U.S. opens borders to Nicaraguan pitahaya
Frank Huezo has been in the pitahaya business for less than a year, but this Nicaraguan producer already has great plans to transform the U.S. market. Based in La Concepción, the company’s 30 hectare property, under the name “El Socorro”, came into Huezo’s possession last April, roughly coinciding with the first ever opening of the United States borders to Nicaraguan fruit. Through the exporting company Transimport, El Socorro became Nicaragua’s first pitahaya producer to ship its produce to the United States this year. The firm managed to prove that its plantations are free of fruit flies and it received the phytosanitary approval from the United States Department for Agriculture (USDA).
“We have exported more than 50,000 boxes this season. We are feeling optimistic and we are encouraging other producers to set up traps against fruit flies for an entire year. If no flies are found, your plantation becomes certified,” explains the producer. Huezo’s team is currently working with other Nicaraguan pitahaya growers to prepare them for the U.S. market. “We need to be able to export at least 150,000 boxes of pitahaya,” points out Huezo.
“We have assisted them in the setting up of traps and our agronomists provide them with technical assistance so that the fruit can reach the desired Brix levels and calibres.” Huezo stated that 80 additional hectares are being prepared for pitahaya production in a property nearby El Socorro. The business has developed very quickly over a short time span, greatly due to the unexpected enthusiasm shown by U.S. consumers Nicaraguan producers are said to be very happy to be able to enter a more stable market where they have been able to challenge Vietnam’s competition. While the Vietnamese fruit reaches up to 9.99 dollars per pound (almost half a kilo) in specialty markets, Huezo wishes to make the Nicaraguan produces more accessible to the general public.
“Consumption soars when the fruit is sold for 2.49 to 2.99 dollars per pound. Our objective is to make it available to a wider market, not just to those who know it and are willing to pay higher prices.” Nicaraguan pitahaya stands out for its magenta-colored pulp; quite different to Vietnam’s, which is white. “We have seven varieties in our property and they all have a red pulp. It is possible to do many things with red pitahayas that cannot be done with the white ones, and the flavor is also different. White pitahayas, for example, have a lower Brix. ”
Last year, El Socorro’s pitahaya was delivered to retailers in Texas and the East Coast. During the next season, Huezo expects to deliver to the rest of the nation.