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Florida starfruit will see increased yield in season's 2nd peak
Carambola (starfruit) may be considered a rare tropical fruit by some, but it’s been growing well in the state of Florida for about 130 years. Brooks Tropicals will be entering into their carambola harvest in the next week or two. Peter Leifermann says they’re able to get two peaks out of a season, which runs from late July to mid-March. The first comes in September and the second in January. “This year, the first half looks to be as good as last year; the second half of the season looks like we can expect it to be larger than last year.” The main reason is thanks to new trees coming on with their production. Fruit is coming from Florida’s Homestead area as well as Pine Island. He estimates a 10 per cent increase in volume for the second peak.
Contending with loss of land
Starfruit faces the same pressures as all agriculture in Florida – primarily weather-related such as hurricanes and hot, humid weather. But, Leifermann says star fruit thrives under those conditions. What they are also contending with, is loss of land. “Development: the expanding push of cities and real estate,” he explains. “It’s often the biggest (issue).” Some farms are choosing to give up their land for brick and mortar, whether that’s homes or businesses. “The real estate market in south Florida is turning into a good one and we’re seeing a lot more farmland go up for sale.”
There hasn’t been much related to price increases reflected by growers parting with their farms, but it may be a factor in the future – with all commodities. “That’s not been the case in our situation,” says Leifermann. “We’re not selling our land. We believe in the commodity and the demand has grown.” Brooks Tropicals has about 60 acres devoted to starfruit.
Retail is a growing segment for their carambola. He feels that as a result of the company’s more than 20 years of aggressive marketing in terms of pricing and putting out a good piece of fruit that eats well is also combined with the state’s aging consumers who now want to give it to their children. “They were the first kids to really start seeing star fruit in the grocery store. Whether or not they eat it every day, they remember it and they want to share it with their children.”
Brooks Tropicals grows starfruit under an agreement with Florida, California and Texas’ Departments of Agriculture, which allows them to pick, pack and handle the fruit in a manner that doesn’t require irradiation or cold treatment to get rid of the potential host of the fruit fly. “We’re able to deliver to Texas and California the same fruit we’re delivering to Boston, Chicago, Miami, New York and Atlanta and that’s been a source of our growth.”
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