Posted: Sunday, May 24, 2020. 2:17 pm CST.
By Hugh O’Brien: Pineapple is a new crop that is being ‘groomed’ to become an important second crop for citrus and other farmers in the Stann Creek Valley and northern Toledo district. But is it possible for pineapple to become the “Queen of the South” and hold its own alongside the citrus industry.
According to Luis Tzul, Agronomist for the Citrus Growers Association (CGA) the answer is yes. This coming Tuesday, 26th May, CGA will deliver its first shipment of pineapples for 2020 to be processed by Citrus Products of Belize Limited (CPBL). This delivery from CGA joins the half a million pounds that is delivered to the factory each year by farmers, mostly from Trio Village in northern Toledo.
The Citrus Growers Association (CGA) and the factory (CPBL) are leading the way by programming the planting of 25 and 50 acres of pineapple, respectively. CGA has already established 10 of their 25 acres and the factory has planted 15 of its targeted 50 acres. Separately, farmers already have about 100 acres of pineapple in production, most of which is sold on the local market, but from which an average surplus of half a million pounds has been delivered to the factory over the last 10 years. The new fields planted by CGA, other small farmers and CPBL have commenced production and 2020 is expected to mark the year that deliveries of pineapples to the factory will surpass 1.5 million pounds. In two (2) years time, production for delivery to the factory is expected to reach 4 million pounds and the target is to produce and process 15 million pounds of pineapple to supply pineapple concentrate to the local and CARICOM market.
What’s different about this new effort is that the new fields of pineapple are all being planted with the MD2 variety which is ideal for processing due to its shape and high pectin levels. Over 550,000 MD2 suckers/planting material were imported last year from Costa Rica and planted in Belize, and from this initial stock, new suckers/planting material will be obtained to supply farmers who are participating in the pineapple programme.
Pineapple processing by CPBL commenced in 2002 with just over half a million pounds of fruit delivered in the first year and almost one million pounds was delivered in 2003. This early effort was organized by the Ministry of Agriculture and farmers received transportation and technical support to get their pineapples to the factory. Since then, however, pineapple deliveries to the factory has had its ups and downs and it has only been until recently that there has been a renewed interest in processing this crop.
After the pineapple is processed into concentrate, CPBL intends to use it to produce its local squash and Caribbean Pride pineapple juice as well as blend it with its orange and other juices marketed under the Caribbean Pride brand. The local market requires 450 drums (55 gallons/drum) of concentrate which is obtained from 2.5 million pounds of pineapple. Since the target is 15 million pounds of pineapple, the surplus pineapple concentrate will be targeted for sale in the CARICOM market.
One great opportunity for the pineapple initiative in the south is that farmers are able to use technology to induce flowering and produce pineapple year round. In addition, this technology allows farmers to target the production and harvesting of the bulk of their pineapple for delivery to the factory during the June/July period just after the factory has completed its regular processing of the citrus crop ends.
The most important aspect of pineapple production is that apart from CGA and CPBL, a couple hundred participating small farmers, mostly from Trio Village in Toledo and St. Margaret’s in Cayo are expected to benefit from the revenues. Belize would also no longer need to import pineapple concentrate thereby saving much needed foreign exchange; on the contrary, exporting to CARICOM and other countries will generate valuable foreign exchange.
BBN wishes the CGA, farmers and the CPBL factory the best in their endeavor to develop this new industry in the south.
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