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Vietnamese passion fruit distinctive from Colombian variety

Although passion fruit has always be deemed an exotic fruit, it is one of the “more recognisable” exotics. In December, the demand for this exotic fruit rises, although it is a stable market throughout the year. It is becoming difficult for speciality shops to use passion fruit to distinguish themselves. This is because most supermarkets include this fruit in their standard assortment. Ive Lambert of Starfruit, a Belgian company that specialises in exotics trading, points out that these specialist shops and higher end supermarkets can still distinguish themselves by by selling Vietnamese passion fruit.

Passion fruit is currently being supplied by Asian and South America. “At the moment, we are importing, both via sea and airfreight, primarily from Colombia, and solely via air freight from Vietnam”, says Ive. The supply from Zimbabwe has been delayed by rain. This means, in December, there will be a limited supply of this product. The political situation in Zimbabwe can also have an impact on exports, even though the change in government seems to be progressing peacefully.

Prepared for a busy December
The supply from Colombia reaches its peak between June and September. “Traditionally the demand is lower as there is such a wide variety of summer fruits available”, says Ive. “There is a domestic season and often, prices are low at that time.” By the end of the year, prices for soft fruit starts climbing because the supply switches to import products. “Then passion fruit is relatively inexpensive again and the market runs more smoothly.”

The supply from Colombia starts dwindling midway through November. Producers hold on to the product a little longer to ensure that there are sufficient volumes available in December. “Then demand is usually very high”, says Ive. “This is why we have already seen a rise in the prices.” In the last month of the year there is an enormous demand for passion fruit. “This is also because it is a more familiar exotic and consumers know what to do with it. It is no longer a true exotic.” Ive cautiously compares it to the mango. Twenty years ago, this fruit was classified as an exotic; nowadays it is a basic product. “This is also the case with passion fruit”, he says.

Vietnamese product is distinctive
In recent years, new countries of origin have emerged. “These countries, like Vietnam, are gaining ground”, says Ive. “That country’s fruit has a really great quality, and is only brought in by air. They are somewhat larger in size, but have a nice appearance. They have a fuller flavour and taste different to the Colombian passion fruit.” There used to be a big price difference between Vietnamese passion fruit and those from other countries, but over the years, this price gap has shrunk. Especially speciality shops and neighbourhood shops can use the Vietnamese passion fruit to distinguish themselves.

“Every supermarket now sells Colombian passion fruit, or a variety from another country. For neighbourhood shops, speciality shops and higher end supermarkets, the Vietnamese passion fruit is an opportunity to stand out from the crowd.” There is a clear difference in exotics from these countries. “In terms of size, the Vietnamese variety is slightly smaller than the Colombian passion fruit”, explains Ive.

Starfruit is also working on introducing a organic exotics range, and expanding its Fair Trade exotics range. “It is not as easy as it seems”, admits Ive. “We are working hard at getting this off the ground.” This is not on the cards for passion fruit yet. Although there is a small volume of Fair Trade produce available, there is very little demand. “We hope to soon have an organic range of exotics available, but this will entail mangoes, coconuts, pineapples, bananas and pomegranates.”(RM)

More information:
Ive Lambert

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