(July 25, 2:07 p.m.) An Indian River citrus region banana importer hopes his gourmet variety will attract customers looking for a different kind of banana.

Jose Ubilla, co-owner and director of the Fort Pierce, Fla., office of Coquimba Gourmet Banana, a part of banana grower Coquimba SA, Chinandega, Nicaragua, has begun shipping container loads of the Coquimba-brand gourmet banana to U.S. distributors.

Because of the way the cavendish variety banana is handled, which Ubilla introduced to the market in early June, it has a different firmness and taste than the standard grocery store cavendish bananas, he said.

While Ubilla said he doesn’t want to disparage the multinational banana shipping companies, he said the difference in the handling of the Coquimba bananas follows a more integrated timing from harvesting to shipping to arrival at retail shelves.

“We’re not cutting (our bananas) to meet a quota,” Ubilla said. “We’re cutting when they’re ready. It goes through the process when it reaches its full peak. A big part of this was to get away from the systematic approach of the multinational companies’ economics.”

Central American bananas are harvested and shipped throughout the year.

Ubilla said regular bananas can be harvested a week or two and sometimes up to three weeks before workers at his family’s plantation in the fertile coastal valley land of northwest Nicaragua pick their Coquimba bananas.

The fourth-generation family plantation, founded by his great-grandparents and run by one of his brothers, Eduardo Ubilla, sold bananas to Standard Fruit and Steamship, which became Los Angeles-based Dole Food Co. during the early 1980s.

The plantation ships to the Port of Palm Beach in Riviera Beach, Fla. Ubilla said he expects to ship 300,000 40-pound boxes this year.

Coquimba gourmet banana comes to the U.S.
Nicaragua's Coquimba SA is shipping the Coquimba-brand gourmet banana to the U.S. via the Port of Palm Beach in Riviera Beach, Fla. About 300,000 40-pound boxes are expected to ship this year.