MCI eyes “revolution” of mango trade

A recent test in Ivory Coast shows how West Africa’s mango trade can be extended by special containers that place the fruit in hibernation.


Farmers in Ivory Coast struggle with a mango harvest season that is as short as the fruit is sweet. “For a 4-6 week period in April and May, the country is flooded with good mangos, but it ends abruptly when the rainy season starts. From then on, the mango just starts decaying,” explains Mathew Shed, container manager in the specialist shipping company Africa Express Line (AEL).

“We were approached in April by Eolis, a CF logistics company, who asked for some kind of smart solution that would keep the fruit delicious and marketable for a longer time,” he adds. The solution turned out to be special reefer containers. With quick help from a container leasing company and a container depot in Antwerp, Belgium, Star Cool containers were upgraded to work with controlled atmosphere, in short known as CA, and sent to Ivory Coast.

Star Cool CA reefers adjust O2 and CO2 levels, which in turn keep the fruit’s respiration and ripening under control. “We knew how Star Cool CA extends the storage life of bananas and avocados. Mangos have similar respiration rates so the success of the mango test is really not a big surprise,” says Mathew Shed.

“I think there is a new business opportunity for farmers whose excess fruit never makes it to the market in time,” Mathew Shed says.

Anders G. Holm from Maersk Container Industry, the maker of Star Cool CA, is delighted. “Combined competences along the logistics chain can save food and open up business,” says Holm. “I’ll even go so far as to say this could become a mango revolution.”


Why the reefer test was a success:

Five Star Cool CA containers were loaded in May 2014 and then opened one by one over a period of four to nine weeks. Each time, the fruit generally turned out to be in the same condition as when it was loaded. (Source: Africa Express Line. See photos below)

Only 3 percent of world mango production is exported:

Global production of mangos has doubled in the last 30 years to more than 35 million tonnes, but only about 3 percent is traded internationally. Fragility is one reason why most mangos are still consumed close to the place of production. (Source: UNCTAD)


Costly air transport can be avoided:

“While the vast majority of mangoes globally are transported by ocean rather than air, the proportion of mangoes exported from West Africa by air is relatively high (~40%). On the surface, this would suggest that impediments to ocean transport of mangoes out of countries like Senegal or Ivory Coast may be restricting the full export potential of those markets. With large quantities of mangoes produced in that region for local consumption, it seems likely that the export potential from some of these markets is much greater than what we see today.” (Quote: Derek Brand, maritime advisor at the Seabury Group transportation consultancy).

Star Cool Controlled Atmosphere - CA:

After five years on the market, more than 25.000 Star Cool refrigeration containers are now equipped with CA. The technology is also used for bananas and avocados extending the potential travel time from 20 days to 45.