The mangoes at Jackson Collins’s produce stand looked lonely this week.
Only a few green, fist-sized fruit lay in the bottom of a plastic crate that could easily have held 50 or more.
Mr. Collins, a grower who sells at the Hamlin Stephenson Market at the Cricket Grounds in George Town, said the first wave of this year’s mango crop has been dismal due to an early heat wave.
“Because of the jolt,” Mr. Collins said, “most of the blossoms burned off.”
According to the market’s owner, Hamlin Stephenson, heat was not the only factor.
“We had a lot of strong winds that blew off a lot of the mangoes,” Mr. Stephenson said.
Arthur De Bis, produce manager at Hurley’s supermarket, said the rains of a few weeks ago also negatively impacted the crop.
The combination of these factors, Mr. De Bis said, have made this season “the worst ever.”
“My assistant said they haven’t seen anything for the last 20 years like this,” he said.
Mr. De Bis said he’s having to import about 80 flats of mangoes – mostly grown in Mexico – each week in order to stock his shelves. Normally, he said, the store would only be ordering eight to 10 flats from off island, with the rest coming from local growers.
Those marketing the fruit are hoping things will improve. There are three waves of mangoes during the summer months as various varieties reach ripeness. And while the first wave has been disappointing, the second wave, which is expected to hit in two to three weeks, should be at least a little better.
Mr. Collins said in the coming weeks, consumers can expect to see the East Indian, Julie and Nam Doc varieties appear in stands and on store shelves.
In terms of numbers, he said, “the next batch would be maybe normal, but not so plentiful as last year.”
Growers William and Zelmalee Ebanks aren’t that optimistic. “Hopefully there will be a few more than there were for the first crop,” Ms. Ebanks said.
But even if production picks up, this year is pretty much a loss. None of the Ebanks’ more than 70 varieties of mango trees is doing well. And the third wave of the crop, late in the summer, is expected to be disappointing as well, she said.
“Our late bearers are very scarce,” she said. “We don’t even see blossoms on those trees.”
Ms. Ebanks said it’s the smallest crop she’s seen in a long time.
“This is even worse than the year after [Hurricane] Ivan,” she said.
The Ministry of Agriculture was unable to provide any annual figures on mango production. But last year, by June 27, the Ebanks had picked 97,271 lbs of mangoes. This year, as of Tuesday, they had gathered just 3,458 lbs.
Johann Moxam, who was at the Hamlin Stephenson market on Monday looking for mangoes, found himself disappointed for the third time in a week.
“The number of mangoes seems to be far less than what we’re accustomed to,” Mr. Moxam said. “Normally, there’s a lot of local mangoes.”
Even when there is a good season, he said, it is not like what he remembers growing up on the island, when he could walk down Walkers Road after school, pick a mango from the trees that lined the street and eat it on the way home.
“Mangos are a way of life,” he said. “We ate them for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It’s part of the culture. It’s part of who we are.”
Mr. Moxam and others may well feel they are missing that part of themselves this year. There will be imported mangoes, but that is not the same, said Hurley’s Mr. De Bis.
“Any fruit is better when you can pick it ripe,” Mr. De Bis said, as opposed to picking it green and shipping it. “If they can come off the tree in the morning and eat it at night, it’s amazing.”