“Our mangoes are so beautiful, it seems a shame to just pack them into a container,” specialist fruit exporter Vincent Keesenberg of OriginFruit was told by Hoedspruit mango and citrus grower Rederberg Estate.
Their feeling turned out to be quite correct: the first season of sending tree-ripe mangoes by air freight to Europe is underway and the quality of the fruit has already dispelled the notion among buyers that Tommy Atkins mangoes have to be as fibrous as the fruit from Brazil usually is, Vincent says.
On the early Tommy Atkins mangoes that Vincent and his partner Wouter le Roux of Itsofresh flew out to Germany, the reaction was pleasant surprise at the low amount of fibre in the South African fruit and it has convinced them that there is an opportunity for tree-ripe South African Tommy Atkins early in the season.
Most of the Tommy Atkins crop this season was sent by air freight to the Middle East (most South African mango exports go to the Middle East by ship), which has become South Africa’s biggest mango recipient.
The 6 kg carton of Rederberg Estates mangoes (photos supplied by Vincent Keesenberg)
Tommy Atkins is now followed by Westfalia’s Shelly cultivar for which he has already received a number of enquiries. It is a rounder mango with excellent flavour, he says.
Interest in a new source of Kent mangoes
Keitt and Kent are the late-season cultivars for which there is high demand.
On Kent, whose size lends itself to the fresh-cut sector, there is definitely appetite for an alternative to Peruvian fruit, Vincent says.
“Europe is very excited about the Kent mangoes from South Africa. All of Europe currently get their Kent mangoes from mainly Peru, but there are a few who are interested in trying South African Kents. South African mangoes are known for its flavour,” he notes.
“Air freight is a whole other game and many farmers prefer to remain with what they know, but this is a new market we’re opening for South African mango producers who’d like to get the true value of an outstanding product. It could take a year or two, but there is definite interest in South African tree-ripened mangoes among our buyers who are exotic traders, for whom the visual appearance of the fruit and the packaging are of great importance.”
“The secret is to selectively pick tree-ripe mangoes only on specific order,” he adds. “These mangoes are picked to be on the shelf in Europe in two days’ time.”
The market is subdued at the moment, he notes, with caution regarding purchasing power due to Covid-19.
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