JAMAICA will be able to export mangoes to the US come January.
The conditional approval, which was granted by the US Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, opens up a US$500 million market to local farmers.
But the country has just been able to export US$1.2 million to US$1.6 million worth of mangoes annually over the past decade, even though global demand (around US$1.9 billion last year) has more than tripled since 2003.
What’s more, ministry officials figure that Jamaica has the capacity to export just about 261,000 kilogrammes of mangoes to the US each year, or less than 0.1 per cent of total demand in the North American country.
And while US imports of mangoes have more than doubled from US$180 million in 2003, growth in demand for the fruit has been faster elsewhere. The US market’s share of global mango demand fell from 30 per cent a decade ago to 26 per cent last year.
All of Jamaica’s mangoes currently are shipped to Canada and the UK. Last year, local farmers exported 670,000 kg of the fruit, valued at just over US$1.5 million.
There has been a comparative increase in the volume of exports so far this year, with figures up to June showing that just over 500,000 kg of mangoes have been exported.
Those fruits came from the 14 mango orchards in Jamaica, ranging from two to 150 acres in size, which predominantly grow Julie and East Indian mangoes and which are largely located in St Thomas, with two of them being in St James.
But more orchards would have to be established for Jamaica to take a meaningful share of the global market.
In the meantime, the agriculture ministry is looking to partner with the private sector to set up facilities which will allow farmers to get their mangoes into the US, according to Sheila Harvey, chief plant quarantine and produce inspector at the Ministry of Agriculture.
Before being accepted into the US, Jamaican mangoes must either be subjected to a ‘hot water immersion bath’ or ‘irradiation’ treatment designed to kill all imbedded pests. The equipment to do this is expected to cost just under $20 million.
Jamaican mangoes have been locked out of the US market for the last 30 years due to concerns about the prevalence of tropical fruit flies, namely the West Indian Fruit Fly (Anastrepha obliqua) and the Caribbean Fruit Fly (Anastrepha suspensa).
The approval emerged from a ‘market access request’ that was made by the Ministry of Agriculture in 2009.
As a condition to entry, the mangoes must be produced on designated orchards, in accordance with a ‘systems approach’ that employ a combination of mitigation measures for certain fruit flies and insects.
This will enable the US plant and animal control authority to track the shipment directly the orchard of produce if a pest is detected.