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Mango rises as healthy food for Middle East/ US / EU driving accelerating Kenyan exports

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Rising awareness of mangoes as a healthy food is fueling accelerating world demand for the fruit, just as the lifting of export bans on Kenyan exports position local farmers to benefit from the surge in foreign sales.Rising awareness of mangoes as a healthy food is fueling accelerating world demand for the fruit, just as the lifting of export bans on Kenyan exports position local farmers to benefit from the surge in foreign sales.

A market review on major tropical fruits by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations(FAO) reported that 1.44 million tons of mangoes were exported globally in 2018, which was 3.2 per cent more than in 2017. 

RELATED CONTENT : Drying mangoes saves farmers post-harvest loses

However, the market is expected to grow more rapidly still in coming years, according to a Report Linker study on the global processed mango product market, which predicts that the $16.55bn market will grow by an average 6.4 per cent a year from 2019 to 2025.

This increased demand for the fruit is being driven by changing consumer preferences in the US and EU, which are the two biggest importers of mangoes accounting for a third of all mango imports. Both markets have seen consumers switching from orange to mango drinks, based on rising awareness of the nutritional benefit of tropical fruits and the linking of the high consumption of orange juices to increased acidity levels in the body.

The rising global prices of oranges is also seeing manufacturers shift to relatively cheap fruits, such as mangoes.For Kenyan farmers and exporters, a key driver of growing sales has been initiatives to create healthy eating habits in the United Arabs Emirate (UAE) and Saudi Arabia, which are the greatest importers of Kenyas mangoes.

Both countries have been increasing their fruit imports in recent years. But rising sales of dried mangoes in the US, EU, China and Japan has also fueled expanded demand for the fruit, with the dried mangoes offering a much longer shelf life, and emerging as a popular snack and cooking ingredient in bakery and confectionery products and breakfast cereals.

RELATED CONTENT :Fresh fruits exporters in need of apple mangoes ahead of high season

According to the Ministry of Agriculture, Japan and China are ready markets for dried mango chips and offer all-year-round demand, meaning Kenyan farmers can reduce the wastage of the fruit witnessed during the peak season of October to March by targeting these expanding and emerging markets.According to Lydia Mueni, an agronomist with the Mangos From Kenya company, statistics from the International Trade Centre (ITC) indicate that Kenya has seen an over 400 per cent increase in mango exports over the last five years, with a comparable trend being seen between 2007 and 2012.

Although Kenya is the third largest producer of mangoes in Africa, after Egypt and Nigeria, it only exports a third of the fruit with most going to waste and others traded in the local market. For instance, in 2018 the country exported 9.7 thousand tonnes, which was a third of the year’s production. Of the remainder, 95 per cent was domestically consumed and 2 per cent processed in the country.

RELATED CONTENT :Drying mangoes saves farmers post-harvest loses

However, with the recent lift of a six-year ban on Kenyan mangoes by the US, EU and other major markets that was triggered by high levels of fruit flies, exporters are now resuming business this year, and more farmers are expected to export the fruit.When announcing the lifting of the ban last year, Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (Kephis) Phytosanitary Services General Manager Isaac Macharia said the country has put in place measures to address the issues that led to the 2014 ban adding that the agency had established five pest-free areas in Elgeyo Marakwet and Makueni that would act as export zones.

Kenyan farmers have a competitive advantage over other exporters in that Kenya has the longest mango season, from October to March (high season) and another shorter season from April to June, which makes it possible for Kenya to supply its main markets in the Middle East when the big suppliers of India and Pakistan are off-season, according to the International Trade Centre (ITC).The United Arab Emirates currently takes 56 per cent of Kenya’s mango exports, followed by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and then Qatar.Kenya predominately exports the Apple variety because it is juicy, has no threads, has a sweet smell and is the most widely produced variety in Kenya.

Besides Apple other improved mango varieties grown in Kenya include Kent, Tommy Atkins, Van Dyke, Sabine, Sensation, Pafin, Maya, Kenston, Gesine and Haden, while local varieties are Ngowe, Boribo, Batawi, Sabre and Dodo.Both local and exotic varieties are grown in the eastern region of Kenya. Overall, the counties with a higher percentage of improved mango varieties are Kiambu (Thika), Embu, Tharaka Nithi (Mbeere), Meru (Meru Central and Meru South), Makueni, Machakos and Kitui.

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