The pineapple is perhaps one of the most iconic and distinctive of all fruits. With its regal-looking crown and inimitable patterned skin, pineapple cannot be missed when walking down the supermarket aisles. Used in everything from cocktails to pizzas (albeit controversially), this delicious tropical fruit provides unique health benefits through the production of a natural chemical called bromelain, which reduces inflammation in the human body.
In the last ten years, growth in global production of pineapple by volume has increased nearly four-fold to a global wholesale market close to USD 15 billion, with the fruit now outselling avocado as the most sought-after fruit in high-end markets such as the United Kingdom.
Growth at the production stage
Though Costa Rica in the Caribbean is famed for its production of pineapple fruit, canned pineapple and other subtropical fruits, in recent years, planted area of pineapple plantations have remained flat in this region. Rather, growth in pineapple production is in Central America, Africa and South America. Globally, increases in planted area have far exceeded watermelon and coconut. A great deal of this new production is for canned fruits and juices therefore often accompanied by factories.
Costa Rica: The heart of pineapple production and supply – but for how long?
The small but highly agriculturally productive country of Costa Rica accounts for over a third (35%) of all pineapple production worldwide, and the crop provides the government with its second most profitable revenue earner after coffee. Since the mid-1980s, planted area of pineapple has increased more than ten-fold from 3,400 ha to over 40,000 ha today supporting thousands of smallholder livelihoods.
However Costa Rica cannot “hold the fort” so to speak when it comes to supporting demand for pineapple worldwide. There have been shortfalls in Europe in recent years when Costa Rica has been unable to supply, and the country’s environmental situation has suffered as a consequence of large scale expansion of pineapple plantations into areas sensitive to pollution and waste.
Occasional supply issues amidst growing demand has led to significant spikes in the wholesale prices of pineapples in recent months, particularly in consumer markets such as the USA and Russia. In Asia, wholesale prices are steadier, however they have largely increased relative to other fruits.
Pineapple is a relatively easy fruit to grow, with many growing locations dotted along the equator and in sub-tropical regions. New growing locations and expertise from existing agricultural economies such as Costa Rica will help to bolster supply, meet demand and keep prices stable. New production also needs to be integrated with investment into processing facilities amidst increasing demand for tinned pineapple products and juices. Markets also exist for pineapple skin as leather.
 Calculated from volumes and checked against available market reports.