Alfredo Tapia: "Today, somebody in Paris will eat fresh pineapple from Bolivar"
Colombia: Montes de Maria ships its first pineapples to Paris

Three years ago on one of his trips to Europe, businessman Alfredo Tapia Rizzo saw a package of pineapples in a warehouse in Barcelona, ​​Spain, that was branded: 'Transported by plane from Costa Rica'. The image became fixed in his mind and he told himself: "One day, I will also bring my pineapples."

That dream came true on Thursday, February 23, when his company, Montes de Maria Agricola, shipped its first 4 tons of pineapple from the Ernesto Cortissoz airport in Soledad (Atlantico) to Bogota. In Bogota, the shipment was controlled by national authorities and sent to Paris, France, via Madrid, Spain. "Somebody in Paris will eat a fresh pineapple that was grown and harvested some five days ago in the Montes de María, Bolivar," Tapia Rizzo said. 

The pineapple, which is of the hybrid MD2 gold honey variety, is grown in more than 100 hectares in Rancho Paraiso in the village of San Jose del Playon in Marialabaja (Bolívar). 

Tapia Rizzo conducted research, studied the market, made tests and trials with expert agronomists from the Valle del Cauca, where the country has its biggest crops, to produce his pineapple.

The company was able to yield its first sample in 2015. In January 2016, they announced a first pilot test abroad and aimed at a market that demanded fresh fruits.

"This crop is very delicate and the issues we face were due to different elements, such as phosphorus, water, sunburn. The pineapple was perfect, but it was visually burned. That's something that the international market rejects. It has to look perfect. That's why we stopped that test," stated Alfredo Jose Tapia Villamizar, the commercial manager of the Rizzo investment group.

A pineapple produced in these territories costs on average $600 pesos per kilo. In Europe it can be marketed by about 2.30 euro per kilogram, which would be about $ 7,000 pesos nowadays.

"Average prices are better abroad. Prices are not very good in Colombia because there is a lot of pineapple supply in the Valley and in Quindio, which leads to a decrease in prices. Thus, it would be better to export it. Local prices do fluctuate, but on average they are much better abroad. They depend on the quality and the international certification that the countries give it," said Tapia Rizzo.

Luis Humberto Martínez, the manager of the National Agricultural Institute (ICA), said that, according to resolution 448 of 2016 of the ICA, to issue a phytosanitary export certificate, the farm, processing plants, packaging and the exporting company had to be registered by the institute. "The ICA has certified us as exporters. We are managing the Global GAP international certification, to enter the United States," Tapia Rizzo added.

Xavier Barnier, a Frenchman, who works for the Barnier SARL trading company negotiated with Montes de Maria Agricola to start exports by plane to Paris.

According to the ICA, there may be more farms with pineapple crops in the Colombian Caribbean, but they are not registered. The ICA invited the owners of these farms to register their farms so they could offer them support.

"Colombian fresh pineapple exports (Ananas comosus) to France and other member states of the European Union don't require to be inspected by the ICA at the point of departure. However, the product is subject to phytosanitary controls by the phytosanitary authorities in the importing country to confirm that it is free of pests," Luis Humberto Martinez added.

Xavier Bernier and Alfredo Tapia negotiated each 4 ton shipment for about 4,000 euro, which could amount to some 2 million euro a month. Customs, internal transport, storage and air transport costs exceed 4,000 euro.

The pineapples were transported from the Montes de Maria to the Ernesto Cortissoz airport in Soledad (Atlantico) about 261 kilometers before being shipped to Bogota. Starting Monday, the fresh fruit, of the 6,7, and 8 calibre, will be in the store chains in Paris under the French brand Santana. "We are currently opening a path to Europe. This is a glimpse of what we can accomplish, and it can motivate other entrepreneurs."


Publication date: 2/28/2018

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