With more than 20 years’ experience in agriculture and rural development, Thierry Paqui is tried and tested for sure. For FRUITROP magazine he writes about the pineapple trade but for West Africa Connect he will be part of a roundtable talk about export opportunities and challenges in the West African mango industry, another speciality of him. Let’s get to know Thierry in this interview.
Can you tell a bit about your background?
“I’ve studied law and agribusiness, and this has allowed me to continuously work in the horticulture sector in African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries. Through various missions in ACP countries, I have worked with many exporters and professional organisations. I also have helped these exporters cope with issues concerning marketing and the access of their productions to European markets. My knowledge of the expectations of export markets is enhanced by the fact that I complete quality controls of ACP exported crops for European importers on a regular basis.”
So, fresh mangoes are popular in West Africa but it’s also a well-liked tropical fruit by Europeans. Why is the popularity growing, do you think?
“In the early days, only countries outside of Europe supplied mangoes. Now the fruit has become more popular and available from a lot of different sources, such as Spain. In fact, Spain has become a key player in raising the interest for these kinds of fruits in Europe. A lot has also to do with the quality and the seasonality from different sources. Especially in terms of varieties, most buyers are looking for Kent from West Africa. European consumers are looking for colourful, fibreless mangoes and Kent is ticking all these boxes.”
What are interesting markets for fresh mangoes from West Africa?
“One of the key markets is France, mainly because there’s a high demand for sea-freight and air-freight mangoes. African mangoes are more competitive, due to the proximity to European markets. Also, French consumers don’t hesitate to pay a little extra for quality exotic fruits. In terms of other markets, other interesting destinations are Belgium, Germany, and the Netherlands, the latter mainly as a hub country.
What I want to stress, is that Europe is not the only option for West African suppliers. For example, Morocco is buying a lot of mangoes from Ivory Coast. Like with all markets, you need to do your due diligence—scout, know the costs, and make sure to have the right contacts.”
Which trends offer opportunities in the European mango market?
“There is a market for organic fresh mangoes but it’s a niche within the niche, mostly due to the costly certification route suppliers must take. In my opinion, this is hardly cost-efficient, also because of other measures you have to take in order to sell organic products. Instead focus on quality, quality, and quality. It’s like a mantra for me and what I mean by this is: competition is strong, so it’s really important to invest in quality from top to bottom. It’s not so much a matter of taste, people already appreciate mangoes from West Africa for its taste. Instead, it’s a combination of the quality of the fruit itself, the way you treat your crops year-round and harvest it, the packaging, the handling, and being consistent.”
Thierry Paqui is part of the first webinar on West Africa Connect on September 20. Keep an eye on our program to find out more soon!