Emerging Markets / November 2, 2018

Costa Rican Setbacks Open Pineapple Market

Pineapple exports in Central America rose by 8% in 2017, with overall shipments tipping the scales at over 1 billion dollars. Following Costa Rica’s dominance of the market, Honduras and Panama are the region’s rising export sources.

Costa Rican Setbacks Open Pineapple Market

In February, industry leaders looked forward to a strong year of pineapple supply. Bil Goldfield, Dole Food Company’s Director of Corporate Communications issued a press release saying as much, albeit allowing for the typical production dip that occurs with cold weather in Costa Rica (CR supplies 80% of US pineapple) in the late summer and early fall.

By May, the market was as expected. Continuous supply and stable prices led FreshPlaza’s Rudolf Mulderij to report, “The pineapple market seems to be quiet at the moment.” Though some prices were falling in Italy, and importers in the US were complaining of cheap pineapples still available on the market, nothing was out of the ordinary. Of course, that can change in a hurry.

Two months later, Mulderij reported catastrophe in German markets. Though prices were skyrocketing in Israel, oversupply led to a major price drop in Germany. This affected the overall European market, but did not seem to extend beyond the continent’s borders. Traders actually looked forward to the late summer dip in supply, hoping that smaller volumes would stabilize pricing and perhaps revive the market.

As expected, July lacked sunlight in Costa Rica. The clouds slowed pineapple photosynthesis, and by extension international markets. “The European market is very slow at the moment, because of the seasonal fruit that is available. Importers are buying our fruit, but only in small quantities,” explained Sonia Alvarado of Costa Rica’s Hispacori.

From mid to late September, Costa Rican supply to European markets was also impacted by strikes. “The general strike action delayed and at times even prevented loading of certain ships,” explained Paqui T. of FruiTrop. However, “The reduction of the Costa Rican Sweet supply did not result in better sales.” The combination of strikes and cold weather in Costa Rica opened the door for other pineapple exporters to fill the market need.

Frank Ocampo of Hagé International in the Netherlands says, “The anticipated pineapple price hike [as a result of the Costa Rican strikes] was not realized.” Through production slowed out of Costa Rica, there was plenty of additional supply due to slow summer sales and a growing supplier base. While the overall supply levels are impressive, “the delayed surplus,” Hage says, “will create an unrealistic benchmark” in terms of global market pricing.

Hage recognizes 2018 may go down as a “poor year in terms of sales compared to the previous two years,” both of which have seen significant growth of the international market. Global pineapple sales represented US $2.1 billion in 2017. This was a 5.7% increase in the value of global exports from the previous year. Overall, all exporting countries have enjoyed an 18.7% value increase in pineapple exports since 2013.

While many expected 2018 to continue to surpass records, we’ll have to wait and see what the year’s final months have in store.

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