To help reduce significant mango post-harvest losses in Mali, fresh fruit packing and cold storage facilities have been established in the country.
The development of new fresh fruit packing and storage facilities across Mali is allowing local mango wholesalers to tap into global export markets. Mangoes have a short shelf life, keeping fresh for just 7 days after harvesting unless they are stored at a low temperature. Professionals throughout the value chain can now use the PLAZA – a packing facility and logistics centre that opened near Bamako airport in 2007. Funded by the Dutch Development Agency, the World Bank and the government of Mali, the centre has six packing rooms and a temperature-controlled area that includes a pre-chilling chamber, two cold stores, and a refrigerated loading zone. The PLAZA has a monthly output capacity of around 50 containers, or 3,000–3,5000 t of mangoes, per 3-month growing season.
“Before [the PLAZA], we could only ship mangoes by air. Each plane could hold 504 boxes – so we only exported 200–300 t a season,” says Mahamadou Yaffa, business development director at Yaffa et Frères, one of the country’s biggest exporters. Now that the company can store greater quantities of mangoes at the PLAZA, they have alternative export options. “The cold store means we can ship our mangoes by sea (from Côte d’Ivoire, where they are carried in temperature-controlled trucks). Each shipment contains 54,440 boxes. That amounts to 900–1,000 t per season.” The PLAZA charges the firm a handling fee of FCFA 550,000 (€840) per container.
Mali is West Africa’s biggest mango producer and exports of the fruit have tripled in the past decade. In 2018, Mali exported 7,200 t of mangoes to Europe, with most of the produce ending up in France and the Netherlands. But its biggest export markets are Burkina Faso, Gabon, Ghana, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger and Senegal. Total mango exports amounted to 22,214 t in 2018, at a combined value of CFA8.9 billion (€13.65 million). Yet losses are still a real problem – around 60% of mangoes perish in the field. “A 2006 study showed that Mali's potential mango output was 575,000 t, but the country was only exporting 6% of that amount,” says Kone Konaté, coordinator of the Agricultural Competitiveness and Diversification Project – an initiative launched by the Malian Government to diversify and intensify agricultural production, and responsible for setting up the PLAZA.
Mango exports through the PLAZA hit a record high of 1,914 t in 2016, however, the centre is only operating at 54% capacity. Konaté puts this down to inadequate supply, while Yaffa cites logistical challenges. “The cold stores aren’t big enough to cope with our daily output volumes, it takes too long for the temperature-controlled trucks to return from Côte d’Ivoire to Bamako, and banks won’t finance us because our produce is perishable and we import all our packaging materials,” says Yaffa. Konaté says several national programmes should address these issues, once funding is secured. If Mali can overcome its problems, it will be in a strong position to tap into growing demand for mangoes in Europe.