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The global pineapple market shows a varied picture, with cold and rainy spells affecting the cultivation in some countries like Costa Rica, South Africa, and Spain. The demand for pineapples in the Netherlands remains low, despite limited supply in the market. According to a Dutch importer, sales have been quiet, and customers are sticking to their usual orders, with no shortage in sight. The importer attributes the limited supply to the bad weather in Costa Rica, which has affected the supply of high-colour pineapples. Meanwhile, in Germany, air freight difficulties are expected to impact the pineapple market, with some retailers planning to eliminate airfreight fruit from their shelves. Pineapple prices in France are holding steady, with demand remaining high despite a slight drop in production due to cold weather. In Italy, the price of pineapples has dropped significantly, making it unsustainable for importers to continue importing the fruit.

In Spain, pineapple production in the Canary Islands has slowed down due to a cold spell in January and a pest problem. In South Africa, extreme weather conditions have caused significant losses for pineapple farmers, resulting in undersupply on the fresh market in February. Heavy rains have also kept workers from harvesting and replanting, affecting supplies. In North America, pineapple supplies are tight due to weather issues in Costa Rica, which is the main supplier year-round. Shortages of fertilizer earlier in the season have also contributed to the lack of supply. Despite the tight supply, demand for pineapples in North America is steady.

Netherlands: Little demand, little supply of pineapple
Although there is not too much pineapple available on the market, sales are also fairly tame. "Normally we often have a shortage of pineapple around the Berlin fair week, but there is no question of that now. Customers are taking their more usual orders, but no more than that," observes a Dutch importer. "Sales were already quiet at Christmas and that has continued in recent weeks, as you actually see across the board in fruit sales."

According to the importer, the bad weather in Costa Rica has limited the supply of high colour pineapples in particular. Prices are around 10-11 euros for the crowned pineapple. "So again, there is no question of offer prices, but don't forget that imports have become a lot more expensive due to the dollar exchange rate."

Belgium: With milder weather, demand for pineapple picks up
Supply in the pineapple market is currently limited. "Supply is stagnating a bit due to climatic problems in the important countries at the moment. Volumes from countries like Costa Rica are a lot lower than we expected," says a Belgian importer. "On the other hand, demand is starting to pick up now that spring weather is slowly coming around the corner in Belgium."

"Normally, sales are very good around the Christmas period but drop until the first spring sunshine. So this year too, this is definitely the case. With milder weather, demand for pineapple picks back up," he continued. "Perhaps it is also the case that people are reaching for it faster because other fruits, such as strawberries, are a lot more expensive at the moment. However, combined with a more limited supply, it does result in high prices for the time of year. The very high import costs, on the other hand, also make that necessary to earn something from it."

Germany: Air freight difficulties could affect pineapple supply
For pineapple, the high quotations for weeks 5 and 6 were largely confirmed. Stronger supplies of both mango and pineapple met a good demand, which is why sales were quite balanced. Importers expect more difficulties in offering air freight in the coming years, which is likely to affect the pineapple market as well. Particularly in retail, air freight is increasingly under discussion and, following the example of retail chains in the Netherlands and Switzerland, the first German retailers will soon also eliminate airfreight fruit from their shelves, they suspect.

Partly due to the Covid crisis, more and more growers in Costa-Rica are instead selling their volumes to the processing industry. As Costa-Rica is one of the main growing countries for pineapple, this is reflected in the supply. Traders in Germany and Switzerland are also assuming around 15 per cent less volume for the fresh market compared to previous years.

France: Pineapple prices are holding steady
Currently on the French market pineapples from Cote d'Ivoire, Costa Rica and to a lesser extent Ecuador and Panama are present on the French market. Prices rest between 8 and 13 euros per package for the big brands and 8 and 10 per package for the "lambda" brands, and currently prices are maintained despite the school holidays. The cold weather has hit both the northern and southern hemispheres, leading to a slight drop in production. Demand is also holding up; according to a wholesaler at the Rungis MIN, it is a reflex consumption. "Customers are used to buying 1 pallet or a half pallet so they continue, whether the prices are 10/12 euros or 14 euros.”

Italy: Selling prices far below import costs
Pineapples are bought by 34% of Italian households, according to GfK Consumer Panel data. If 34% of households bought the fruit in the last 12 months ending December 2022, this means that pineapples are appreciated and fairly present on Italian tables. However, this is a decreasing trend compared to the previous 12 months, when it was close to 39%. Most pineapples are bought in variable weight and the discounters see a very slight upward trend. 6.5% of households buy organic, compared to 30% of non-organic.

A wholesaler in southern Italy reports that it is not worth importing pineapples into Italy, because selling prices are far below import costs. "It has gone from €8.50 to €13 to import a 12 kg carton of pineapple, due to the strong inflationary pressure that is affecting the world economy, as fuel, transport and production costs have skyrocketed. On sale, however, a carton of pineapple fetches €8.00 to €8.50."

"This situation has been going on since the post-Christmas holidays. Compared to the same period last year, this year's prices are very low. This is evidenced by the fact that a first-class pineapple fetches market prices of 0.80 €/kg. The products arriving in Italy are of high quality, but sales are slow: we are seeing very stable low prices. So, in response to the current situation, importers are introducing common strategies: further reducing supplies to try to raise prices. This was already applied during the pandemic and it worked, the hope is that it will work again, because importing pineapples and then reselling them is becoming unsustainable."

Spain: Pineapple harvest in the Canary Islands slows down due to January cold spell
The vast majority of the pineapples consumed in Spain at the moment come from Costa Rica. The supply of pineapple in the market is average for this time of year. After Christmas, both availability and demand drop in Spain. Compared to 2022, demand and prices for colored pineapple remain stable according to an importer, while demand for green pineapple is falling despite the current shortage. In 2022 there was an increase in the volume of colored pineapple that offsets and exceeds the volumes of green pineapple that years ago were the majority. The costs of production at origin, the logistic costs for its importation, as well as the packaging materials, making the product more expensive.

However, Spain - surprisingly for some - also has its own pineapple production. The cultivation takes place in the Canary Islands and, for now, the production is sold entirely in its place of origin.

"This season we hope to produce between 800,000 and 900,000 kilos of pineapple," explains an agricultural technician from the largest pineapple-producing cooperative on the island of El Hierro. "However, it is a smaller amount than what we have been producing in other years, since only in 2019 we reached 1,200,000 kilos."

"We are having a lot of pest pressure due to the cochineal, which transmits a virus that withers the plant and makes a plantation that should be producing pineapples for up to 5 years have to be uprooted in the second harvest."

“The ants move the cochineal between the plants spreading the plague, moving under the plastic we use to grow tropical pineapple here in El Hierro; but the biggest problem is that today we do not have any active material developed to deal with this pest in pineapple cultivation. In 2019 it was a problem that we saw from a long way off, but in 2023 it is already a reality, and the decline is evident,” he shares. "And that is that the production area of our cooperative has increased compared to 2019 to a total of 80 hectares, but the yields have fallen from 1.4 kg/m² then to 1.1 kg/m² today.”

The pineapple harvest in El Hierro is produced throughout the year thanks to the planning of the farmers of the cooperative with which they supply the Canary market during the 12 months, in which, for phytosanitary reasons, imports of foreign pineapples are prohibited. "At this time, specifically, the cold wave in January, which dropped night temperatures to 12 degrees, slowed down the ripening of the fruit and the harvest scheduled for January is beginning to be harvested now, but in no case have we had any losses due to the cold," remarks the technician of what is the largest cooperative producing pineapple in Spain. "And I would dare to say that in all of Europe."

“For now we will continue selling our pineapple Roja Española in the archipelago because due to a price issue we find it difficult to compete in the peninsula with imported pineapples; Field production costs have already risen to 1.5 euros per kilo, to which we would have to add transport. But we must remember what happens with bananas from the Canary Islands and imported bananas: despite having a higher price, the Canary banana is in good demand and is highly valued by Spanish consumers," explains the agricultural technician. “The same could happen between the pineapple Roja Española from the Canary Islands and the imported MD2; although to raise it, the first thing that would be necessary is to expand production on the islands.”

South Africa: Extreme weather hits pineapple cultivation
South African pineapple farmers have been at the mercy of extreme summer weather: two weeks of extreme temperatures at the end of January caused a high incidence of sunburn.

Growers lost 50% and more in some blocks, having to leave some fruit unpicked in the field when they could not be sent for processing, resulting in some undersupply of pineapples on the fresh market in February.

Then came the heavy rain of the past three weeks which reportedly has not caused infrastructural damage to pineapple farms, but has kept workers off the land to harvest and to replant.

“Too much rain is also not good, the pineapples become watery,” says a pineapple trader at a municipal market. “It’s been a bit up and down, first the heatwave and then the rain. It seems to have calmed down now, volumes are picking up at the moment so we’ll see what happens with demand.”

At the moment an 8kg box is sold for up to R110 (5.6 euros), depending on size, while consumer demand has been weak. Prices haven’t been bad, he notes, but rainy weather has dampened the appetite for pineapples which will hopefully return along with the sun.

During pineapples’ heyday (during the Covid lockdown alcohol ban of three years ago which resulted in a surge in the brewing of pineapple beer) boxes went up to R300 (or 15.45 euros.)

North America: Steady demand, tight supplies of pineapple
Supplies of pineapple in North America are tight. “This is the case across the board with all suppliers,” says one shipper. “Supplies tightened up in early to mid-December and suppliers expect it to stay that way for the foreseeable future. Of course, they’re hopeful, but it depends upon the weather.”

The slim supplies are a result of a few factors including weather issues in Costa Rica, where the majority of supplies come from, year-round. However shortages of fertilizer earlier on in the season have also contributed to the lack of supply. “We’re getting Mexican pineapples right now as well to help fulfill demand,” says the shipper. 

As for demand, it is steady. “When pricing increases, demand usually falls off,” says the shipper, adding that earlier in the season when there was less known about the supply issue, demand was higher but has since settled. 

Indeed, pricing is currently up, approximately 40 percent over last year, at this time. 

Despite supply challenges for the pineapple category, there have also been advancements with niche items, focusing on flavor -- namely the Honeyglow pineapple and the Pinkglow pineapple. Both products are slightly sweeter, slightly less acidic and uniquely colored. “While the pink is still more of a niche item, the Honeyglow has become popular and mainstream. We have retailers that carry either the Honeyglows or both pineapples because consumers are willing to pay more,” adds the shipper, noting though that the same supply issues are being seen within this part of the category as well.

South America: Fertiliser shortage and cold weather affects supply 
A large grower and exporter from Costa Rica said the pineapple market, especially in Europe, is not good for sales at the moment. The after effects of the Covid-19 pandemic are still felt in this major pineapple production country. Everything changed after the pandemic with increases on all fronts from production input, lower demand and prices. The Russian war in Ukraine made the cost of fertilizer much higher. Due to this, production decreased but prices still did not increase to cover the higher input costs.

With the slower demand in Europe, Costa Rican producers and exporters say they are set to focus on supplying the new markets of Israel and the Middle East where demand is currently stronger.

As for 2023 they hope the demand will at least be the same to keep volumes flowing, but they fear it may not be as good as previous years.

An Ecuadorian exporter commented that they are receiving good prices in all markets. They are also seeing good, stable demand from the start of the year, which they are very happy with. “The prices are acceptable to be able to continue our work,” the exporter commented.

Australia: Industry aims to increase consumption
There has been a glut of pineapples hitting the Australian market late in the summer season, with consumers urged to buy up big to prevent crops from going to waste. Coinciding with the market conditions, an industry advocacy body, is highlighting the tropical fruit as part of a year-long awareness campaign of the state’s 104 various fruit, vegetable and nut crops. This month it established a unique mini plantation in Queens Garden in the centre of Brisbane’s CBD, once the site of the state’s first-ever pineapple plot (1838), dedicated to the fruit due to the immense impact to the growers as a result of last year’s weather event.

“The unseasonal temperatures and huge rainfall caused the majority of plants in the South East and some into Central Queensland to flower at the same time meaning growers are picking their entire crop right now, instead of picking throughout the year," a representative said. "Consumers need to be aware that there is a glut of pineapples on the market, however after this, we will all have to wait for them to flower again and regrow a delicious fruit. A process that can take up to a year. Today, Queensland grows 99% of the nation’s pineapples, worth more than $45 million. Most importantly 100% of Australia’s fresh pineapple supply comes directly from Australian growers. By activating places and spaces that are no longer synonymous with horticulture we can heighten awareness amongst consumers of the immense history and the important part this industry has played, and will continue to play, in our state’s economy and way of life.”

Next week: Global Market Overview Pears!

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