As the imported rambutan season gears up, questions remain around what demand might look like once the fruit arrives in the marketplace.
Marc Holbik of Miami, Fl.-based Ecoripe Tropicals notes that the company launches its 2020 rambutan season from Guatemala in the first week of May. “The trees had above average flowering and fruit development this season, so we are expecting good volume and great quality out of the south coast of Guatemala for the first half of the season,” says Holbik, adding that the season will extend through August. “We should have a couple of weeks of good volume from Guatemala before Mexican rambutan joins us in the market by late May.”
However, not surprisingly, the COVID-19 pandemic has left some questions around the rambutan season.
“The start of the season comes as we are all facing adversity due to the pandemic. Our primary goal is to ensure the safety and health of all our workers as we continue to distribute tropical produce to our retail and wholesale partners,” says Holbik, who adds that having its PrimusGFS food safety plan in place helped form the basis of Ecoripe’s emergency pandemic plan. The plan did also have procedures modified to increase social distancing.
Supply chain concerns
At the same time, COVID-19-related disruptions to the supply chains of many commodities are a reality that global produce shippers are currently facing. “All of us are adjusting accordingly to balance supply with demand,” says Holbik. “While we are still unsure on how demand will be affected for our rambutan program, we do have the advantage that the fruit is shipped direct to us by the pallet by air immediately after harvest. We can adjust our volumes very quickly to match demand, unlike full truckload or ocean container shipments.” He also adds that Ecoripe will emphasize pre-orders and programs to ensure its two Rambutan labels, Lafinita and Prime Tropicals, are fresh and of the top quality in the marketplace.
However, Holbik also says Ecoripe has noticed the effect of the pandemic on sales of items such as ginger and turmeric, products that consumers have been looking for to reinforce their immunity systems. “We hope that rambutan, which packs a huge amount of Vitamin C along with iron and other trace minerals excellent for our immune system, will also be of high demand,” he says, adding that Ecoripe is also packing the product in multiple clamshell presentations (1 lb., 3/4 lb. and 1/2 lb.) to minimize consumer handling at the store.