Eosta is anticipating an increase in the amount of Costa Rica pineapple growers converting from conventional to organic production, driven by strong consumer-led demand in Europe and the US.
With the season’s first volumes of organic pineapples now arriving from Costa Rica in Europe, the Netherlands-based company believes the outstanding quality of the fruit will help the repeat the success of bananas, potatoes and carrots in the organic category.
Henk Zoutewelle, Eosta's product manager for pineapples, believes demand for organic pineapples is likely to be boosted by high volumes of excellent quality fruit from Costa Rica.
“Overall, there’s strong demand for organic pineapples in not just the fresh market, but also in the juice and IQF (Individual Quick Freezing) segments, both in Europe and the US, which is leading to an increase in the number of growers producing organic pineapples in Costa Rica,” he says.
Although European organic pineapple sales are currently under 5 per cent of the total market, Zoutewelle says there is good reason for believing they can replicate the sales success of products such as organic carrots, potatoes and bananas (which account for more than 10 per cent of total sales).
“If consumers buying these products start buying organic pineapples as well, there is a nice opportunity for us,” he explains. “Costa Rican organic pineapples are very important for us, not just because they are the best available in the world, but also because they prove that producing organic pineapples is possible – something that many people said could not be done. These pineapples have a very positive influence on the health of the workers, the environment and water, and conventional pineapple farms are now using this experience to improve their sustainability, so this is a great spin-off.”
Eosta has been working with organic Costa Rica pineapple growers since 2008, focusing on delivering a consistent level of quality and taste, and, crucially, growers in the country are able to deliver a pineapple crop that ripens at the same time.
“From the outset of the growing process the grower is key to ensuring stability and quality throughout the crop so all the pineapples are harvested in the same way and at the time,” says Zoutewelle. “Growers in Costa Rica have been producing the MD2 variety for the past 20 years utilising the rich volcanic soil in the country, which is excellent for growing pineapples. Having this experience means they know exactly the right timing for planting, flowering and harvesting, so they are the best in the world when it comes to the specific decisions that lead to stable quality, great tasting fruit.
“The maintenance of a healthy soil is also very important, so our Costa Rican organic pineapple growers make and add compost to make sure the plants receive enough nutrition,” Zoutewelle adds. “So the farmers are key and we appreciate them very much."