Developing the Mango Processing Industry – West Africa

  • Produce: Mango
  • Location: Mali, Burkina Faso
  • Agri processing, Market Research

The Challenge: How to develop the mango processing industry in West Africa

Mali and Burkina Faso are full of delicious mangoes, which cannot be exported fresh. Processing is thus a logical step to create employment in some of the world’s poorest countries. Over the past decade, hundreds of small mango drying factories were set up that produces this snack for the European market. Small-scale juice processing for the local market was also stimulated, and in Burkina Faso, a modern factory has been installed for the production of mango pulp for the European juice industry.

However, after a decade of strong growth that reached its peak in 2007, the dried mango export plummeted two years in a row to only one-third of the 2007 record. Despite successful juice sales in the region the pulp factory did not manage to export a single container of pulp. With thousands of farmers, factory workers, traders, and exporters depending on the industry, the question was asked: what is the future of the industry?

Phase 1: The initial study (2009-2010)

Traditional mango dryers deliver poor quality and drying efficiency

In 2009 The World Bank commissioned a study and a detailed market study was done, together with a study of the current production process and production methods utilized elsewhere. The goal was to come up with a number of strategic options for the industry and proposals for pilots.

The study showed that the market for dried mango was still promising, but that Mali and Burkina Faso were losing market share because of poor quality. This, in turn, was caused by obsolete drying technology and poor pre-treatment, storage and transport conditions. Furthermore marketing capacity was poor and by limiting to organic production, the industry limited itself to a small and decreasing niche. Even the most loyal organic consumers are generally not willing to buy a poor quality product just because it is organic.

Traditional mango dryers deliver poor quality and drying efficiency

Recommendations for dried mango

We recommended producers conquer the conventional market for dried mango in the EU by drastically improving product quality. This was to be done through a series of interventions.

The first pilot that was proposed was to support the most professional mango drying businesses with the introduction of South African drying technology. South Africa was the market leader in dried mango due to its high product quality and had very different dryers.

Modern tunnel dryers with stacking racks on trolleys in South Africa

A second pilot was that was proposed was to test the effect on the quality and shelf life of various combinations of humidity of the product with pre-treatment with preservatives, cold storage and refrigerated transport. The goal was to find the most cost-effective combination that would improve quality and shelf life.

A third pilot was for the development of mango snack bars for the local market made from a mix of second grade dried mango and or cheaper ingredients, in order to find an outlet for second-grade mango and have a product that is more competitive in the local snack market.

We proposed to introduce these innovations together with a South African Mango drying company because they could deliver more knowledge, experience, and market access. Via importers, we understood South Africans had a shortage of mango and were looking for opportunities abroad to expand production.

Modern tunnel dryers with stacking racks on trolleys in South Africa

Recommendations for juice (pulp) and IQF (frozen Mango cubes)

Filling aseptic drums with mango pulp

The market study revealed that the market for mango pulp (an ingredient for the juice and food industry comparable to orange juice concentrate) was dominated by India and its varieties. The difference in price between the cheapest and most expensive variety was 600$ per ton. The factory in Burkina Faso had done no proper market research and did not know how their mango varieties compared with the Indian varieties. Importers also did not know as they had never heard of the varieties.

The team proposed to support the pulp factory with market research and set-up cooperation with importers to find out which market segment they would fit in.

Finally, we proposed a feasibility study for the production of Individually Quick Frozen (IQF) mango cubes for the European food market, because the need for new suppliers was much higher than for mango pulp, and sales prices are much higher than for pulp.

Phase 2: Implementation of the pilots (2011-2014)

New container mounted tunnel dryer installed in a new factory in Burkina Faso

Between 2011 and 2014 Sense was involved in the implementation of its own recommendations. The activities helped to grow the export of dried mango from Mali and Burkina Faso from 150tons in 2009 to 2500 tons in 2017. Burkina Faso has now become one of the market leaders in dried mango.

The activities in this project included:

  • Introduction of South African mango drying technology
  • Improve production quality through the introduction of new techniques
  • Reduce quality loss in transport and storage through testing and introducing new methods of pre-treatment and transport
  • Support HACCP certification of the factories
  • To help the 6 companies to develop business plans and introduce them to investors, in order to access structural finance for the expansion of production capacity over the next five years
  • To provide market research training to a delegation of the world bank, exporters and dried mango producers
  • Conduct a feasibility study for the establishment of a frozen mango cubes factory, and if necessary help a local entrepreneur to develop a business plan and access finance
  • Support the diversification of the fruit drying industry into other dried fruits to lengthen the season, and thus provide full-time employment and reduce the fixed cost per unit of product

Introducing South African drying technology

A list with selection criteria was drawn up to help the programs select the most appropriate entrepreneurs who would be co-investing and working on the new South African drying equipment. Finally, the best 6 companies were selected, quotes for equipment were obtained and 6 mango dryers were ordered, delivered and installed.

This required adaptations to the South African designs, including a gas heating system instead of coal, the development of a system to feed the high-tech burner with a series of 6 small gas bottles instead of a bulk tank, the addition of voltage stabilizers and generators, and a series of warning lights and alarms.

Despite many set-backs with installation and operating the new dryers, it quickly became clear that the new dryers were a major step forward. Performance monitoring over 2 seasons showed a 40% reduction in energy cost per kg, an increase in the percentage of 1st-grade product from 80% to 94%, and a dramatic improvement of even the first and second-grade quality. Supermarkets in the UK and Germany were now willing to sell the product again.

A partnership between South African and West African companies

Example of proper pruning technique for Mango

Via EU importers, we got into contact with the largest dried mango producers in South Africa and started to assess their interest in cooperation. The largest, MPAK was intrigued by the opportunity because they lacked fresh mango to increase the production capacity and supply their clients.

We compared the cost of production between the countries, and the low cost of labour & mango showed the potential if it could be combined with South African efficiency and quality. Another advantage was the complementarity of the production seasons, and finally risk management. A bad mango year in South Africa can be compensated with a good year in West Africa. were enough to convince them to visit Mali and Burkina Faso.

After months of negotiations and several visits of the West African and South African companies to each other, a partnership was brokered. MPAK would provide training for the usage of the new dryers, training in good manufacturing practices and support with HACCP certification. MPAK would also buy all the produce manufactured in the new ovens for sale to its own clients. A sales price was negotiated based on open book calculations, to ensure each side made a healthy profit.

This partnership had the potential to revolutionize the mango processing industry. The goal of MPAK was to produce 500 tons in West Africa after five years, which would triple the size of the industry.

To tackle the issue of the rapid loss of quality after production a series of samples were manufactured, using 2 methods of preservation (blanching and ascorbic & citric acid), storage under room temperature and cold storage, regular packaging and nitrogen filled packaging and regular versus refrigerated transport. A Swiss, English and German client did a blind evaluation of the samples once they arrived at their premises. The results showed a strong impact on nitrogen packaging and a cold chain, while pre-treatment was abandoned.

Qualitative market research was done in Mali and Burkina Faso to understand the snack market and test the interest in various mango products. During 4 consumer focus groups of urban middle-class people in Burkina Faso, a large number of mango bars and other mango snacks from Brazil, Europe, South Africa, and Thailand were tested.

The conclusion of the consumer research was that mango rolls developed by MPAK in South Africa offer the best opportunity. Local consumers enjoy mango flavour but want to know what they are eating and do not like processed bars with too many ingredients. As Europeans, they are also looking for an attractive high-quality product of consistent quality. Finally, they are prepared to pay for a good product. Because the rolls are made from by-products of dried mango production, their cost price is lower, allowing for a competitive product in the local snacks market.

Finally, the feasibility study for individually quick frozen mango cubes (IQF) clearly showed the profitability of such a factory. With the help of engineers, a rough factory plan was drawn up to estimate the investment cost. Samples of frozen mango cubes were manufactured with mango from Burkina Faso to test the suitability for machine cutting, calculate production losses and test the acceptability of the colour, flavour, and texture in the EU market. A business model was built and profitability was calculated for 8 different scenarios that differed in investment cost, sales price, production efficiency, and length of the season. The conclusion was that if by-products are used for dried mango roll production the activity has a net profit margin of 20%-30%. If the season can be lengthened by adding other frozen products, profitability will increase further.

Because the aim of the project was to develop the mango-processing sector as a whole and public funding was used, there was a need to share the findings with the other stakeholders in the industry. The information could not remain only within the six pilot companies. During workshops in Mali and Burkina Faso findings were presented and discussed, and planning for activities for the coming season was made.

Phase 3: Scaling Up (2013)

A third contract was awarded by the World Bank to support the industry with the implementation of the activities defined during the 2012 dissemination workshops. The aim is to take advantage of the opportunity to triple the size of the drying industry with MPAK from South Africa. The project has the following goals:

  1. To ensure production of 80-100 tons of dried mango and mango rolls for sale to MPAK, to ensure their long term commitment
  2. To finalize the adaptations of the South African tunnel drying technology for operation in Mali and Burkina Faso
  3. To provide HACCP and staff management training for the 6 pilot companies, and to develop HACCP certification planning
  4. To help the 6 companies to develop business plans and introduce them to investors, in order to access structural finance for the expansion of production capacity over the next five years
  5. To provide market research training to a delegation of the world bank, exporters and dried mango producers
  6. To assist a local entrepreneur to access finance for the construction of a frozen mango cubes factory
  7. To support a local fresh fruit exporter to develop a business plan for a frozen mango cubes factory and access funding