Pineapple problems extend from Thailand to Costa Rica
Friday April 01 2011
Volume: 39 Issue: 13
THE extremely tight pineapple situation in Thailand (FOODNEWS 25 March) seems to be getting worse. The fruit price has increased again, FOODNEWS has been told, to THB8.00 per kg, equivalent to USD260 per tonne.
Because this is most definitely a farmers' market, in that they can sell every fruit they harvest, FOODNEWS
has been told that farmers are stripping their fields of every
pineapple they can find. This is creating problems for juice processors,
because the ratio and brix content are not ideal; especially the ratio.
Canners can always add more sugar to their syrup to sweeten the fruit,
but juice processors have no easy fix.
still, it seems that the farmers are harvesting fruit that would
normally leave until the next processing peak: the winter crop, due in
October/November. "They are even taking the fruit that is unripe or too
small," said a contact. "This will impact on quality, or on the next
At the same time, the fresh market is
weighing ever more heavily on raw material supplies. In 2008, it has
noticed that Costa Rica was exporting more fresh fruit than ever before,
and this was reducing supplies available for the country's prized NFC
juice. It was originally thought the fruit was going to Russia, but
investigation revealed that it was actually destined for European, and
especially German, supermarkets (FOODNEWS 19 September, 2008).
trend is becoming more pronounced. Moreover, as one perceptive contact
noted, France used to source a lot of its fresh pineapple from Ivory
Coast (a former French colony). The civil war in that country has
slashed its fresh pineapple exports to about one-third of its 2005
levels, and France has had to source its fresh pineapple from other
countries. Ivory Coast produces mostly Queen pineapple, and France, like
other European countries, has discovered the delights of Costa Rica's
MD2 fruit. French direct imports from Costa Rica soared five-fold
between 2005 and 2009, and its imports via Belgium doubled in the same
period. France is also taking vastly more fresh Costa Rican fruit via
the Netherlands than it used to, only five years ago.
Rica is now exporting well over twice as much fresh pineapple as it did
in 2004, and while the country is later than most in filing its export
trade data, the fact that it exported nearly 930 000 tonnes in the first
half of 2010 suggests that the full-year figures will break all
previous records. Certainly, according to Costa Rica's banana producer
and exporter association Canapep, which also quotes figures for fresh
pineapple production, exports were up 15% last year. Canapep says that
Costa Rica is now the world's largest fresh exporter, producing 138
million 12kg boxes, worth USD657 million.
"To have reached the USD600 million mark shows what good work we have been doing," said Abel Chaves, president of Canapep.
great deal of money has been invested in augmenting pineapple
production productivity per hectare. This has been noted not only by
Canapep, but also by FOODNEWS contacts who do business with the
country. "They are putting down more and more fruit," said one. "Del
Monte has huge lands in the south and they can just switch on or switch
off juice production, according to US demand."
this season Costa Rica, too, has problems. Cold weather in the last few
months has severely reduced the brix content of its fruit, and the brix
level of its NFC juice has sometimes dipped below the 11.2% figure
which the AIJN takes as the required minimum.
factories have stopped processing until the brix level recovers. Some
have turned to producing concentrate instead, which has obviously
required more processing to reach the 65 brix level that is normal for
Costa Rican PJC. And some have sold the BNFC juice to countries that are
not bothered about the AIJN minimums.
AIJN and SGF, the German-based testing and quality organisation, are
apparently both aware of the issue, and have issued a recent communiqué
saying that they are reviewing the situation. It is being speculated
that the AIJN will grant a temporary concession, though there has been
no announcement to that effect.
Rican pineapple ratios are not up to their normal level, either. "We
had a call from one of our factories there," commented another FOODNEWS source, "saying they had a ratio of 17.2 for the fruit".
factor that is reducing the quantity of Costa Rican NFC pineapple juice
is Del Monte's introduction of an NFC pineapple product in the Middle
East (FOODNEWS 4 March) which is "having an effect on [NFC] availability", FOODNEWS was told.
Weather not favourable ahead of latest Thai pineapple crop
pineapple traders are doubtful that supplies of the fruit will improve
sufficiently to meet the current level of demand from the fresh and
processed market when the summer harvesting season kicks off next month,
with the limited rainfall a serious concern.
Asia-based dealer who visited pineapple-growing regions in the country
in the past few weeks said the weather is not favourable for pineapple
growth. "When I visited, the whole area was very dry and there were even
bush fires by the side of the road," he told FOODNEWS.
showers have fallen in western and southern areas of the country in the
past week, which have helped to improve moisture supplies there, but
dryness persists in eastern parts of the country (see Weather Watch, page 33).
is not enough water or rain for the pineapples, which is proving to be a
nightmare for growers," the source said. "The growth of the fruit has
been stagnated, meaning the pineapples will be smaller than usual this
A second trader
agreed that prospects for the supply situation do not look promising. "I
think it is going to be what we call a 'short' year for pineapple [in
2011]," he said.
Raw material prices have now reportedly hit THB8.0 per kg (USD0.26/kg) in the past week (see front page), up from THB7.00-7.5/kg last week and exceptionally high considering the new harvest is just a few weeks away.
Malaysia's pineapple industry will ask for an extra allocation of funds
from the government this year to increase output of the fruit as
current production is unable to keep pace with overseas demand.
Baharom, the deputy minister at the Agriculture and Agro-based Industry
Ministry, told local reporters that the Malaysian Pineapple Industry
Board's (MPIB) was only able to export around 500 tonnes of pineapple
last year, worth MYR74.0 million (USD24.4 million), which was half of
"This was just
half the targeted amount of 1 000 tonnes. This year, MPIB targets to
export 600 tonnes of pineapple worth MYR100 million," he said after
opening a seminar on increasing pineapple productivity. He added that
Sarawak and Sabah had the potential to be the country's biggest
pineapple producers in a few years' time. Large-scale pineapple
cultivation was introduced in Sarawak last year and in Sabah this year.
His ministry has asked the area farmers' organisations to identify
suitable idle land to be planted with pineapple as a supplementary crop.
pineapple cultivation was introduced in the north zone (Perlis, Kedah
and Penang), almost 2 000 hectares (5 000 acres) have been planted with
the crop, providing satisfactory returns for the farmers," he added.
director-general Sahdan Salim said 50 farmers in Kedah with farms
totalling 800 hectares (2 000 acres) have participated in the Contract
Farming Scheme since 2009.
said in the Ninth Malaysia Plan (2005-2010), MPIB provided incentives
such as pineapple suckers, fertiliser and other agriculture inputs worth
MRY8.35 million under the new planting programme involving 1 392
hectares of land.