Despite the pandemic and climate change, mango cultivation reactivates the economy in Tapanatepec, Oaxaca


A Oaxacan company struggles with declining production due to strong winds.

“Climate change is a reality in the area, for 8 years we have been feeling the ravages, there are days with wind and others with intense heat, but even so we continue farming, it is our life,” says Rufina Sibaja Ramos, who for 40 For years he has a family mango packer that sells nationally and in Central America, which not even the pandemic stopped.

The wind that blows and exceeds 100 kilometers per hour and the heat of more than 42 degrees that is felt in Tapanatepec, Oaxaca known as “the cradle of the mango” is not the same as a decade ago and Rufina knows it.

In this territory located in the eastern part of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, varieties such as Tommy, Ataulfo, Criollo, and Oro are grown;  the first two, in addition to being sold to the international market, are also offered in the supermarket chains with the greatest presence in Mexico.

The land is kind, says Rufina, a woman with silver hair and soft hands, who explains that despite the climatic variation, nothing stops them from growing this prized fruit, which has a unique flavor and yellow color.

“There are days when the heat reaches 42 degrees and other times the wind and cold appear out of nowhere, ending the flowering and the harvest, but even so we continue to grow and sell this delicious fruit,” he says as he selects and places a wooden box the mangoes that will be sold to Panama.

This year, production fell from 2,000 boxes per week to 600 boxes, and the reason was the strong winds that are unpredictable: “And although that benefits us, those of us who sell, not the producers, who they cultivate, because the production is less and their profits few”.

“In April when we felt hot, a strong wind and cold appeared out of nowhere, and as a consequence it wiped out the third flowering, and the other thing, for example, yesterday, it also rained and that makes the fruit ripen more, therefore there are to pack it faster and sell it, all those situations put us in trouble, but we continue to resist”.

From the laminate corridor that she built in her home where her mango packaging is located, which she named “El que no cae resbala”, the woman with silver hair and soft hands along with her husband Félix Rosado Martínez and 8 other employees, pack all every day the mango in a day of 8 to 10 hours

Production and marketing begin in December and end between June and July. The tronador mango, which is one of the varieties that is harvested, is sold to producers for export to the United States, while the ataulfo, oro, tommy and criollo are for the national and Central American markets.

For example, explains Rufina, in Panama they prefer the mango oro sazón, while at the national level they buy ataulfo ​​and criollo. Two years ago they began to market the mango to the Jumex company.

“Everything is little by little, here it’s not about getting avowed, it’s a family production, where my daughters and son participate, we also give work to our people, that gives us the greatest satisfaction, what with more than 40 years, even with the ravages of the climate and with a pandemic, the mango continues to be our source of economy and survival,” he added.

As he narrates how his life has been in these four decades, he celebrates the fact that the mango is a favorite fruit throughout the world, and it gives him more satisfaction to know that the juices, dehydrated fruits and the mango that is distributed in various parts of the planet, plants and cultivate in the isthmian territory.

From Tapanatepec to the Netherlands, New Zealand, and the United States

They pretend to be bees in a hive working at forced marches, but no, they are men and women who all the time have their hands busy selecting, washing, and ordering the mango from the packing house of Grupo Agrícola Palenque, which has been exporting this fruit for 20 years to the United States and the Netherlands

Tapanatepec is one of the five municipalities along with Reforma de Pineda, Zanatepec, Ixhuatán, and Chahuites that are dedicated to the planting and sale of mangoes nationally and internationally.

The “Grupo Palenque” mango plant is the largest in the eastern zone, it has orchards of hundreds of hectares of mango that are grown organically, and for two years it has been contemplating a food dehydrator that offers its product to the United States.

“The mango is our everything, it is our yellow gold, the fruit desired by many,”  explains its founder, Raúl Arco de Lozano.

Each one of the mango boxes has a batch, product, weight, and place of origin “Tapanatepec, Oaxaca, Mexico” explains Saraim Martínez, packing manager of Grupo Agricola Palenque, and the most important thing is to carry out a quality process to achieve it, a failure would be unforgivable because it means the loss of money; he omits quantities, but assures that each annual production costs millions of pesos.

Grupo Agricola Palenque did not stop production due to the pandemic, although its exports decreased, it operated during these years, and by 2022 it expects a rebound in its sales.

Upon arrival at the plant, access must be under hygienic care. Wear a mask, and a hat and wash your hands continuously. The multiple boxes of mango are stacked and everything smells sweet and the eyes see green and yellow colors because of the green and ripe fruit.

The annual export is 7,500 tons to the United States and 15 tons to the Netherlands, that is, 7,000 boxes of mangoes are packed daily in this company, which begins production at the beginning of the year and ends at the end of May.

“Everything is supervised, and the first step is the approval of the orchards by the Secretary of Rural Development, which issues a document; later the cut is made and a sampling sack is carried out to avoid the presence of the fruit fly, which would end the production”.

Exporting mangoes abroad has allowed producers to obtain greater profits, but it also means resisting and facing climate change, since there is an increasing presence of pests and in the case of the Grupo Palenque packing plant, everything is organic.

Once the sample has passed, the washing of the fruit begins, later two women remove the branches and leaves; In addition, they select the size, because it is not preferred to be large, but rather, they are chosen by grams, those of half a kilo, 700 and 900 grams.

More than 250 people are working. The selection of the fruit is done manually, once the measurements are chosen, they are placed on racks and go through a process called ‘hydrothermal’, which is to submerge the mango at a temperature of 42.6 degrees Celsius.

This hydrothermal process is a special requirement requested to export the mango, once completed, it is passed to the packing area.

Hands move at high speed. There are those who select the fruit, others who paste labels, others who fill the boxes, those who put the security and guarantee seals on them, those who pack them and finally enter the cold room.

Arriving at the cold room is the penultimate process, once entered, they are mounted on trailers for distribution. This takes between 8 and 10 hours, not counting the hours that the mango will have to travel to be enjoyed as a fruit from Oaxaca for the world.

Grupo Agricola Palenque also distributes mangoes to national chain stores, which means that the mango consumed throughout Mexico is grown, harvested, and packed by Oaxacan hands.

In addition to its plant in Tapanatepec, Grupo Agrícola Palenque also has plants in Nayarit and Sinaloa, which places it as the largest mango exporting company in Oaxaca.

The mango, our source of employment

Carmelo Martínez is 35 years old and since he was 9 years old he has been working in mango production, which is his source of employment.

Work begins early. He is accompanied by his wife and his two daughters. “Sometimes there are 12 boxes, and other 5 or 6, but it has never left me, thanks to my work, I have the family support, and when the production ends, I dedicate myself to fishing.”

According to the Agri-Food and Fisheries Information Service (SIAP), in 2021
Oaxaca’s mango production decreased by a thousand tons; Not so in 2020, in which the entity managed to remain among the ten leading states in mango production in its different varieties. The largest producer is Sinaloa with 410 thousand 147 tons.

However, Oaxaca in 2021 achieved a production of 207 thousand 710 tons, only 0.5% below what was achieved in 2020, when it achieved 208 thousand 798 tons.

Oaxaca occupies fifth place in mango production at the national level, generating, in recent years, more than 200,000 tons per year, supported by nearly 10,000 producers.

In the state, according to SIAP data, there are about 20,000 hectares destined for cultivation and on which thousands of Oaxacan families depend.

An average of 12 kilos of mango is what a Oaxacan consumes mainly between the months of January to May when production is at 100 percent. The variety of Tommy and Ataulfo ​​ranges between 32 pesos per kilogram, others at 15 to 20 pesos, especially the Creole mango, which is consumed with salt, chili and lemon.


The Oaxaca Post