Starfruit, also known as Carambola, is not commonly bought by Dutch shoppers. Also, it is mainly used as a garnish. "Unjustified," begins Marco Kuipers of the Mexican company Vivero Yautepec. They grow the sweeter Acapulco star fruit variety, which, he says, "is perfect to eat fresh."
The cultivation company, located about 80 kilometers from Mexico City, produces organic starfruit as well as jackfruit and kumquats on about 14 hectares. "We export mainly to countries like the United States and Canada, but we see great potential in the Netherlands and the rest of Europe. The Netherlands imports most of its starfruit from places like Malaysia and Thailand."
"But it's too hot there from December to April, so there's no production. That's exactly when the Mexican subtropical climate causes peak production, so it's a nice gap to fill. That season runs until about December, after which we still talk of a half-season until March," says Marco.
Jackfruit and kumquats.
Not quite enough rain, but nice crop
The trader is pleased with the new Mexican crop. "It all looks excellent. The rainy season has just ended, and we didn't have quite enough rain for our liking. Unfortunately, many countries have that problem, but it had little effect on the fruit's quality. The trees are full of flowers, so production should be good. We have minimal pest or disease pressure. These can still sometimes hinder starfruit cultivation, especially since we grow organically. But that's not a problem this year."
Alternative to mangoes
The GLOBALG.A.P. certified company thus hopes to turn its gaze slightly more to the European market this season. "We already export some to the Netherlands, but primarily through intermediaries. Short lines are always better, so a big Dutch partner would be ideal for access to the European market," Marco explains.
"Then, I think this starfruit variety could become a big hit. Look at how some major importers promote avocados. Not only as guacamole, they also highlight its other uses. That's where we want to go with starfruit; we just have to find the right partners."
Marco believes their Mexican starfruit will stand out on the market. "Around these months, there's not any true competition. In Florida, there are large plantations, but that's a different, slightly more sour variety. There are also many growers in Mexico, but few of those crops can be eaten by hand. It's a nice alternative to mangoes, which are very popular in the Netherlands. Now it's a matter of getting starfruit promotion off the ground," he concludes.