Florida dragon fruit suppliers have reacted positively to Ecuador being granted access to the U.S., while a shipper in the Andean country is hopeful the new destination will help avoid saturation in other markets.
In an announcement this week, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection (APHIS) said the rule would become effective as of July 20, 2017.
Imports of dragon fruit – also known as pitahaya – will be allowed under a systems approach, which includes requirements for fruit fly trapping, pre-harvest inspections, and indicates that only fruit from approved production sites may enter the U.S.
In comments sent to Fresh Fruit Portal, a representative of Florida-based Brooks Tropicals was upbeat about the news even though the company currently only sells locally-grown dragon fruit.
“This development shows the growing US interest in exotic fruits, something we as growers of tropical produce see as further validation of our vision,” director of sales Peter Leifermann said.
“We do not currently plan to import Ecuadorian Dragon fruit – although we do not like to use the word “never”. The phytosanitary requirements as written for the Ecuadorian grower are strict – and rightfully so – and we’re interested to see how their industry develops.
“As I understand it, they grow mostly yellow/green varieties that could offer greater selection to the U.S. marketplace.”
Brooks Tropicals works with a collection of dragon fruit growers in South Florida.
But not all reactions were positive, with Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services plant industry division (FDACS-DPI) director Trevor Smith raising concerns about the possible introduction of the South American fruit fly (Anastrepha fraterculus).
“The PRA (pest risk analysis) rated the fruit fly Anastrepha fraterculus as High for likelihood of introduction. An introduction of A. fraterculus would result in major eradication efforts severely impacting Florida’s $8.25 billion dollar agricultural industry,” he commented on the proposed rule last year.
“Additionally, fruit infested with internal A. fraterculus larvae are highly likely to escape detection during culling. At this time, FDACS-DPI recommends shipments of pitahaya from Ecuador not be allowed into Florida.”