiation facility. Once this was completed, trade could commence. Growers participating in the US program had to document and record pest scout monitoring for pests of concern for the US and ensure their chemical spray program was compliant with the US and chemicals that are not registered in the US were not used. In addition, the USDA requires a special insect proof box to ensure there is no chance of insect reinfestation. The industry worked with Orora to prepare the boxes which were delivered to participating growers. On the US side, importers had to apply for USDA import permits, and AMIA worked closely with Department of Agriculture and interested importers to complete that step. At least one importer prefers to source fruit from growers registered with GlobalGAP or equivalent.
A special acknowledgement is due to all those involved; to the officers within the Horticulture Exports Program of the Department of Agriculture and to staff within AMIA. To the growers involved; Alvise and Noalene Brazzale, Manbulloo, One Harvest and Pinata Farms; to Orora Packaging, Steritech, Mainfreight and the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, to Giumarra and Melissa’s World Variety Produce and their freight forwarders and to Central Market.
This project is supported by the Northern Territory Department of Primary Industry and Fisheries and the Australian Mango Industry Association and funded by Horticulture Innovation Australian Ltd.