The Sevillian company Frondis Pitaya, based in Guillena, is responsible for the introduction of pitaya cultivation in Andalusia six years ago. This not very demanding subtropical fruit is sparking the interest of many growers due to the high price that its fruits reach in the market, where it is also known as dragon fruit.
In fact, it is already cultivated in municipalities such as Guillena, Carmona, Dos Hermanas and Aznalcóllar, and as the knowledge about the crop increases, "the demand grows," says Pedro Romera, director of the firm. In fact, the company has an ongoing demand for 20,000 pitaya plants, which are reproduced by cuttings and hydroponics to prevent the spread of diseases via the roots or soil.
"The pitaya adapts perfectly to any type of soil and has a very fast growth, as it already yields fruit in its second summer," explains the Sevillian entrepreneur. "It can be planted at any time of the year and needs only 2.5 liters of water per week, a warm climate and light." The drawbacks are its sensitiveness to frost and the fact that "it does not grow in the open ground, because it needs some infrastructure, such as a mesh and a plastic cover (greenhouse)," explains Romera. However, once planted, it will have a long life of between 25 and 30 years, "similar to that of citrus."
Up to 334 pitaya plants can be grown in just one hundred linear meters (not square), with an average yield that oscillates between 50 and 60 kilos per plant when in season. The fruit's retail price "can reach up to 20 Euro per kilo and the price at origin we've been working with is set at five Euro per kilo, so it is a very profitable crop and an interesting alternative."
According to the company, some 40,000 pitaya plants are currently grown in Andalusia and the harvest in the latest campaign reached "10,000 kilos, since the production doubles every year. The plant's productivity reaches its peak in the fifth or sixth year."
In any case, the company's director recommends "carrying out the pollination by hand if you want to obtain a high production and larger fruits. If you leave that job to nature, the fruit setting is reduced by around 50%."
Frondis Pitaya offers different varieties: red-fleshed, white-fleshed, yellow, etc. The company also provides technical advice in the cultivation and marketing of the production. "We receive orders from countries such as Austria, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Germany, but the supply is still so scarce that we are unable to meet these requests, so we market the fruit at domestic level."