Passion fruit has long been a highlight of Colombia’s agriculture. In 2016, the South American country produced 150,000 metric tons of passion fruit varieties. Yet of that quantity, only 6,000 metric tons were exported to foreign markets. The tendency of Colombia’s harvest to stay local mirrored that of nearby Brazil: the world’s largest producer of the exotic tropical fruit, and also the world’s largest consumer.
Colombia’s Passion Fruit Production Continues to Rise
In 2015, the Colombian Federation of Passion Flower Growers (Fedepasifloras) was established, in part to connect the popular produce item with markets around the world. “Brazil is the main producer of passion fruit in the world but they hardly export anything, everything stays in the internal market,” explains Fedepasifloras President Santiago Ríos Villalba. “The same thing happens in Colombia, where almost 144,000MT stays in the local market. But together with the government we are trying to help these fruits reach their great potential.”
The organization’s efforts appear to be reaping (or perhaps more accurately, delivering) a harvest. In 2017, Colombia hosted the third Latin American Passiflora Congress, an opportunity to exchange industry knowledge and research, and the first time the event played to an international audience.
“Passion flowers are known as passion fruit in the international market and are highly desired because they are exotic tropical fruits that have a great nutritional composition,” says Villalba of Fedepasifloras. Marisol Parra, of the Corporation Technological Development Centre of the Passifloras (CEPASS) adds that passion fruit production is valuable, not only to the markets that enjoy the flavorful and nutritious fruit, but also to those who steward the growth: “The cultivation of these crops generates great incomes and is becoming one of the largest generators of rural employment and a base for the economy of thousands of peasant families in Colombia and Latin America.”
A year after the initiation of Fedepasifloras, Colombia’s exports of purple passion fruit jumped an astounding 53% in 2016, a number ProColombia reported at the 2017 congress. The exports amounted to $25.1 million and the Ministry of Agriculture reported that 15,000+ hectares of Colombian passion fruit generated more than 20,000 jobs in the country. Production area jumped to over 21,000 hectares in 2017, and by the end of 2018, continued growth of 12% was anticipated.
According to ProColombia President Flavia Santoro, “there are at least 48 markets in which Colombia can increase its participation as a fruit supplier, especially with the ones where there is a current commercial agreement, in North America and the European Union. In addition, there is a great consolidation potential in Asia, where there is a growing demand for healthy high quality products. One of the advantages of our country is that we stand out for having a varied tropical and exotic offer, and the capacity to produce throughout the whole year.”
As Colombia continues to push passion fruit exports, established farms like Ganaderia Pietrasanta that are diversifying with plantings of the perennial vine will find markets eager to receive the produce, both at home and abroad.