In Belize, the pineapple is a new crop that is being ‘groomed’ to become an important second crop for citrus and other farmers in the Stann Creek Valley and northern Toledo district. But is it possible for pineapple to become the “Queen of the South” and hold its own alongside the citrus industry?
According to Luis Tzul, Agronomist for the Citrus Growers Association (CGA), the answer is yes. This coming Tuesday, 26th May, CGA will deliver its first shipment of pineapples for 2020 to be processed by Citrus Products of Belize Limited (CPBL). This delivery from CGA joins the half a million pounds that is delivered to the factory each year by farmers, mostly from Trio Village in northern Toledo.
The Citrus Growers Association (CGA) and the factory (CPBL) are leading the way by programming the planting of 25 and 50 acres of pineapple, respectively. CGA has already established 10 of their 25 acres and the factory has planted 15 of its targeted 50 acres. Separately, farmers already have about 100 acres of pineapple in production, most of which is sold on the local market, but from which an average surplus of half a million pounds has been delivered to the factory over the last 10 years. The new fields at CGA, other small farmers and CPBL have commenced production and 2020 is expected to mark the year that deliveries of pineapples to the factory will surpass 1.5 million pounds.
In two year’s time, production for delivery to the factory is expected to reach 4 million pounds and the target is to produce and process 15 million pounds of pineapple to supply pineapple concentrate to the local and CARICOM market.
What’s different about this new effort is that the new fields of pineapple are all being planted with the MD2 variety which is ideal for processing due to its shape and high pectin levels. Over 550,000 MD2 suckers/planting material were imported last year from Costa Rica and planted in Belize, and from this initial stock, new suckers/planting material will be obtained to supply farmers who are participating in the pineapple programme.