Importer bets on West African pineapple sweetness opening new doors
Back in 2001, the Ivory Coast accounted for 17% of sales in Europe compared to Costa Rica’s 21%, but by 2010 Costa Rica accounted for 81% of all European pineapple sales with Ivory Coast at just 8% and Panama at around 7%.
French integrated business Compagnie Fruitière, which has plantations in the Ivory Coast, Cameroon and more recently in Ghana, believes the region can still compete on quality if not market share.
Marketing director Paul Bouzon said he believed 100% in the product, with a shipping time to Europe that is one week shorter than Costa Rica’s.
“Costa Ricans have to cut the pineapples earlier and their pineapples are not as orange and sweet as ours – some consumers who are aware of this difference clearly prefer African pineapples.”
He said while African export volumes were not forecast to see large growth, he was expecting the fruit to develop in value and grow new markets.
“We sell well in East Europe and Russia where they appreciate the quality of our products. The market place is big and we are quite small so we might find a niche where we can do well.”
Compagnie Fruitière’s Ivory Coast plantations in 2000 were producing 200,000 metric tons (MT) a year, which dropped in 2010 to 50,000MT, while Ghana exported 34,000MT and Cameroon 10,000MT.
Bouzon explained this was due in part varietal change of just producing MD2 and because African countries have not prioritized pineapples in the same way as Costa Rica, as they have other horticultural crops that generate income.
Costa Rica’s exports to Europe climbed from 70,000MT in 2001 to around 905,381MT in 2011.
European pineapple imports rose by 150% between 2000-2008, although consumption from 2008 to 2012 has plateaued.
Italian grower and producer Simba SpA managing director Alessandro Canalella, said the industry would need to see how this trend could change to have rising consumption again.
“The main challenge for the next years is to increase consumption in countries where the pineapple is still considered exotic fruit and eaten during certain periods of the year.
“The growth of some additional markets is needed to rebalance the world production with consumption especially in some particular periods of the year.”
Canalella said while other central American countries such as Colombia had developed their pineapple plantations they still accounted for only 1% of export volumes to Europe.
Simba has plantations in both Costa Rica and Colombia, marketing its pineapples under the Fratelli Orsero brand.
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