The Curator Noris Ledesma once again delves into the world of mangos with an ambitious agenda of mango hunting and adventure to capture the harsh realities that the Peruvian mango is confronting. The Peruvian mango is an export fruit and Peru is the second country to bring mangos to the United States. Their mangos arrive around Thanksgiving, when other countries’ mangos are not ripe. Peru produces many Florida mangos, including ‘Edward’ for the local market where the prices were quite good, as well as ‘Kent’, ‘Keitt’, and ‘Ataulfo’ (from Mexico) for export.
I am using the opportunity to visit this part of the globe that is performing an important role in the mango production in the world. I arrived in Lima without incident and awaited my flight to Piura later that morning. The morning provided a wonderful chance to contrast impressive views of the upper-most peaks from the Andes with deserts, tropical valleys, dry equatorial forests covered by algarrobos (Prosopis pailida) and trupillos. This is my first time in the dessert. In Colombia, we have the Guajira arid peninsula, but this area is less dry than the Piura dessert.
Piura is a coastal region in northwestern Peru. The area is known for its warm tropical and dry or semi-tropical conditions. The topography is smooth in the coast and rough in the Sierra. There are many arid plains in the southern region. The Sechura Desert, located south of Piura, is Peru's largest desert and one of the world's few examples of a tropical desert.
My friends Angel Gamarra, President of PROMANGO and his wife Elsa Lazaro were waiting for me at the Airport. We had lunch in a typical restaurant where local folkloric dances entertained over a magnificent spread. I had ceviche (a typical Peruvian dish of raw fish with onion in lime sauce).
In the afternoon, I walked around the city, ending up in the Piura open-air market, located downtown. I was hoping to find some ‘Edward’ mangos, but the beginning of August is too soon for this Floridia mango. Still looking for mangos, I saw a few, really poor ‘Edwards’. The fruit were harvested immature and they were using ethylene to get better color on the fruit. This is always the plague of fruit production, a price-driven lowering of quality that ultimately damages the market. At the market they mainly had some selections of banana, plantain, pineapple, assorted citrus, that are in season, asparagus, chilies, and papayas. There were also tamarind and algarrobo candies. The market was rounded out by fish and some household goods.
Early morning we had a busy agenda of visiting mango growers. We started the day visiting Saturno SA located in Solsol, San Isidro. I remember in 2002, when I had just arrived at Fairchild, our friend Paul Barclay was in charge of the project and he came looking for the ‘Ataulfo’ variety. We distributed about 200 budwood sticks of ‘Ataulfo’ to him. Nine years later, they have expanded their production of ‘Ataulfo’ and have 125 Ha in production which will soon expand to 200 Ha with high density. They are keeping their trees up to 2 meter high and planting at 6x4 meters in order to increase size of the fruit. Saturno also produces avocado, paprika, and pepper. I was so satisfied to see the results of one single tree in our living collection turning into 125 Ha of trees.
In the afternoon, we visited a new mango operation. We visited Sunshine Export S.A.C. Miguel Wong, one of the owners, invited me to have a tour. They export more than 6,500 metric tons a year of fresh mangos to the United States, Europe and China. Their mangos come from their own farms and from small and medium-sized producers organized together as self-sustainable farmers, with organic certification. A few miles from the farm, we visited their packing plant which has capacity for 40,000 boxes per day. They have hydrothermal equipment which is required for shipment to the United States. This process consists of submerging the mangos for 75 to 90 minutes at 116F. The process has is approved by the sanitary authority of the US (APHIS). There is an annex to the packing plant which is the process operation. Here they dry all local fruit including mangos, pineapple and bananas. They also produce frozen dices for salads, pineapple, banana, papaya and avocado slices.
Over the next 2 days, we had the Mango Conference organized by PROMANGO. More than 350 participants attended including growers, members of the Administrative Committee, private businessmen, packers, exporters and the rest of the mango industry. I presented a talk on mango cultivars of the future the first day. The next day my talk was about mango consumers in the United States. The sections of talks were diverse, covering different topics of interest for the Peruvian mango industry, weather changes, the Nino phenomenon, anthracnose, diseases in mango, regulations, industry perspectives and alternatives. We had an intense amount of talks both days.
During the breaks we exchanged opinions, discussed different topics, made new friends and I got a new invitation. Before my return I spent my last day in the field. We visited the San Lorenzo area with 15,000 ha cultivated with mango. This shows the high importance of mango export production in the region. This region gets less than a half inch of rain each year, has salinity problems and it is hot during the day and cold during the night. The sector has a highly diverse structure in terms of farm size, farm type and socioeconomic characteristics. The area was dominated by mangos, grapes, and bananas and is set amongst a landscape of ancient history, tradition and modern realities.
We visited Camposol S.A. the biggest mango producer in Peru. I was struck by their massive scale and the extent of the agriculture on the lower and middle slopes and dry arenales. CAMPOSOL is engaged in the cultivation of land and the raising, harvesting, processing and commercializing of agricultural products and fruit including mangos, avocados, asparagus, sweet peppers, artichokes, which are exported fresh, canned or frozen mainly to Europe and the USA. The company currently owns 15,500 hectares in Piura, where 400 hectares are planted with mango. Their main variety is ‘Kent’.
CAMPOSOL encompasses a totally integrated business from the production of raw material in the fields to processing in the industrial plant and subsequent commercialization in Europe and the USA. Their pruning methods are excellent. They prune manually keeping the trees 2 meters high. Due to the salinity in the region, ‘Haden' is the rootstock they use. I noticed incompatibility in their trees.
Organic mango production was one of the discussion topics during the conference, so I wanted to visit one of the orchards. There is a total area of 3,000 ha of organic mangos that are certified. After installation, maintenance of 1 ha of mango costs on average US $400 for an organic orchard, compared with US $1, 015 for a conventional orchard. Organic mango yields are around 25 tons/ha. For fresh conventional mangos, variable production and harvesting cost were 7 soles/box, while they fetched an average price in the city of 9 soles/box resulting in a considerably higher profit margin.
My journal in Peru is finished and I bring back good memories from the land of the ‘Edward’ mango and their people. For me Peru’s potential is clear in terms of mangos, the key is to enter to the international market with a high quality standard.