Mangoes have been identified as a prospective crop for organic production to supplement conventional farming systems, particularly at Kununurra in the Ord River Irrigation Area.
The comparative advantages that favour organic mango production in that region are:
- low nitrogen requirement
- relatively few pests and diseases
- early production season
- established conventional mango industry and infrastructure
- export market opportunities alongside conventional mango exports
- existing conventional growers that are progressive and innovative with some interest in an organic or biological approach.
Mangoes can also perform well under organic systems in other regions of Western Australia (WA), however geographic differences in pest and disease pressures will require different management strategies.
Establishing a well-functioning organic system takes time. The wide range of biological processes involved must be initiated, nurtured and maintained at optimal levels in an integrated system to achieve the desired results. This integrated biological management must replace routine reliance on synthetic chemical fertilisers, herbicides, pesticides and growth regulators.
There are very good examples of successful commercial organic mango orchards in many parts of Australia, including WA. The organic production systems developed by dedicated growers are showing that yields and quality can be comparable to conventional systems.
Modern organic systems are largely the result of many years of on-farm trial, error and improvement - typically undertaken without the routine support and scientific research effort afforded conventional growers. In recent years the emergence of new equipment, substances and techniques suitable for organic systems suggests future development and refinement of organic systems will accelerate as will the provision of professional support services.
For new entrants into organic production this means the path to success may be less arduous. Even so, establishing an organic system typically requires a fundamental change in approach – toward a biological basis for production management. Motivation and commitment to this biological approach are seen as an essential requirement to develop a reliably profitable and robust sustainable organic system.
Organic mango industry
World trade in all organic agriculture products was valued at US$97 billion in 2017 and growing at around 10% per year. Major markets are the affluent nations of North America and Europe with various Asian countries emerging as important markets, including China. Domestic and export markets are expanding for organic products and mangoes add to the range of exotic tropical fruits on offer.
No figures are available for world production of organic mangoes. However, a number of major mango producing countries do have active organic programs and it can be expected that mango production is involved. Countries in western and southern Africa as well as central and south America and India produce organic mangoes and may be considered as potential competitors on export markets.
In Australia, organic mangoes are grown in most growing regions of WA, NT, Qld and NSW. Many are small mixed orchards, however some larger orchards are now involved.
WA has a number of producers who are certified organic for mangoes. Growers are at Broome, Carnarvon and Gingin.
The WA market for organic mangoes is essentially a captive market for local producers. Quarantine regulations impose import barriers relating to fruit fly. Imported mangoes must be treated. While some treatments are acceptable for organic fruit, the quality of treated fruit is usually adversely affected.
The domestic market in Perth for organic produce is relatively small and immature, although growing rapidly.
The present growth in domestic organic sales has been achieved at relatively high price premium and without any coordinated marketing strategy. Little promotion and advertising of organic mangoes has taken place, indicating that demand continues to be driven by “consumer pull” rather than “retail push”.
This suggests a well designed and implemented market development plan combined with a carefully planned pricing strategy would stimulate significantly greater consumer demand than current levels.
Organic wholesalers report that the market for organic fresh produce including mangoes has doubled in the past two years. This growth is largely driven by the emergence of mainstream retail traders into the organic sector.
A number of leading specialist fresh produce retailers (greengrocer/growers markets) and independent supermarkets are active in building and promoting their organic ranges. Wholesale traders report that these shops have become more active as they use organics to create a point of difference from competitors.
The two major supermarkets also have a range of organic products and are embarking on the development of “own brand” organic lines. Where supply volumes, continuity and quality are perceived as erratic, and price premiums are excessive, significant investment in promoting organic products remains unlikely.
Select wholesalers in most states have been engaged by the major supermarkets to investigate the supply of organic produce and consolidate volumes to suit their needs.
The emergence of supermarket interest in organic products, combined with improved supply continuity may lead to some mainstream promotional activity. A number of independent supermarkets are actively developing organic ranges and organic sections within categories. Some stores are beginning to promote and advertise organic products. It is envisaged this increase in promotional effort will increase demand for organic products among more mainstream consumers.
Eastern states markets for early season fruit from Kununurra offer good prospects. The volume of sales is 10 times the volume sold in Perth.
Tasmania and South Australia have quarantine restrictions for mangoes subject to fruit fly. WA fruit from regions with fruit fly freedom have direct access to these markets without the need for post-harvest pest treatment.
Small quantities of organic mangoes are sent by air in mixed consignments to Singapore and Hong Kong. A few growers have sent small quantities to Germany and Holland and report that buyers were looking for more volume.
Potential exists to offer organic mangoes on the back of existing conventional mango export trade. Destinations that have strong organic market growth, including some Asian markets have potential. Conventional mango exporters indicate markets are very interested, especially France, Germany and the UK.
These prospects are subject to competitive pressures from other southern hemisphere mango producing countries. The extent and profitability of markets requires further investigation and confirmation. A number of issues including quarantine risk, price, quality and supply need to be carefully considered before attempting to establish export markets. At present WA has insufficient supply capacity to seriously consider exploring these export market opportunities, other than small volume air freight into premium markets.
Processing and value-adding
Mango is a versatile fruit that lends itself to a wide range of processed products. The flesh can be used for canning, juicing, puree, drying, freezing and as fresh slices for the pre-prepared fruit salad market.
Several companies produce dried organic mango products in Australia.
The emergence of an organic dairy industry in Australia and overseas suggests opportunity for mango puree and slices as ingredients in dairy-based organic products.