By YVETTE TAN
After a decade, the Philippines is once again exporting fresh mangoes to Australia. The initial shipment of 1,500 kilograms of Carabao mangoes left the Philippine Airlines (PAL) Cargo Terminal on September 6, 2023.
The Department of Agriculture (DA) website stated that among those present during this historic event were “DA-BPI Assistant Director for Research, Development and Production Support Services Herminigilda Gabertan, BOC NAIA Customhouse Export Division Chief Calil Dimangadap, Hi-Las President/CEO Roberto Angelo Amores II, exporter Joseph Bautista, and PAL Cargo Sales International Account Executive Adriane Placido.”
According to Amores, who heads Hi-Las Marketing Corporation, a highly diversified grower, exporter, and processor of agricultural products, “Negotiations came about through the determination and sincere desire of Fastboxph’s, Mr. Migs Ripoll (who is Filipino) to bring in fresh Carabao Mango into Australia.”
FastboxPh is the Australian logistics provider distributing the fruit Down Under.
Government to government
Amores stated the various challenges faced before being able to push through with the export, and how they were overcome. “Of course as with exporting into any foreign country, complying with the phytosanitary requirements set upon by the importing country’s respective quarantine and agricultural agencies is always an important hurdle to overcome,” he shared.
“The negotiations on protocols and requirements were carried out by the respective government agencies, specifically the Bureau of Plant and Industry (BPI) of the Philippines, an attached line agency of the Department of Agriculture and the Australian counterpart, it was a G2G (government to government) negotiation.
“Through the coordination of BPI, We were guided on what Australia needed and thankfully, we were able to adapt quickly as the recommencement of shipments were eagerly anticipated by Filipinos living in Australia.”
As of now, “only Carabao mangoes have been approved for export to Australia and an increase in volume is yet to be determined after careful analysis of the market since Australia is also a mango producing country,” Amores said. “But we do firmly believe that Philippine mango has potential in the Australian market, especially during the off season of Australia’s production.”
Assuring a supply
One of the biggest challenges clients face when dealing with Philippine farmers is the assurance of a continuous supply of produce. This is especially crucial when dealing with foreign clients. Hi-Las has extensive experience in this area, being an exporter of okra to Japan, among other endeavors.
“We address this issue through careful profiling of our accredited farms, taking into consideration flower induction schedules and harvest estimates based on farm conditions and prevailing weather conditions in the area to determine expected yields of export quality fruit,” Amores said.
It’s only been a week but so far, feedback has been positive. “Being a user of social media, we’ve seen TikTok and Instagram stories of customers who’ve picked up a box or two of our mangoes, describing it as ‘mas makinis pa sa aking mukha’ (smoother than my face) and… as ‘the sweetest mango in the world!’” Amores shared.
“We’ve also seen posts of our fellow Filipinos residing either in Sydney or at Perth who are elated that one of the Philippines’ pride has made it to the land Down Under. We are also happy to report that through the pre ordering website of Fastbox, our mangoes actually sold out before being released from customs!”
Amores has high hopes for the future of this endeavor. “We hope that this will spark a renewed interest for mango growers and stakeholders to partner with us exporters to regain our global market share vs our competitors in the ASEAN,” he said.
The resumption of export is the result of coordination among several private and government organizations.
“This milestone would not be made possible without the support and coordination of the Bureau of Plant and Industry, Fastboxph’s Migs Ripoll and associate Joseph Bautista, and Mrs Nina Amores Marcalain (VP of Hi-Las) for their courage and determination to penetrate the seemingly impenetrable Australian Market,” Amores said.
More than a notable event in Philippine agriculture history, this is also a personal triumph for Amores, who dedicated it to his father, a stalwart of the local agriculture industry, who passed away last year. “Also, we would like to dedicate this milestone to our late father, Mr Roberto C. Amores who is a staunch advocate for the Philippine mango industry, having dedicated most of his life to the success of this industry.”
Photos courtesy of Roberto Angelo Amores II