Banacol increases acreage for pineapples

Banacol Marketing Corp., Coral Gables, Fla., has invested $30 million in the purchase of 800 acres of land in western Costa Rica to increase the size of its pineapple holdings, said Bill Sheridan, executive vice president of sales and marketing.

“We feel very committed to pineapples in Costa Rica,” Sheridan said, “and this is a great opportunity to get more balance and sizing in our production for the year.”

The land has already been cultivated and planted, he said, with the first harvest expected in June.

“This will give us greater flexibility when the weather is poor in other areas,” he said.

Traditionally, the Pacific side of Costa Rica is much drier than the Atlantic side, where many pineapples are grown.

While the road to the east-coast port of Limon is a little longer from the new farm, the route is actually more direct than the one from the company’s plantations in northeastern Costa Rica, he said.

Calavo takes over Maui Pineapple distribution

The sale of debt-ridden Maui Pineapple Co. at the end of 2009 will not mean the end of Hawaiian pineapple sales for Calavo Growers Inc. 

Elizabeth Inglese, pineapple commodity manager for the Santa Paula, Calif., grower, packer, shipper, said Calavo has been asked to assume mainland marketing and distribution for the new owners, the Haliimaile Pineapple Co.

The group, which includes former Maui Pineapple executives, has leased 1,000 acres of the company’s agricultural land and facilities with the intention of creating a strong local market for fresh pineapple.

It also acquired the Maui Gold brand, which Calavo will continue distributing, Inglese said. The first shipment of the year was flown into Los Angeles on Jan. 8.

“Volumes of supply may decrease,” Inglese said, “but the company is just getting started, so it’s too early to tell.”

Calavo also buys pineapples from growers in Costa Rica, Mexico and Guatemala, she said. Volumes last year averaged 30,000 to 35,000 cases a week.

“The pineapple business has been good for Calavo,” Inglese said, “and it fits directly into our plan and goal for diversification. We’re putting together a program that will serve our customer base.”

Dole’s Hawaiian operations stay strong

Dole continues to grow pineapples in Hawaii, bringing nearly 1 million boxes a year to the mainland, said Bil Goldfield, communications manager for Westlake, Calif.-based Dole Food Co.

Frontera Produce expands product reach

Edinburgh, Texas-based Frontera Produce plans to increase gold pineapple production at its farms in Veracruz, Mexico, by close to 40% through July.

“With the great demand and feedback from customers we had last year, we decided to plant the same increase for this season,” said Ken Nabal, Frontera’s vice president of sales and logistics.

The growth in production makes Frontera one of the largest exporters of Mexican gold pineapples to the U.S.
Nabal said the vertically integrated grower, packer and shipper is also looking to expand its production in Costa Rica in the next few years.

Frontera is also rolling out educational and promotional initiatives via its Web site, Facebook and Twitter.

By the end of March, Frontera’s redesigned Web site should be up, offering a more consumer-focused and less trade-heavy approach.

North American Produce feels market’s pressure

One distributor who’s not happy with the pineapple deal is Steven Davidson, vice president of family-owned North American Produce Buyers Inc. in Toronto, and a major importer.

“When I started on the deal 10 years ago, I used to make a steady $10 a case,” said Davidson, who brings in six to eight loads a week of Costa Rican pineapples under three brand names for the city’s high-end retailers.

“Now, it’s got to the point where I have to look at the end of the year and see if I’m going to lose money,” said Davidson, who works on contract pricing.

“It has become a major headache.”

Even the Christmas season, which is traditionally big, was a disappointment, he said.

“We were jammed with business, but not on pines.”

Davidson blames the tough market on “too much production, too much volume being brought into Canada and too many guys involved in the deal who don’t handle it properly.”