UK retail giant Tesco has pulled its annual Thai exotics drive this year due to quality and availability constraints.
Sarah Mitchell, Tesco assistant technologist – exotic fruit, kiwi & rhubarb, told Fruitnet its suppliers were not confident they had the volumes and quality to honour a big Thai exotics push in terms of promotions.
A shortage of Thai lychee means limited airfreight volumes only are from mid-March at great cost. Thai sea-freight will be arriving late May.
Meanwhile, adverse weather conditions have significantly cut volumes of Thai Nam Doc Mai mangoes.
“2013 appears to be an abnormal year. Normally fruit of this variety is available from the beginning of the year, however adverse weather conditions have reduced the available volumes considerably,” said Mitchell. “Later areas may deliver higher volumes, but competition from the Japanese and Korean markets will impact the availability of fruit to the UK. The fruit is likely to deliver minimum weight of 280g rather than 300g which was available last year.”
Thai Mahachanok mango is expected to be available on schedule from mid-April to late May, despite late flowering and fruit-set. However unseasonably cool weather has significantly delayed Thai lychee, rambutan and mangosteen crops.
“Mauritius Lychee will not now be available until 10 May at the earliest,” said Mitchell. “Cool weather has also delayed rambutan and mangosteen flowering. Fruit volumes cannot be estimated at this point in time, however fruit is unlikely to be available.”
Suppliers are also uncomfortable supplying rambutan and mangosteen from Thailand because of residue risks, Mitchell added.
As for mini mango, the crop is not expected to deliver suitable volumes for this line, and local demand will absorb any available product, she said.
Emperor lychee is not likely to be available until late May until mid-June.
Tesco launched its UK Thai exotics initiative back in 2009 in a bid to increase the volume of produce from Thailand in all its stores across the country.
Products available at Tesco at its inaugural launch were sourced direct from the growers and promoted under the slogan "Thai Fruit: Healthy & Tasty", and included dragonfruit, lychees, mangoes and rambutans.