“The last big push for growth was in dragon fruit in the last four or five years,” she said. “It’s at least 40 acres of the new planting.”
King said she does not expect dramatic growth in the industry, however.
“Land prices are still very costly and, unless you already have land, you don’t have any return on your dollar for a couple of years,” she said.
Florida product reaches markets mostly along the East Coast, with some going into the Midwest, King said.
“(There is) too much competition from imports on the West Coast,” she said.
Store promotions are only sporadic because of limited funding, King said, noting that dues are $100 for a commercial-sized grower and $25 for a “hobbyist-type” grower.
The future of the state’s industry is difficult to gauge, said Jessie Capote, owner of Miami-based J&C Tropicals.
“Land has not continued to skyrocket because of the real estate bust, so there are more opportunities for farmers than five years ago, but it’s too early to tell where it’s going,” he said.
Marc Holbik, chief executive officer of Medley, Fla.-based Ecoripe Tropicals, said he is a big supporter of Florida’s industry.
“We do a bit of lychees and longans when they’re in season, and we do Thai guava pretty much year-round, and we do some specialty vegetables out of Homestead, as well,” he said.