The pineapple exports from Costa Rica were briefly impacted by the pandemic as lockdowns occurred and the foodservice sector was impacted. However, supermarkets quickly picked up demand as consumers settled into routines that involved more home cooking, and overall quality of the pineapples out of Costa Rica has been high lately.
Climate and temperature benefit pineapples
Heavy rain showers lately in Costa Rica have been very beneficial to the pineapple crop, according to Adriana Garcia from Chestnut Hill Farms. “Either the atmospheric instability in the Atlantic Ocean due to Hurricane Delta, or an early onset of the rainy season brought the farms alternating days with heavy showers, accumulating 65 mm of rainfall. In combination with this, there has been moderate solar radiation and a slight rise in air and soil temperatures,” says Garcia.
“As a result of the weather we have been seeing lately, the sugar content in the pineapples has increased and the average Brix reading at our farms is at 15.3. Additionally, the external and internal color, taste and aroma of the pineapples are all outstanding. This allows us to supply pineapples true to the Chestnut Hill Farms brand: ‘The Perfect Pineapple,’” Garcia adds.
Volume is down, but pricing remains solid
The overall volumes for the pineapple industry are down from the 2018 peak year, Garcia shares. “The pineapple industry is almost 14% below volumes compared with 2018. There has been strong demand in both the North American and European markets, especially with the holiday season coming up. This has kept the prices solid in Costa Rica,” she says.
One of the reasons for the strong demand is the health benefits of pineapples. With consumers looking more and more for healthy foods to support their immune system, pineapples have reaped the benefits. According Amanda Perrin, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, pineapples boast many health benefits. “They are a great source of Vitamin C and manganese. They also provide B-vitamins and fiber, all in a low calorie, nature-made package that also contains water and natural sugars. Additionally, pineapples have a special digestive enzyme called bromeliad. This enzyme is being studied for multiple benefits, including improved digestion and anti-inflammatory effects,” Perrin explains. Chestnut Hill Farms has been working on highlighting and leveraging these health benefits to spur consumer demand.
Effects from strikes have dissipated
A few weeks back, a proposed tax-increase by the President of Costa Rica resulted in demonstrations and protests. Some protest groups blocked roads and a blockade on the border between Panama and Costa Rica stranded many trucks. “During week 41, the strikes were very intense, and an important part of the volumes harvested in the northern region of the country did not make it to the port,” Garcia shares.
Fortunately, these challenges have now been resolved. “Since week 42, law enforcement has been able to maintain the highways without roadblocks and our logistics to port have returned back to normal,” says Garcia.
Supporting the community throughout the pandemic
Everyone has had to pivot their strategies during the pandemic, and often short-term precautions have been put into effect and made it difficult to continue to focus on the long-term. For Chestnut Hill Farms, this fortunately hasn’t been an issue. Alexander Bolanos shares: “We haven’t lost sight of long-term implications for the farm. Every crisis makes us better, and many of the changes we’ve established will stay in place beyond the pandemic. We truly believe in what we’re doing in order to minimize the Covid effects, and we hope our short-term actions are enough to minimize long-term impacts.”
For Chestnut Hill Farms, the most important step to take is to continue to support the communities they work in. “Continuing to support the community through difficult times remains our top priority. No company can be successful in a failed community,” he concludes.