REPORT #575 December 2002

Produced by Ray Auxillou
(Bz-culture listserve excerpts)

LA PITAHAYA to replace citrus, corn and sugar in Belize??

Yup! Belizean farmers should be replacing sugar cane and citrus with exotic fruits. Your Montreal, Canadian trucker friend says they cannot get enough Pitahaya in Toronto!

In the USA, it used to be some 20 years ago, that when you went to a gas station, or a college bookstore, there were these .50 cent or $1.00 vending machines that you put in your coins and took out Pepsi, or Coca Cola, or 7 UP. But the point is, that all the machines were carbonated soft drinks.

In the last 12 years these same vending machine locations now also offer a vending machine for your choice of canned, or plastic bottled fruits. For the same $1.00 These fruit machines are everywhere, even in your local supermarkets. But the fruits usually sold prior to ten years ago, were apple, apricot, pear and peach. Nowadays the fruit juices in plastic bottles or cans in these vending machines are Mame, Guava, Pitahaya and you get some others I don't know much about. But they all taste good.

The point being, that the USA is a changing market in which fruit juices and in particular in the expanding huge Latin population markets, Latin American fruits are the new name of the game in vending machines.

Europe is accepting Pitahaya fruit, in cartoons, using reefer shipping containers ( cold ), but the USA market is closed to the importation of fruits but does import the pulp concentrate. I suspect Mame and Guava are every bit as lucrative for export from Belize as is Pitahaya?

Either way, OPPORTUNITY is definitely there! The markets growing and established and the growing and pulp concentrate as a small farmer production, done with a Cooperative pulp concentrate exporting/marketing is a viable proposition. No experimentation is necessary. That part has already been done by other countries. These exotic fruits are only exotic in the temperate zone countries, but have been around and flooding the markets in Central American countries and most equatorial Andean countries for centuries. They have always been there and are common. I suspect it is the expanding Spanish/Latin populations in the EU, Canada and the USA that is absorbing these well known fruits from their nostalgic memories of the homeland.

Pitahaya fruit is native to Central America and in recent decades has been transplanted to Vietnam and China and Hawaii.

Nicaragua and Guatemala export the fruit. Nicaragua exports the fruit itself to Belgium, Holland and Canada. But pulp concentrate exports are more common. The Pitahaya concentrate, or juice can be bought in fruit aluminum cans in Winn Dixie supermarkets here in South Florida, along with many other Latin American exotic fruits right off the shelves just like Coca Cola. From Ecuador I get a price of $1.50 Bz (.75 cents USA ) F.O.B. a pound, at the docks for export to Europe. One fruit weighs a pound.

Prices in the States for the fruit are running abour $3.50 each, retail USA weighing about one pound for a fruit. I see them occasionally in the supermarkets in South Florida. I imagine in Florida you would get .80 cents USA per one pound fruit wholesale in lots. The fruit is a vine cactus and can grow in Belize and does apparently.

You plant in rows, about nine feet apart and the rows about 16 feet apart. These vine cactus climb over fences and trees. They bloom at night and you pick the fruit about 28 days after that. About 2500 lbs per acre is a conservative estimate, though the literature quotes much higher yields. Not sure, but they quote two crops a year. Takes two years to start from cuttings and about four years to full production, which lasts for 15 years. You put cuttings in plastic cups in a nursery and transplant. They will accept 50% shade, but in Belize probably do not need any shade. The USA does not allow fruit imports, but does allow fruit pulp concentrate imports. The stuff can grow in sandy and clay soils. It is a cactus family. Grows in big clumps eventually, continually expanding in diameter. Doesn't need much rainfall.

I would imagine that Pitahaya pulp concentrate, small farmers organized in a processing cooperative, would be far more profitable than citrus trees, or sugar cane. Ship the concentrate and pulp in plastic 55 gal drums overseas?

I'm going to see if they have a source of cuttings around here?

From Wendy:

There is pitaya (dragon fruit) for sale all over Belize City on the street side stands, Peter, not to mention the oversized Guavas and Governor Plums that the Chinese have introduced, which most Belizeans seem to believe are loaded with steroids to get them that big.

Serious, list members, these are some seriously apple-sized governor plums. I have never seen the likes of it. The guavas are about the size of grapefruits.

As a kid, I remember governor plums being the size of a quarter, maybe, and the guavas the size of apples. These fruits on the streets of Belize today are quite scary in size.

I think if I was a Belizean farmer growing either citrus, corn, or sugar cane, I would be starting my Pitahaya nursery with cuttings right now in Belize. It takes two years to get them to the size to produce and four years to full production. After that you have 15 years of steady production. There are quotes of 4 to 6 crops a year, but my experience in Belize indicates you should only count on two crops a year. Though with irrigation and some fertilizing you probably could double yields. There is a lot of information on the internet. Most of the good detailed stuff for Pitahaya growing in Central America is in Spanish language web pages.

The best web site is a Spanish one, on LA PITAHAYA by Juan Rafael Munoz Fonseca. The URL is a very complicated one, with frames, so you better use GOOGLE search engine to find it.

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