Editorial | More mangoes, please
Many welcomed the announcement that Jamaica would resume exporting mangoes to the United States (US) in May. Then May came and went. Finally, we did it in June. A shipment of Jamaican mangoes was sent to the US in recent days.
This news must have produced smiles on the faces of Jamaicans living in North America who continue to crave products that are reminiscent of home like a ripe, bursting-with-flavour mango.
For many people, the mango is the king of all fruits. Some Jamaicans schedule their annual vacation to coincide with mango season, and they come to these shores and devour as many mangoes as they can, together with all the other goodies that the island has to offer.
The mango is not simply favoured for its flavour, though. It is high in potassium and has no sodium. Its high levels of minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants make it heart-healthy. New research also claims that mango has been found to protect against colon, breast, and prostate cancers.
But as we consider the wider implications of the export of mango, we are cautiously optimistic of success, for we keep remembering the sage words of former Prime Minister Edward Seaga: “Jamaica is a land of samples.” Mr Seaga was lamenting several failed attempts to get Jamaican produce to international markets. Jamaica’s flavourful ginger, pimento, peppers, and yams are rated among the best.
However, there are many horror stories of failure to be consistent in quality and to deliver the produce to market in a timely manner.
We believe that the Ministry of Agriculture must be aware of that spotty history and would have put plans in place to ensure that export orders, however many there are, would be satisfied in terms of timeliness and quality.
Wherever Jamaicans go, they take with them their culinary delights as well as their music, song, and dance. And in population centres, where those who claim Jamaican heritage are in the thousands, there are savvy merchants who are attuned to the demands of immigrant communities and who source new product lines to satisfy new arrivals with goods from their homeland. Be it breadfruit, sorrel, pig’s tail, mackerel, salt fish and ackee, or exotic spices, these and more are available in grocery stores or the ‘ethnic aisle’ of popular supermarkets. What’s interesting is that few of these items are labelled as coming from Jamaica.
Let’s linger on mango for a moment. We are talking here of a global fruit with many varieties. The most recent export figures show that Brazil is the number one exporter of mango, followed by Peru, Ecuador, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, and Haiti.
And the US, China, the Netherlands, and the United Arab Emirates are the top importers of mango. With two of our neighbours among the top exporters, one wonders what is holding back Jamaica.
Experience teaches that it can be tough getting goods into the US market. US law requires that importers of goods intended for the commercial market should ensure that the products are safe, sanitary, and labelled as required by the US.
Additionally, shipments are subject to Food and Drug Administration (FDA) inspection, which may result in detention of goods. There are many horror stories of goods being detained at US ports of entry until they had passed their best sale days. However, we are assured that the exportation is being done under the FDA-approved Mango Irradiation Programme.
Then there are those who may seek to contaminate exports with illegal items, which can have dire consequences. Like so many other aspects of Jamaican life, there are forces that will seek to corrupt, and this is what places our exporters most at risk compared to our neighbours.
There has to be constant vigilance at attempts to contravene export laws. We hope mango exports will have smooth passage to the intended targets.