Tropical fruits: Imports up, U.S. production slips

05/17/2002 12:00:00 AM
Chris Koger

AVOCADOS

Low temperatures, wind and wildfires earlier this year cut the California Avocado Commission’s annual forecast from 397 million pounds to 375 million pounds, but the commission’s vice president of merchandising, Jan DeLyser, said the season is back on track.

California avocados are generally smaller because of the light rainfall amounts, with many fruit in the 70-84 count range, she said.

“As far as the production for the rest of the season, it’s really a steady-as-she-goes outlook,” DeLyser said. “It should be consistent through the summer and to the early fall.”

In Florida, avocados will be ripe for picking at the end of June, after a three-month gap. Brooks of Brooks Tropicals said July Fourth provides a good kickoff for the avocado season.

“It’s early to say, but the fruit is set on the trees and a lot of fruit,” Brooks said in late April. “It looks like a fantastic crop so far. Avocados are an alternate crop, with one year up and one year down. This is supposed to be an up year.”

BANANAS

The 800-pound gorilla of the tropical fruit category, banana supplies should remain steady over the summer, said Marta Maitles, director of communications for Dole Fresh Fruit Co., Westlake Village, Calif.

“Banana supplies, as far as we can tell, should be fairly normal over the summer and reflect what we had last year,” Maitles said. “We’re in a time where supply and demand have evened out. We had a good summer last year, and we’re looking to have another one this year.”

Costa Rica and Ecuador continued to be the leading exporters of bananas, even though Costa Rica dropped from 322.2 million pounds in 2000 to 307.4 million pounds in 2001. In the same time, Ecuador’s exports rose from 236.6 million pounds to 245.8 million pounds, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. Costa Rica’s banana exports rose slightly in January and February, compared to the same time last year, but Ecuador’s exports dropped more than 3% during the same time period.

CARAMBOLA

Florida’s production of carambola, also known as starfruit, peaks in August and September, and again in February and March, said Brooks of Brooks Tropicals. Taiwan, which has larger sizes, has two distinct seasons, from January through April and August through December.

Brooks Tropicals is trying to expand the Florida season.



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