Domestic carambola supplies are hitting peak on summer volume right now.
Supplies of the exotic fruit, also known as “star fruit”, began in the last week of June. “We didn’t have a lot of volume in early July but by the end of July this year we had pretty decent volume,” says Peter Leifermann with Brooks Tropicals LLC. in Homestead, Fl. “It was a bit earlier than normal—it was about a two week head start.” He adds that peak supplies will go through to Labor Day.
While the earlier supplies are thanks, in part, to a shift in Brooks’ agricultural practices to ensure an early start time, the Florida rain also helped. “We had a very wet June so it brought on the fruit very fast. The water isn’t a problem and the trees love the rain--carambola is originally a rainforest tree” says Leifermann. “Our June was well above average for rainfall.”
Volume is similar to the levels of the past two years.
Lunch box options
Meanwhile demand for carambola is on the cusp of increasing. “Demand really picks up now in August when we have back to school. So stores are busier, the kids are going back to school and parents are looking for healthy lunch box alternatives. Carambola can be eaten out of hand and kids like to have cool things in their lunchbox,” says Leifermann.
In fact, carambola—along with many exotic fruits and vegetables—continues to experience growth in demand. “I think the biggest driver of that is mobile technology and social media. People are quickly and easily educated as to these items,” says Leifermann. “Before it took a concentrated marketing in-store education effort. But customers are much more easily educated nowadays and they take it upon themselves to seek out these exotic items. That’s something that’s new.”
All of this means pricing is good for carambola. “There’s always downward price pressure during the peak of the market and there’s always upward price pressure because of the costs of agriculture, especially exotics in North America,” says Leifermann, noting price is similar to last year at this time. “We’re facing a lot of costs and we’re trying to recoup them and for the most part, our customers understand. Everyone’s facing the same story.”
Looking ahead, Leifermann says the carambola crop settles down somewhat after Labor Day. “Then there’s moderate volume and availability but it’s consistent through to January,” says Leifermann, adding that the winter peak for carambola is December-January.