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Mango – The Fruit from Taiwan that Earned Its International Reputation


2015.8 (Issue No.278)

I. Preface

  The mango was originally from India. In 1954, the Joint Commission on Rural Reconstruction (Council of Agriculture’s predecessor) introduced 5 species of mangoes from the United States including the famous Irwin. After research and domestication, the government advised farmers to tackle the problems of poor fruit setting by breeding insect pollinators, and to solve the oriental fruit fly pest by bagging the fruits. Consequently, the cultivation area and the yield volume have been gradually incrementing in Tainan, Kaohsiung, and Pingtung areas. At one point, the production yield was so high that caused the price of mango to drop dramatically. The agricultural authorities immediately started helping to take marketing and exporting measures, and listed mango as Taiwan's export flagship product in 2004, followed by establishing intensive export channels. Eventually, the domestic price began to rise again due to foreign market demands. In 2006, Japan implemented a new pesticide residue regulation which brought export to a halt. The COA responded with establishing the Mango Safety Management System in that same year, which encouraged exporters to form contractual partnership with suppliers as well as to carry out the registration and traceability management. These meticulous safety management measures convinced the Japanese government which agreed to lift the inspection barrier in 2010. Since then, Irwin mangoes from Taiwan have gradually made their way back to the Japanese market.

   Taiwan’s Irwin Mango presents an eye-catching red color. The flesh has a pleasant aroma and tastes sweet with a smooth texture. It is distinctively different in appearance and texture from many countries’ export versions of the same species. Yahoo Japan has once conducted a poll on consumer preference regarding imported mangoes; the results show that 76% of Japanese consumers believe that Taiwanese mangoes possess the best quality. In order to maintain international competitiveness, the COA continued to organize marketing events abroad to secure more foreign orders by recommending Taiwan’s mango to consumers around the world. In recent years, mango shaved ice rose to popularity from Taipei’s Yongkang Street, even CNN and travel magazine Travel+Leisure recognized it as one of the best desserts in the world, which made it a “must-eat” delicacy for foreigners visiting Taiwan. Due to its popularity, many shops were established to catch the joyride and to go even further by setting up shops abroad. Mangoes from Taiwan can be found in Japan, Korea, Hong Kong, even China which is also a country that produces mango. Diversified development has put Taiwan’s mango under the international spotlight with a brand new face.

II. The mango industry and its export

  According to FAO’s 2012 data, worldwide mango cultivation area was approximately 5,170,000 hectares with an annual production of 42,140,000 tons. Major production countries are India (2,300,000 tons), China (460,000 tons), Thailand (320,000 tons), Indonesia (230,000 tons) and the Philippines (190,000 tons). Taiwan has 15,000 hectares of mango cultivation area and 153,000 tons of annual production that yields NT$ 7.6 billion in production value (Table 1). Major cultivations are located in Tainan, Pingtung, and Kaohsiung. As for the varieties, they are consisted mainly of improved species such as Irwin, Jinhwung, Keitt, Haden, and Tsar-swain. In Pingtung region the harvest season is from end of May to end of June, whereas in Tainan region it is from end of June to end of July. Due to Japan and Korea’s quarantine requisites, only the varieties Irwin and Haden are accepted for export to these two countries, and this is done mainly between May and July. As for other countries such as China, Hong Kong, and Singapore, a more lenient quarantine requirement means that export period for the varieties Jinhwung, Keitt, and Irwin can be extended from May to September. In 2015, Taiwan’s mango export saw an increase of 107% with 3,607 tons between January and June as compared to the same period in 2014 (Total annual export in 2014 was 6,438 tons). The main markets for Taiwan’s mango export are China, Hong Kong, Korea, Japan, and Singapore. With import value increasing each year, China is now the largest importer of Taiwan’s mango. Due to the increase in greenhouse mango supply from Miyazaki and Okinawa as well as the decline in spending power caused by the devaluation of yen, export to Japan has been gradually receding each year. On the other hand, Taiwanese mango exporters adjusted their target towards the Korean market due to the increase in that country’s Gross National Income which contributed to growing demands in fresh fruit (Figure 1). Regarding prices, in the past 5 years the price for export to Japan ranges from USD 6.7 to 8.4 / Kg, USD 4.7 to 6.2 / Kg for Korea, USD 1.3 to 2.1 / Kg for China, and USD 0.66 to 1.14 / Kg for Hong Kong. This trend shows that Japan and Korea are premium benchmark markets which would help elevate Taiwan’s domestic pricing as well as overall image if thoroughly developed. However, other markets including China and Hong Kong belong to those where it is possible to expand quantity and variety with prolonged supply period. Furthermore, the fact that Hong Kong redirects parts of its total import to China shows China’s large demand for fresh fruits. Nevertheless, in order to reduce risk, it is advisable to actively develop other markets.

Table 1. Mango production and sales in Taiwan statistics for the past 10 years

Table 1. Mango production and sales in Taiwan statistics for the past 10 years
Source: Agricultural Statistics Annual Report
Taiwan mango export in the past 5 years (Source: Agricultural Statistics Database)
Taiwan mango export in the past 5 years (Source: Agricultural Statistics Database)

III. Government measures for expanding mango industry export

  The mango was originally a foreign species. However, thanks to the researches by the agricultural research institutes and the careful cultivation by the farmers, the mango has flourished in Taiwan to become an important export product. In order to stabilize its domestic price and expand overseas markets, agricultural administration of the government have carried out the following promotion measures in recent years:

1. Establish registration system for export fruit suppliers

  Encourage exporters and supply farmers to sign Letter of Intent, and establish production plan as well as registration system for export fruit suppliers. Provide measures in the establishment of collective production area and the expansion of business scale in order to lower production costs. Furthermore, offer assistance to freight and packing centers on improving packing installations in order to stabilize export quality and quantity. In 2015, there are a total of 26 registered exporters, 690 supply farmers, and 667 hectares. In recent years, the average acquisition price for premium quality products ranges from NT$ 85 to 130 / kg depending on different production period and volume. In order to stabilize the domestic price, the price at the place of production is maintained at NT$ 52 to 71 / Kg.

2. Establish safety management system

  Establish safety management measures and carry out traceability system by issuing individual bar-codes to mango farms that supply the Japanese market. Pre-harvest residual pesticide inspection must be performed and passed before harvest can be carried out. The aforementioned procedure would be especially enforced at vapor heat treatment plants, and only those that passed the inspection be allowed to export to Japan. As of 2014, 99% of all Taiwan’s fruits destined for Japan passed the inspections performed at vapor heat treatment facilities.

3. Enhance educational training

  Establish technical service teams by inviting experts from Agricultural Research Institute, Agricultural Chemicals and Toxic Substances Research Institute, all district agricultural research and extension stations, and academic institutions to join forces and contribute to this cause. The team provides advice to farmers in farming seasons on improvement of cultivation techniques and safe usage of pesticides. In order to understand changes in Japan’s pesticide standard, both exporters and farmers must attend training sessions on safe usage of pesticides every year in order to qualify themselves for exporting to Japan.

4. Encourage farmers to refrain from using Ethephon to establish quality standard

  In order to obtain early harvest, farmers widely rely on Ethephon which cause the fruit to ripe and turn red outside but lacks sweetness inside. To correct this problem, farmers are persuaded to discard the usage of such chemical and let every mango fruit to ripe naturally so that it would be able to retain consumers’ trust. At the same time, standard sugar content (soluble solids) of 12 degrees is set as minimum to ensure quality. All fruits destined for Japan must undergo such inspection and meet the minimum standard in order to qualify for export. This measure has gained positive reception and is welcomed by the Japanese market. Domestically, farmers’ organizations are encouraged to promote quality standards and labeling so also that domestic consumers’ preference towards high quality domestic fruits may be achieved.

5. Encourage installation management on insect epidemic prevention

  Encourage the installation of automatic water vaporizer to prevent pests such as yellow tea thrips. The vaporizer can also spray pesticides and hydrate the crop while decreasing pest concentration. The installation could lower labor and pesticide costs as well as physical hazard on farmers. Moreover, windbreak nets and screen houses for mango would be granted subsidies. Government offers assistance on the management of these facilities and installations in order to protect the plants against strong gusts of wind as well as prevent the damages brought by the black spot disease and the oriental fruit fly. Furthermore, screen houses can reduce the usage of pesticides and improve fruit quality and appearance. It can even save on bag costs.

6. Enhance local marketing

  Taiwan’s mangoes are juicy and delicious, and the Irwin mangoes which are ripened naturally on the tree taste especially good. However, mangoes for export need to be harvested with anticipation and those destined for Japan, Korea, and Australia must undergo a quarantine process which vapor steams the fruits at 46.5 C for 30 minutes. All of the above process affect the quality of the fruits. In order to attract international tourists and buyers to taste the mangoes as they ripen naturally on the tree and further boost export, the COA began organizing the Taiwan Mango Festival since 2013. The event continues to expand each year, and in 2015 a series of marketing and promotional campaign took place in Taipei City, Pingtung County, Tainan City, and Kaohsiung City. The events begin with the Pingtung mango production period in May and continue until the Tainan harvest period between June and July. The integrated marketing campaign links ice cream shops in Taipei with mango production townships and lasts throughout the entire mango production period. The ultimate goal is to promote the integral prosperity of the agriculture, tourism, and service industries.

7. Diversify products through R&D

  The mango can be processed into jelly, dried mango, sorbet, and other products. In order to establish a cooperative business model between manufacturers and producers, processing manufacturers are encouraged to sign long-term contracts with suppliers. Taiwan’s world-famous mango shaved ice is now expanding its presence to many countries such as Japan, Korea, Hong Kong and China. These shops label their products as “Made with Taiwanese Mangoes” which in turn propel the domestic processing industry and effectively eliminate sub-quality products while creating added-value.

8. Intensify international marketing and develop distribution channels

  Since 2004, the COA has been carrying out an International Marketing Program which consists of actively participating in shows and exhibitions worldwide to promote all varieties of mango to international buyers. Consequently, the work has successfully shaped Taiwan into a major mango producing country. Furthermore, the Council also helps exporters to organize promotional events in supermarket chains all around the world for the purpose of imprinting the image of “safe, healthy, and excellent” Taiwanese mango in consumers’ mind, which in turn would increase purchase probability. Moreover, the COA encourages the development of service called “place order in Taiwan and retrieve merchandise overseas” which would create a new form of retail channel through international logistic service. This new form of service makes purchasing Taiwanese mangoes much more convenient for consumers all over the world.

Delicious Taiwanese mango can be made into jelly, dried mango, sorbet, and other processed products.
Delicious Taiwanese mango can be made into jelly, dried mango, sorbet, and other processed products.

2015 Tainan International Mango Festival
2015 Tainan International Mango Festival

Mangos that have passed quarantine inspection are waiting to be loaded on containers bound for Korea.
Mangos that have passed quarantine inspection are waiting to be loaded on containers bound for Korea.

IV. Future development

  The export volume of Taiwanese mangoes has been increasing in recent years. However, the ever-changing international market trend and environment make it necessary to adjust to changing consumer habits and atmosphere, as well as the developing trend of Taiwan's agriculture for international market. The principal government policy regarding export would be as follow:

1. Establish 3-level pesticide residue self-inspection system

  The rise of Chinese and Korean markets caused many countries to put more emphasis on the issue of food safety. The safety management system established by Taiwan for the export of mango to Japanese market must be applied to all other markets. In the future, farmers, packers, and exporters would be expected to carry out self-inspection duties. The government establishes a 3-class mechanism for the control of residual pesticides on export fruits: Class 1: Producers submit samples to authorities for inspection before harvest. Class 2: Random inspections carried out by freight and packing centers. Only those that pass the inspection can be packed for export and will be labeled for traceability on the exterior of the boxes. Class 3: Random inspection carried out by government authorities at packing centers and customs quarantines. Those that do not meet the regulations or requirements would be fined and would not be permitted to sell their products anymore.

2. Enhance post-harvest processing and variety selection

  Being a tropical species, the mango’s freshness is hard to preserve after harvest. The currently popular export varieties such as Irwin is highly susceptible to anthrax, while Jinhwung and keitt are prone to internal breakdown. It is necessary to further pinpoint the optimal maturity and method for harvest, as well as improve post-harvest processing procedure such as hot water dipping treatment, ripening, and storage-transport techniques and installations in order to minimize damages to the quality of products. Researches are carried out to develop species that are suitable for long storage-transport, highly immune to most diseases, and possess controllable maturity. The production and quality of these super-species would not be affected by climate change, and their supply period can be extended to accommodate more market needs.

3. Establish modernized export freight and packing centers

  In addition to food safety issues such as residual pesticide, more countries are beginning to pay more attention to storage and transportation of the products. Some countries require products to be packed by packing centers that have been recognized by individual country. Moreover, these establishments must be registered in those countries and passed relevant inspections. In order to meet those countries’ regulations and further make packing centers a control station for export mango safety and quality, the government has implemented a recognized policy for packing centers. The measure helps packing centers to obtain funding, train personnel, establish standard operating procedures, and install nettings or air curtains to carry out packing activities under a completely isolated environment which must be free of oriental fruit flies, other pests or contaminants in order to meet the quarantine and packing requirements of the country.

4. Carry out international pesticide and quarantine negotiations for the development of emerging markets

  Continue to negotiate terms and standards for residual pesticide with target countries. If the target country has a standard in force, then Taiwan will abide by the target country’s standard; otherwise, the target country must adopt the Taiwanese standard. Furthermore, Taiwan aims to overcome trade barriers and expand its overseas markets through continuous negotiation with all target countries on the development of quarantine procedures.

V. Conclusion

  Today, Taiwan’s mango enjoys an exceptional export achievement because of the joint efforts of countless professionals from various sectors. Since the introduction of the species, the Taiwan mango went through domestication, promotion, cultivation, post-harvest processing, quarantine counseling, quality and safety control, overseas marketing promotion, and international affairs negotiation that led to the planning of existing policies that move the whole industry forward as well as the establishment of systems such as the Export Supply Farm System which has become a model for other agricultural export products. However, the export volume for mangoes only takes up 4.3% of the annual production volume which shows that there is still a huge potential for export. In the future, Taiwan will introduce technologies that create stable supply of products, and will establish modernized packing centers. Taiwan aims to produce healthy and high-quality fruit products through the establishment of traceability system for both domestic and foreign markets. It is also necessary to further develop other markets than the existing Chinese, Korean, and Japanese markets in order to create new distribution channels and lower risks. Furthermore, it is important to carry out international marketing campaigns centering on the brand of “Taiwan” so as to forge a collective positive image of “safe, healthy, and excellent” for Taiwan mango. The ultimate goal is to achieve a sustainable development for the domestic industry through export.