(April 25) WASHINGTON, D.C. — Less than six months after the first shipments of irradiated tropical fruit from Thailand arrived in the U.S., more than 20 Washington area restaurants participated in a week-long promotion featuring the tropical fruit and premium Thai rice.

In conjunction with Songkran — the Thai New Year celebration from April 13 to April 15 — the restaurants featured the fruit from Thailand that can now enter the U.S. if they are irradiated: mango, mangosteen, lychee, rambutan, pineapple and longan. The promotion also included Thai Hom Mali, or premium Jasmine rice.

The promotion was sponsored with Thailand government funds, allowing restaurants to feature the fruit at no cost to them, said Rapibhat Chandarasrivongs, minister counselor of agriculture for the Royal Thai Embassy in Washington, D.C.

The U.S. is the only market that requires irradiation of Thai tropical exports, and the country has added a second, privately held, irradiation facility this year to add capacity to the market. Both the government-controlled and the privately-owned facilities are multiuse irradiation facilities, so they handle more than just produce.

Kessiri Siripakorn, director of the office of commercial affairs at the Thai embassy, said the restaurant promotion also allowed surveys of consumers about the irradiated Thai fruit. The promotion gave patrons a chance to win prizes, including Thai fruit, Thai cook books and restaurant gift certificates.

She said some surveys revealed consumers were not as familiar with mangosteen — a fruit not promoted in the U.S. — as they were with mangoes, longans and lychees.

About 30 exporters have shipped Thai fruit to the U.S. market since November, Chandarasrivongs said. Longans account for most Thai fruit exports, primarily because they are hearty enough to be shipped by ocean vessel. Other irradiated fruit shipped from Thailand in the last six months include yellow and green varieties of mangoes, mangosteen and rambutan. Only test shipments of lychees have arrived in the U.S. and pineapples have not yet been shipped commercially, he said.

Longans, with 500 metric tons imported so far, account for about half of the Thai tropical fruit shipped since November, Chandarasrivongs said. Thai fruit can be shipped year-round, but the peak season for harvest is April through July, he said.

“Full production is just starting,” he said.

Most irradiated Thai fruit is shipped to the West Coast for distribution, Chandarasrivongs said.

D.C. restaurants feature irradiated Thai fruit
April 18, at Dungrats Thai restaurant in Falls Church, Va., Thai Embassy members in Washington, D.C., sponsor a meal featuring irradiated fruit imported from Thailand. Rapibhat Chandarasrivongs (left), minister counselor for agriculture, and Kessiri Siripakorn, minister for commercial affairs at the embassy, stand by a bowl of lychees, longans and rambutans provided to the restaurant and more than 20 others as a special promotion during Songkran, the Thai New Year, celebrated April 13-15.