Exotic fruit companies from Panama and Nicaragua ready for a new challenge
The COVID-19 pandemic creates challenges for companies that want to export high-quality fruit. At the same time, it has made the healthy living trend more important to European consumers. This means that healthy tropical fruits are high in demand for the European market.
Sweet and flavourful papaya from Panama
Based in the western part of Panama, Panafruit is a family-run business. It has been exporting papaya for over 20 years. Panafruit used an improvement programme to develop a new hybrid: the Hawaiian big papaya. This papaya is a mix between Taiwanese and Hawaiian varieties. It is flavourful, sweet and larger than average. Another benefit is that it can be produced all year round. Other countries have varying temperatures, but the seasonal changes in Panama are minimal.
Delivering quality despite COVID-19
Due to the pandemic, the company had to close for a few weeks at the beginning of 2020. This affected the ripening and picking cycle. Yet, Maryan Safi, Packaging Plant Director, says, “we have installed the necessary measures and processes to keep our workers safe. We maintain high quality and build strong partnerships with clients. Our clients expect high quality. We do this by improving infrastructure and increasing our staff. We make sure our local community benefits from this.” To enter a new European niche market, the company is making long-term investments in organic farming and opening a new plantation.
Colourful Nicaraguan red pitaya
Burke Agro started in 2007 as a Nicaragua-based agricultural company. It produces organic and Non-GMO pitayas. This fruit is native to Central America. In Europe, consumers know pitaya as dragon fruit. Nicaraguan pitayas are red and have many health benefits.
The company is ready for a new challenge: exporting certified organic red pitayas to the European market. Founder and CEO Will Burke says, “getting the consumer to understand our fruit takes time. We start by shipping small volumes each week by airfreight. In 3-5 years, we would like to partner with supermarkets and retail chains that value our quality, environmental and social impact.”
Currently, Burke Agro supports about 1,200 farmers transitioning into organic farming. The pitaya can survive droughts very well. Encouraging farmers to focus on pitaya is a market-based solution to the poverty and migration issues in the area.
Meet Panafruit or Burke Agro
Panafuit and Burke Agro are taking part in CBI’s Connecting Central America project. The European Union co-finances this project. The Secretariat for Central American Economic Integration (SIECA) coordinates it.