Organization pushes for USDA pineapple boardA U.S. Department of Agriculture research and promotion board for pineapples would help bring order to an industry in need of it.

That"s the message from the International Pineapple Organization, which made a pitch for a USDA board at its Global Pineapple Conference March 19-20 in Port Tampa Bay.

Reception to a proposed board at the conference was "very positive," said Will Cavan, the International Pineapple Organization"s executive director.

"Many in the industry ask why this has taken so long," Cavan said. "There"s no time like the present. Somebody had to take the first step, and the (International Pineapple Organization) is more than happy to oblige."

The International Pineapple Organization began talking with AMS officials about a board in August, Cavan said.

He said the process can take years to come to fruition. The National Mango Board, for instance, took more than five years.

The organization is proposing that its petition to the USDA include both fresh and processed pineapple. The higher volume, Cavan said, would lower the per-pound assessment and give importers more bang for their buck.

The organization would like to see annual funding for a board in the $50 million range, Cavan said.

For two years in a row, he said, the pineapple industry has gone through an 8- to 10-month period where sales were below the break-even point because of overproduction. That"s led to industry losses of about $300 million.

Growers in Costa Rica and other countries can"t afford to stay in business, and farm sales are a regular occurrence, Cavan said.

"Pineapple distribution is currently a fractionalized arena in need of organization," he said. "With nearly 50 importers and close to 100 labels in the world marketplace, it"s time to bring the industry together."

About 2.28 billion pounds of pineapples were exported to the U.S. in the 2013 season, according to the USDA.

In 1995, the year before Del Monte Fresh Produce introduced the first gold variety, the U.S. imported 126,300 metric tons of fresh and frozen pineapples, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture"s Foreign Agricultural Service.

By 2013, that number had increased to 991,000 metric tons.