In the past year, U.S. Department of Agriculture officials have discussed opening the American market to Malaysian pineapples.
Pineapple marketers disagree on the potential effect this new source of fruit would have on the marketplace.
Dennis Christou, vice president of marketing with Coral Gables, Fla.-based Del Monte Fresh Produce, said Malaysian fruit would merely be joining a crowd.
“Numerous sources already export pineapples to the U.S., and we do not believe that the entry of Malaysian pineapples will have a major impact in the market,” he said.
Bil Goldfield, spokesman for Westlake Village, Calif.-based Dole Fresh Fruit Co., agreed.
“We expect minimal impact,” Goldfield said.
Access to the market is only a first step. It will have to be able to compete, Christou said.
“The success of the Del Monte Gold Extra Sweet Pineapples from our farms in Costa Rica is a result of not only the optimal growing conditions in that country but also our expertise of growing, packing, and shipping this product while maintaining our consistent quality and quantity week after week,” he said.
Costa Rica is the dominant pineapple source in North America, accounting for about 90% of all imports into the continent, and that will continue, regardless of Malaysia’s status, said Alan Dolezal, vice president of sales with Turbana Corp., Miami.
“Given the relative distance from Malaysia to North America, versus Central America to North America, the Malaysian fruit will have longer transit times, higher shipping costs, and potentially diminished shelf life,” Dolezal said.
Los Angeles-based World Variety Produce Inc. imports South African baby pineapples year-round and conventional and organic fruit from Costa Rica, said Robert Schueller, director of public relations.
“If the Malaysian pineapples turn out as superior in quality, it can be a consideration in the future here,” Schueller said.
Charlotte, N.C.-based Chiquita Brands International Inc. has a similar approach, spokeswoman Abbye Lakin said.
“Chiquita only sources pineapple from Costa Rica and currently has no plans to source elsewhere,” Lakin said.
Ken Nabal, president of Kingston Fresh, the marketing arm of Idaho Falls, Idaho-based Kingston Cos., said there’s already sufficient pressure on f.o.b. prices in an oversupplied market.
Nabal said there is concern now from producers in Costa Rica about the profitability of shipping fruit to the U.S.
“Probably 60%, close to 70%, of Costa Rica production goes to Europe or other countries,” Nabal said.
There might be a window for Malaysian fruit, but it should be planned carefully in order to avoid further oversupply, Nabal said.
“There is a concern certain times of year about an overproduction of fresh pineapples in the market,” he said.