Ecuador Foreign Minister Pablo Campana Sáenz confirmed the load had arrived on Nov. 2.
The 7.7-metric ton (MT) shipment of dragon fruit, also known as pitahaya, was grown in the province of Morona Santiago and was brought to the U.S. by ocean carrier Seaboard Marine.
U.S. authorities granted access to Ecuadorian dragon fruit in June this year and the new rule came into effect from July 20.
U.S. importers have largely been limited to importing irradiated red dragon fruit from Thailand or Vietnam, and Ecuador’s yellow fruit will therefore add more variety to the market.
This recent shipment follows air freight consignments sent by OrganPit and EcuaExotics since the beginning of October, which so far total around 1.5MT.
A representative of Melissa’s Produce, which says it is the largest dragon fruit distributor in the U.S. having introduced it about 13 years ago, said the company had started growing it near San Diego as imports had not been possible back then.
“We started distributing it as it grew and got popular, especially in foodservice at first, then we started distributing to retail,” director of public relations Robert Schueller said.
He said the company recently started getting in Israeli dragon fruit which has Brix levels of 10, as do the pink dragon fruit, but “this one from Ecuador that we just started getting in and showing here – we’re one of the few that are showing it here, it brixes at 20. This one is so sweet.”
“Ecuador is brand new and it brixes phenomenally, because if you ask most people about dragon fruit they’ll say it’s a mild-tasting fruit.
“We’re going to try to carry this year-round but this is a test to see its viability, so it’s a lot more expensive than your traditional dragon fruit but this one has a strong taste quality in comparison to the ones you find in stores across the country.”
Meanwhile, Frieda’s senior account manager Alex Jackson said: “We started with yellow pitahaya out of Israel and are still really focused on that, and it’s going really well. We just can’t get enough, so it’s really exciting to see the yellow dragon fruit out of Ecuador.”
Ecuador’s dragon fruit shipments from January through August this year totaled around 986MT, equivalent to US$6.2 million, according to the Central Bank of Ecuador.
The main destinations were Hong Kong, Canada, Singapore, the Netherlands, Indonesia and France.