Pineapple growers expect ample volumes - The Packer

Pineapple growers expect ample volumes

02/03/2012 09:43:00 AM
Susie Cable

Courtesy Frontera Produce Ltd.Pineapple plants growing in late January in the state of Veracruz, Mexico, are destined for Frontera Produce Ltd.’s packing house in Isla, Veracruz. Edinburg, Texas-based Frontera markets gold pineapples from Mexico and Costa Rica, says Javier Gonzalez, vice president of ethnics/tropicals.Pineapple marketers say crops look good and they expect plenty of fruit for spring promotions.

Dole Fresh Fruit Co., Westlake Village, Calif., expects to market about the same volume of pineapples this year as it marketed last year.

“Both supply and quality are expected to be strong over the next several months,” said Bil Goldfield, communications manager.

The market in late January was fairly strong with good demand for high-quality fruit, he said.

About 65% of Dole’s conventional and organic pineapples are from Costa Rica, which in late 2011 received heavy rains that affected some pineapple crops.

However, Goldfield said Jan. 26 there had been no adverse weather affecting Dole’s pineapples in Costa Rica or in other areas.

Dole also sources pineapples from Honduras, Guatemala, Ecuador, Hawaii and Panama.

C.H. Robinson Worldwide Inc., Eden Prairie, Minn., expects to market 10% to 15% more pineapples this year as compared to last year, said Chris Harris, director of sourcing category development.

Costa Rica’s pineapple crops endured some cool nights in December that could affect supplies in May or June, he said.

However, there’s been strong demand and strong supply of good quality fruit, with Costa Rican pineapples coming in with brix of higher than 14, he said.

Although some Costa Rican growers’ crops were affected by heavy rains in the fall, C.H. Robinson’s supplies have fared well.

“We have been lucky and have gotten through that fine,” Harris said.

About 66% of C.H. Robinson’s pineapples are grown in Costa Rica, 30% are grown in Mexico, and the rest are sourced from Ecuador and other regions.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture reported on Jan. 27 a steady market with one-layer cartons of size 5 golden ripe pineapples from Costa Rica priced at $14-15 at the Miami terminal market.

Mexican production

Mexico’s gold pineapple production ramped up in late January, said Javier Gonzalez, vice president of ethnics/tropicals at Frontera Produce Ltd., Edinburg, Texas.

It was a perfect time to have increased volume, he said, because sunny, warm weather has cooperated in producing good shell color.

Retail buyers who are concerned with color should be more open to buying pineapples from Mexico, Gonzalez said.

“Right now, we have better color than Costa Rica,” Gonzalez said. “That’ll dazzle the customer that looks for good color.”

Gonzalez said he expects good volumes this season — similar to last year — for Frontera, which markets gold pineapples from Mexico and Costa Rica.

“There should be plenty to promote through spring,” he said.

Rains in Veracruz last fall delayed planting, so production will peak a bit later than usual, he said.

“We aim for an Easter peak,” he said. “If it’s a mild spring, we might see them peak later.”

However, Mexico’s recent warm temperatures might speed maturation of the fruit and harvesting could be a week to two weeks ahead of expectations.

Mexico-grown pineapples represent about 75% of Frontera’s volume, Gonzalez said.

Frontera typically markets its Mexico-grown pineapples from November through June or July and Costa Rica-grown pineapples throughout the year.

Competition

Mexico lags behind Costa Rica as an exporter of gold pineapples to the U.S., but proximity can offer a significant advantage for Mexican pineapples, said Pablo Jiminez, marketing manager at Mexican Pineapple Exporters Association.

“The main difference between Mexican pineapple and any other in the U.S. market is the freshness that we have,” Jiminez said.

Mexican pineapples can arrive more quickly in the U.S. because they are transported by truck for about 20 hours instead of spending several days on a ship from Costa Rica or elsewhere.

Pineapples from Mexico can be on supermarket shelves in the U.S. within 72 hours of harvest, Jiminez said.

Fruit quality is comparable to pineapples grown in other countries, he said.

Growers in Mexico produce mainly the smooth cayenne variety, which continues to be the most popular variety in the Mexican marketplace, Jiminez said. About 85% of Mexico’s pineapples are smooth cayennes, he said.

Mexico’s exports have increased steadily since growers began planting the gold variety. In 2008, for example, it exported about 47,000 short tons, and about 59,000 short tons in 2010.

About 7% of gold pineapples on the U.S. market are imported from Mexico, Jiminez said.

AMEP, founded in September 2009, aims to promote the pineapple export industry in Mexico.

The organization is operated by its seven grower-exporter members, Verafrut, Campo Real, Pinicola, Tabafresh, La Mas Dorada, and Gasperin.

AMEP’s president, Emilio Lopez Turrent, is chief executive officer of Pinicola, and Jiminez serves as marketing manager for the association and for each member company.

AMEP operates from the state of Veracruz, Mexico, where about 80% of the country’s pineapple crops are located, Jiminez said.

Positive outlook

The pineapple business is very good and looks to remain good, said Alan Dolezal, vice president of sales, Coral Gables, Fla.-based Turbana Corp.

Supply and demand are fairly equal right now. The mild winter weather in much of the U.S. likely has helped boost recent pineapple sales.

“It enables people to get out and shop with more frequency, and as a result sales are stronger than last year,” Dolezal said.

The majority of Turbana’s pineapples are sourced from Costa Rica, and it also ships weekly from Panama. This year, Turbana started marketing pineapples from its new farms in Colombia.

Production in Costa Rica is expected to be stable, barring an unpredictable natural flowering event. Pineapple plants sometimes flower in response to periods of cold or cloudy weather.

In that case, fruit comes on early and growers can be left with a glut of fruit when they didn’t expect it.

“If it’s going to happen in Central America, it’ll happen around this time,” Dolezal said.



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