Pineapple supplies are slimmer right now.
“This is typical for this time of year,” says Wes Liefer of Pura Vida Farms in Brea, CA. He notes that towards the end of spring and into the beginning of June, pineapples mature naturally following favorable growing conditions at the end of December and into January. “So you generally have high production at the end of May and the early part of June. After that, the fruit naturally flowers and matures and there’s not a whole lot of fruit behind it. It creates this seasonal shortage in the summer and that’s what we’re seeing right now.”
Liefer notes this period lasts generally six to eight weeks when production lightens up in Costa Rica and almost stops in Mexico given the hot climate. While those are the two biggest pineapple supplying countries, some fruit also comes from Panama and Ecuador, which is where Liefer sources fruit from though he notes that in Central America, most of the production for the U.S. market comes from Costa Rica.
Foodservice coming back
Not surprisingly, demand largely exceeds supply currently and Liefer says demand should stay strong for the next six weeks at least. “One thing affecting the market even more right now is restaurants opening back up. This really benefits the pineapple business because a lot of pineapple is sold in foodservice establishments,” says Liefer. “Last year all those distribution channels were lost overnight–salad bars, schools, parties, fruit trays and platters. The one thing with pineapple is everyone likes it but nobody wants to cut it.”
That said, logistics continues to be a challenge to move the fruit, particularly on ocean container freight space. “It’s an imbalance of containers. The global supply is out of whack because of COVID-19. Early in the pandemic there were a lot of empty containers in China that you couldn’t do anything with because people weren’t showing up to work. It caused these backlogs of containers and equipment around the world and everything is not where it should be right now. There’ve been so many changes because of COVID-19 with shipping patterns and timing,” said Liefer.
As for pricing right now, Liefer notes that it’s currently $1 higher than average contracted prices. “Pricing is good. It’s about $11 FOB. It’s probably been more like $9.50-$10 for the past few months. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the market go to $12-$13,” he says.