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U.S. retailers are very supportive of Florida dragon fruit programs

Florida dragon fruit harvest started mid-June and usually lasts into September with low production volume left during the month of October. "Our first harvest of the Florida season took place two weeks ago, for both white and red dragon fruit," says Jose Roggiero with Freshway Produce. "Thursday and Friday of last week, another big harvest started that will continue all the way through this week." As a rule of thumb, dragon fruit gets harvested every two weeks. The plants contain buds, flowers and fruit that follow each other about every two weeks. Florida's big dragon fruit harvest usually takes place the week before 4th of July or the week after, depending on the year. "This year, the big harvest will be just in time for the Independence Day pull."

Roggiero is excited Florida dragon fruit can be included in 4th of July promotions. "Retailers are very supportive of Florida grown dragon fruit," he said. "In particular retailers that are based on the East Coast or in the Southeast. While dragon fruit competes with a lot of other summer fruits this time of year, demand has been very good.

Competition Ecuador
Florida is not the only region supplying dragon fruit to the U.S. market this time of year as imports from Ecuador are also coming in. Ecuador's main season runs from October through April/May. However, many growers have been using lights to extend their growing season. As a result, fruit is also harvested during Ecuador's cold weather season that runs from May/June until September. Ecuador mainly grows white dragon fruit and to fill the demand for red dragon fruit, some Florida growers have plans to expand red dragon fruit production. "While Florida and Ecuador are competing, they both find a place in the market," commented Roggiero. "Florida's dragon fruit tends to be a bit smaller in size while Ecuador's fruit is bigger, which allows us to provide our retail customers with options."

Risks of hurricanes
Although the Florida season is off to a good start, the success of the season is subject to hurricane activity in South Florida. The hurricane season officially runs from June 1 until November 30 and reports show this could be an active storm season. According to the NOAA, there is an 85 percent chance of an above-normal hurricane season. The chance of a near-normal hurricane season is 10 percent versus a 5 percent chance of a below-normal hurricane season. "We hope to escape from hurricane events, but it's something we always factor in," Roggiero said.

Jose Roggiero in Florida dragon fruit plantation.

New cooler space
In time for the 2024 dragon fruit season, Freshway Produce finished a new cooler space that allows for the fruit to be packed without breaking the cold chain. After harvest, the fruit is kept under controlled temperatures until it is packed and stored. "The new cooler space provides optimum conditions for the fruit from harvest to storage." In addition, an automatic sizer in the packing house allows for each size to be uniformly packed, which helps bring down labor costs. The 4,000 sq ft. facility is located in Miami, just 28 miles away from Homestead, Florida's dragon fruit growing region.

Florida white dragon fruit.

For more information:
Jose Roggiero
Freshway Produce Inc.
[email protected]