The first harvest season of pitahaya started in Palora, the area of the country with the highest production of this fruit. The producers calculate to export 1 million kilos, including organic fruit, between this month and March.
It is sold to Asia, the European Union and the US; for this last market it is the third year of shipments. One of those sales was the first shipment of organic pitahaya for the US, from the Sangay farm, in Palora.
The 240 kilograms were exported this Monday, February 11, 2019, through the Mariscal Sucre airport in Quito, to Los Angeles. The exotic fruit of yellow color was cultivated under a greenhouse of 5 000 m². The plantations of the other producers are in the open field.
The organic pitahaya is grown in a greenhouse. A mesh protects the plants (pencas), which receive drip irrigation and natural fertilizer. “We make several formulas so that the production is 100% organic. We will send a second batch of 300 kilos organic in June and for the next year we will increase, “explained Juan Guarderas, supervisor of Sangay.
The movement of trucks and workers is intense in the farms, located in the five parishes of Palora, a canton of Morona Santiago. The extensive plantations with the fruit appear on the ballast and dirt roads. In this area there are 672 producers, who have sown 1 528 hectares, of which 664 are currently in production, indicate data from the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (MAG).
Rolando Noboa hired five more people to take the product from the 6 hectares of his farm, located in the Arapicos site, 30 minutes from the town of Palora. Normally he works with two workers, but for the season he must increase the personnel.
The collection started yesterday. The seven carry out the harvest, cleaning and transfer of the fruit to the collection center of the Producers Association of Pitahaya de Palora. Noboa planted pitahaya in 2001, but since last year exports a part to the United States. This year he expects to send 30 kilos, double last year, along with the rest of the production of the Association’s farmers.
He will carry out two of the three crops that he has in the year. The next one will be in December. “There is quite a button, which is blooming and the fruit will be ready by the end of the year. We will have better profits, because we are associated and we have looked for our own clients without the help of intermediaries, “said Noboa.
He is one of the 138 members of the Association, who decided to export directly, to avoid the fall of the price of the kilo of fruit (between USD 3 and 4), imposed by the intermediary. For this they built a storage center, certified by the Agrocalidad Plant Health Unit.
There are eight people who classify, wash and pack the fruit. In a week they can send 5 000 kilos to the markets of the USA, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, Spain, Germany, United Arab Emirates, among other countries.
Jorge Hidalgo is one of the producers and exporters of the canton. Its main destination is the Asian market, but this year it will send to the US, after having obtained certification by Agrocalidad that its 2-hectare farm is a free site for the fruit fly.
The technicians monitored him a year to send the pitahaya to the US market. “We advise with partners and technicians to obtain a quality fruit”. Last year 207 sites or farms were approved free of the fruit fly and by 2019 it is planned that another 532 places will be declared free of that insect.
The pitahaya is also grown in Pastaza, Pichincha, Guayas, Los Ríos, Manabí and the subtropical Bolívar, but in smaller quantities. “The producer works with us, because he wants to export to all countries. They are committed to having healthy food, “commented the zonal director of Agrocalidad, Jemily Urresta. The objective of this year is to double exports. Last year, 1.6 million kilos were sold, according to Agrocalidad data. (I)