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Cultivares realizing growth by expanding offshore markets

Cultivares, a 40-year old family produce business, is expanding its markets offshore.

Francisco Villegas, director, works from the firm’s Mazatlan sales office. In November, he entered a second two-year term as the president of EMEX, which is the association of packers of Mexican export mangos. Francisco-Villegas-MazatlanFrancisco Villegas, director of Cultivares, in his Mazatlan office.

Twenty-five years ago, Villegas’ family began exporting mangos. Villages said Cultivares ships all major mango varieties, with 90 percent of the volume going to the United States. Cultivares’ mangos are also exported to Australia, New Zealand, Chile and a few European countries.

To diversify its markets, Cultivares is cooperating with EMEX to further develop European markets.

He noted that EMEX is working with Wageningen University in the Netherlands to have a postharvest export protocol for mangos. At the university, the ITESO group is doing the research.

Because of the long transit time to northern Europe, EMEX is cooperating with ITESCO on food-safety matters, fungicide treatments and extending shelf life.

“Europe is interested in ag chemical residues,” and Mexico is responding by minimizing the use of agricultural chemical inputs, he said. “Once the postharvest protocol is complete, we will move to preharvest protocols.”

Mexican mangos are shipped to Rotterdam through the Gulf of Mexico seaport, Altamira, Tamaulipas. It is a 21-22-day voyage. “We have good arrivals,” Villegas added.

To reach the U.S. market, 80 percent of Cultivares’ volume is sold by Amazon Produce Network in Vineland, NJ. Robinson Fresh, based in Eden Prairie, MN, handles the remainder of the U.S. volume.

Cultivares exported to Philadelphia and Amazon through Altamira on the SeaLand direct service until that was canceled in May.

Mexico’s mango groves

Villeagas said the Tommy Atkins variety “is becoming less popular and some retailers don’t buy it anymore,” said Villegas, who added that Tommy Atkins plantings need to be replaced with mango varieties “with no fiber, a good blush and good size. Tommy Atkins is a small fruit with a lot of fiber.”

He noted that speakers at recent National Mango Board and EMEX meetings “talked about the possibility of new varieties with no fiber and researchers suggested that other varieties may be successful.”

He said EMEX is cooperating with the National Mango Board to start a varietal evaluation project.

“There are many mango varieties,” said Villegas. “The National Mango Board has advanced research of what may be of interest. We need to validate this in the field and have a postharvest validation. Is a variety good for hot water treatment? The evaluation will consider production, packing and logistics. It’s a project that I am enthusiastic about. It prepares the industry for the future.”

Cultivares’ production

Cultivares’ primary farm is about 50 miles from Mazatlan, where 750 acres of mangos are grown and where the firm’s major packinghouse is located. Cultivares also has mango operations in several other Mexican states, exporting a total of 6 million boxes in seven months.

Villegas said Cultivares has young mango groves that, as they mature in the next year or two, will be harvested for the March-May market.

Cultivares “would like to grow other tropical items,” he said. New products would include lime and pineapple, “which can be grown here in our region without going to other regions.’

But in the next couple of years Cultivares will also look at extending its tropical fruit production to other parts of Mexico — and to offshore countries.