nature’s abundance in Bayaguana
Pineapple (Ananas comosus) is the fruit of a plant from the Bromeliaceae family, which has more than 1400 different species in the world and 3 basic varieties. This is a perennial herbaceous plant, with a rosette of pointed leaves up to 90 centimeters long. From the center of the rosette emerges a stem from where the flowers that will produce the fruit are born. Pineapple contains 85% water, carbohydrates and fiber.
In addition to its excellent flavor and aroma, it is one of the healthiest fruits. Among its benefits, are its anticoagulant properties, as a result of which it improves blood circulation and diminishes inflammation. Pineapple also possesses proteins that are very helpful to the digestive system.
The pineapple comes from the south of Brazil, where the Spanish found it during the colonization of America. The aborigines called it ananas, which means “excellent fruit”. It was propagated by the colonizers throughout their colonies and introduced in the Iberian Peninsula in the 16th. century. During this period, it also became part of the local agriculture of the Ivory Coast and other locations of the African continent. During the mid 20th. century, global pineapple production doubled and from that moment on it continually increased, as consumer demand expanded. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, world volume reached 21,582,000 metric tons, an increase in production of 500% in the last 50 years. It is currently planted in all the tropical regions, wherein Thailand, Brazil, Costa Rica, the Philippines, China, Indonesia and India are the main producers. Today, pineapple represents the second most cultivated tropical fruit in the world, following the banana.
The pineapple is highly adaptable in tropical regions. It is planted from sea level up to 800 meters of altitude, although the optimum condition is between 150 and 240 meters above sea level. When the altitude is inferior, growth is faster and the pulp loses consistency and, consequently, is less resistant to transportation. On the other hand, if the altitude is higher the plant and the fruit remain smaller and more compact. It needs an annual precipitation between 1,000 – 1,500 millimeters, although some varieties resist precipitations below 1,000 millimeters. The optimal temperature for its cultivation is between 25 and 27 degrees Celsius. Temperatures higher than 30 degrees Celsius cause great damage to the fruit and affect its quality. Likewise, pineapple requires a relative humidity of 70% and a minimum average photoperiod of 5 hours a day. Soil permeability is one of the main factors that can hinder pineapple cultivation.
The most planted variety in the world is the Smooth Cayenne. Other marketable varieties are the Queen, cultivated in Australia and South Africa, the Red Spanish, produced in Cuba and Costa Rica, and the Pernambuco of Brazil. In the Dominican Republic the Smooth Cayenne is predominant, although, during recent years, clones of this variety have been planted. The latter varieties were developed in Venezuela, and they possess the advantage of being almost thornless, which facilitates handling during the production process. Another important variety in our country is the Sugarloaf. This variety is characterized by its juicy and sweet white pulp, but on the downside, it is not very resistant to transportation.
The CAEI pineapple project is using the Golden (MD2) variety, which is highly sought after in international markets and, therefore, the main cultivation of this seed variety is for the exportation of the fresh fruit. The Golden variety is coveted because it is sweeter and it has a higher vitamin C content than other varieties. Also, its storage period is up to two times greater than the Smooth Cayenne variety. It is also known as Hawaiian Gold.
Pineapple planting and production in the Dominican Republic
The country occupies the 19th place among the pineapple producers of the world, with an estimated production in 2012 of 156 million units, valued at approximately RD$1,635 million, with over a 100% growth rate, during the last three years. As of the year 2005, production has shown an uptrend. According to the most recent available data (2011), the country had more than 2,830 hectares planted with pineapples. However, the notable increase in production is due to greater agricultural yield, which has reached 0.65 quintals per 628.86 m2 thanks to better cultivation techniques. Given the pineapple’s export potential, the National Competitiveness Council, the Dominican Agribusiness Board and the Pineapple Productive Group prepared a technical guide for its cultivation with the purpose of promoting production of this crop. The type of pineapple that is being promoted is the Golden or MD2, because its cultivation has experienced strong growth. This has caused great enthusiasm among producers because of the business opportunities it presents in the local and export markets, given the acceptance this variety has received in the international markets. In effect, with the appearance of the MD2 variety a new consumer preference has been created in the global market, which has maintained an unanticipated growth rate for over five years, mainly in the demand of fresh fruit.
Pineapple exportation and its contribution to the national economy
The considerable increase in national production and the worldwide rise in pineapple consumption has shown a significant increase in the value of pineapple exports, which in the year 2011 reached over US$3.2 million, compared to approximately US$350 thousand in 2008. These figures highlight the magnificent potential existing in the Dominican Republic for the production and exportation of tropical fruit.