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Nicaragua: Winter favours pitahaya production

The pitahaya harvest will finish in a little over a month. According to Will Burke, CEO and founder of the BASA Burke Agro Company, this year's pitahaya production has been better than in the previous years, when unusual winter conditions affected yields.

BASA Burke Agro, based in San Marcos (Carazo), is dedicated to the collection of fresh fruits, the processing and export of dried fruits and pitahaya pulp.

According to Burke, this year they'll gather approximately 1,500 tons of fresh pitahayas throughout the harvest.

Carlos Barrios, operations manager of Finca El Socorro, in La Concepción (Masaya), said they had matched last year's pitahaya production in late August; i.e. more than 500,000 pounds. Thus, he said, they will surpass by far last year's production with what is harvested between September and October.

Pitahaya production on that farm, the largest exporter of fresh pitahaya to the United States, has increased as a result of improvements made there since 2013, Barrios said. In that year, La Soledad produced about 200,000 pounds of pitahaya.

A consistent harvest
William Burke, said "the company has received pitahaya more consistently this year." “Last year, as a result of drought, the collection was more irregular," he said.

Meanwhile, Donald Lopez, head of gathering at BASA Burke Agro, stated that "pitahaya crops are very resilient to variable weather conditions but they resented the lack of rain in the winters of 2014 and 2015."

Lopez said the company selected two categories of fruit: one for pitahayas weighing 350 grams to 1,000 grams, and the second one for pitahayas that weigh 150 grams to 349 grams.

“This year, 70% of the pitahayas have been of the first category. Last year, 50% of the pitahaya was of the first category and 50% of the second category", Lopez said.

BASA Burke Agro Company works closely with 350 small producers, who have organic certification, based in San Juan de la Concepción and Ticuantepe El Crucero. According to Burke, each producer has, on average, a hectare of land planted with pitahayas.

This year, according to Lopez, the company has achieved an average collection of 20,000 pitahayas per month, since last June, when the harvest began. The company expects the harvest will end in october.

The future
Even though there is no official data, Donald Lopez believes pitahaya crops have increased between 25% and 30% in the last three years.

In turn, Carlos Barrios believes there is a good future for the Nicaraguan pitahaya, given that there are several international markets that demand that product. “We always leave the market wanting more," he said.

“Our main market (as a company) is the United States, but there are also opportunities in Europe," noted the operations manager of Finca El Socorro.


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