Peninsular Florida extends for approximately 500 miles in a north-south direction with the Atlantic Ocean to the east, the Gulf of Mexico to the west and the Caribbean Sea to the south. However, in spite of its being surrounded by water on three sides the only area warm enough for tropical fruit production lies in the extreme southern end of the state, mostly below 26 degrees north latitude. The traditional fruit tree crops have been avocado, lime and mango. Because of competition from outside sources new plantings of these fruits are not being undertaken and in a few instances groves of the above fruits have been bulldozed out to be replanted with new tropical fruit tree crops with a promise of far greater financial returns. This trend is taking place at an accelerated rate as growers respond to the receptive market demand and the high public interest.
Agricultural land in South Florida is relatively expensive when compared to similar areas in other cooler parts of the state. This initial high land cost calls for tree crops that will generate a favorable financial return to the grove owner on his investment. With the great influx of ethnic groups from the American and Asian tropics there has been a sudden demand for many of the tropical fruits formerly only grown in dooryards. This rapidly changing situation is calling for a new evaluation of many tropical fruits that have not been grown commercially in Florida in the past.
Among these newcomers with the greatest production increase are carambola (Averrhoa carambola), longan (Euphoria longana), mamey sapote (Pouteria sapota), sugar apple (Annona squamosa), atemoya (Annona squamosa X A. cherimola) , passionfruit (Passiflora edulis) along with lychee (Litchl chinensis) and pineapple (Ananas comosus) that were formerly grown commercially and are now making a comeback.
Most of the above tropical fruit have only recently been planted out commercially in Florida. Because of this, the trees are young and the acreage, while still small, is increasing at an accelerated rate. This is mainly due to the great demand and present limited supply of available ethnic tropical fruit which is being sought after by the more affluent sector of the U.S. American public.
With the high prevailing prices the growers are receiving, tropical fruit have become one of Florida's per acre most lucrative commercial crops. Carambolas bring the grower US $1 a pound (U. S. $2.20 a kilo). A mature carambola tree produces up to 300 pounds (136 kilos) of fruit yearly. One acre of 12-foot-high trees can produce up to 4 or 5 thousand pounds (1818 or 2272 kilos) of fruit annually. A fancy fruit packer, "Harry and David" charge their U.S. customers U.S. $23.95 for six carambola fruit post-paid to their door.
Longan wholesale at U.S.$3.00 a pound with trees set out in the grove three years producing up to 20 or 30 pounds (9 to 14 kilos). One old 'Kohala' variety longan had a crop that brought U.S. $1,200.
Mamey sapote bring grove owners U.S. $3.00 to U.S.$6.00 a pound (U.S.$6.60 to U.S. $13.20 a kilo). It is the top favorite fruit of Cubans and popular among other Latin Americans.
Sugar apples and the related atemoya bring U.S. $2.00 a pound (U.S.$4.40 a kilo) at the packing house and are reported to gross U.S. $1,000 per acre (U.S. $2,471 per hectare) a week during the fruiting season.
Passionfruit, which are harvested on the ground after they fall off the vine, net the grove owner up to U.S. $3.00 a pound (U.S. $6.60 a kilo), while lychee bring the same price as the longan.
Eventually the supply and demand will balance off and prices will decline for many of these new tropical fruit crops currently in production. In spite of this, the grower should still be able to make a comfortable profit at only a fraction of the present market price.
In the meantime the search continues, a search to discover new, untried tropical fruit crops for South Florida that will bring the grove owner top dollar from a U.S. public seeking exotic new taste treats.
ESTIMATED ACRES IN COMMERCIAL PRODUCTION FOR FLORIDA
|Atemoya (Annona hybrids)||30||acres|
|Avocado (Persea americana)||12,500||"|
|Banana, plantain (Musa hybrids)||350||"|
|Barbados cherry (Malpighia glabra)||25||"|
|Carambola (Averrhoa carambola)||150||"|
|Guava (Psidium guajava)||50||"|
|Jaboticaba (Myrciaria cauliflora)||5||"|
|Lime (Citrus X 'Tahiti')||7,000||"|
|Longan (Euphoria longana)||60||"|
|Lychee (Litchi chinensis)||200||"|
|Mamey sapote (Pouteria sapota)||300||"|
|Mango (Mangifera indica)||2,900||"|
|Papaya (Carica papaya)||350||"|
|Passionfruit (Passiflora edulis)||35||"|
|Pineapple (Ananas comosus)||250||"|
|Sapodilla (Manilkara zapata)||30||"|
|Sugar apple (Annona squamosa)||60||"|
Observation: It is only in the last few years that commercial groves have been planted to most of the tropical fruit crops presented in this paper. Acreages for some, such as the carambola double and triple on a yearly basis.
DATE: July 1987
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