Jamaican mango time in the US

Thursday, September 20, 2018

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Whether by coincidence or design, Agriculture and Commerce Minister Audley Shaw on Monday announced to importers in the United States that Jamaica would soon begin to export mangoes to that country, exactly four years to the day of the enabling agreement.

Jamaican nationals in the US who have a habit of pressing their visiting relatives to pack an array of local edibles will be able to buy the popular mangoes in their grocery stores across the States as soon as the final arrangements are in place.

That, presumably, includes an irradiation system, a food safety measure designed to eliminate disease-carrying bacteria, especially from the pesky tropical fruit fly, something the Americans have insisted on.

Mr Shaw, who spoke to the Jamaica Observer's Harold Bailey in New York, where he reopened a Jampro office to spur investments in Jamaica, said mango orchards would be established in a bid to maximise production to meet the expected high demand.

The reopening of Jampro New York makes so much sense that we need not belabour the point, and the decision was only sweetened by the announcement that mangoes would be exported to continental US.

It is well known how difficult it is for local produce to enter the American market because of the stringent restrictions imposed by authorities there, naturally to protect their country from external diseases that could devastate their agriculture.

Getting the go-ahead to export mangoes is therefore no mean achievement and a big breakthrough that could pave the way for other non-traditional produce. The journey to approval by the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service of the US Department of Agriculture began in 2009 and involved amending the relevant regulations.

As a condition of entry, the mangoes must be produced in accordance with a systems approach employing a combination of mitigation measures for certain fruit flies, soft scale insects, and diseases, and must be inspected prior to export from Jamaica and found free of these pests and diseases.

The mangoes must be grown at places of production that are registered with both US and Jamaican authorities. If a pest or disease is detected at the port of entry in the US, the consignment of mangoes will be turned back and further shipments from that exporter prohibited, until an investigation is conducted and the risk mitigated.

The package carrying the mangoes must not contain any other fruit, including mangoes not qualified for importation into the US.

For sure, the Jamaican imports would not by any means shake the US market, as the volume of mangoes will be relatively low — 261 metric tonnes or less than 0.08 per cent of US mango imports of 349,692 metric tonnes. Indeed, the US annual production is a mere 3,000 metric tonnes.

Moreover, the Jamaican mango season, March to July, only partially overlaps with that of the US. American importers may benefit marginally in having Jamaica as another source of fresh mangoes.

This is an opportunity for Jamaicans to grab with both hands. Every effort must be made to exclude fly-by-night exporters who could ruin this potentially lucrative trade for Jamaica.

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