MANGOES FOR THE WORLD
Here is the exerpt of the interview I did for the 9th National Mango Congress last November 23-25, 2007. The interview can be read in full at http://www.agribusinessweek.com/mangoes-for-the-world/
What makes this Mango Congress different?
The main difference is the two topics that we highlighted. Number one, we want to introduce to the mango farmers the concept of value chain. Number two, we also want to introduce the concept of fair trade in the Philippines. We’ve all heard that the export potential of mango is very high. However, you have, on the one hand, the potential of being an export winner and on the other hand, the 2.5 million small mango growers who are still marginalized and very much unorganized. So in the middle, a lot of the benefits of this potential are being felt by the middlemen and the traders but not by the farmers.
So what does fair trade do?
Fair trade assures the farmers that the prices in the world market would directly benefit them. How is this done? They have a mechanism that only fair trade mangoes, so to speak, are brought by several entrepreneurs in other countries. Fair trade products are priced a little bit higher that the market prices.
There’s an understanding that when we buy from a fair trade organization, it would put back into the community the additional benefit that they had. They have scholarship programs. They have introduction of health services for the marginalized farmers. Another highlight of this congress is our reinforcement of the need to be organized. If we’re organized, as one speaker said, we could have production forecasting. We have 2.5 million Filipinos who don’t know each other, more or less. So if every one of them plants at the same time, they also harvest the same time. By law of supply and demand, you have a very high supply of mangoes, and the prices become so low. But if you have production forecasting, if you group them, you organize them and production is programmed. Say, group A will induce flowers for January. Next week is group B and next is group C. If this is the system, you now have a production forecast where you can see how much mango will be produced on a weekly basis, so when harvesting time comes, you have depressed prices because of oversupply of mangoes-and you will have a very stable supply and therefore, a very good price.
A speaker said Mexico is now the number one supplier of mangoes in the export market and the Mexicans are also calling their product Manila mangoes. What’s the latest development on this issue?
It has become a long standing battle between Mexico and the Philippines. They call their mangoes Manila mangoes because during the galleon trade when we were still a colony of Spain, they used to bring mango seedlings from the Philippines direct to Mexico. They came from Manila and they call it Manila mango. There have been efforts to challenge that-the use of Manila mango by Mexico in the international trade organization. As to the update of that, I am not really sure. But the BPI is spearheading the efforts to fight that. They cannot claim to be Manila mango and tell the whole world that they have the sweetest mango. For the record, we are in Manila and we have the sweetest mango in the world.
A speaker also said that the mango plan has already been drawn a long time ago. It is really the implementation that has become a problem. What’s your comment on this?
It all takes commitment from everyone. Yes, the problems have already been identified. There’s a clear cut solution and recommendation to address these problems. But the problem is, number one, funding. Number two is lack of commitment of some of the people. We have to overcome the changes in leadership of each bureau. For example, the DA’s HVCC are now focused on mango. If the coordinator would be promoted and another one takes his/her place, the focus sometimes changes. That’s why to counteract that, we have stressed that this congress is private sector led. We just ask support from the government. What we need is a bunch of committed people from the private sector and make sure that the action plans which have been published will continue to be actualized. Otherwise, it would really be all talk and talk. We would not move forward as an industry if that’s the case.