The Worsening Pineapple Crisis

Weather-related crop problems in the world’s largest canned pineapple producers, Thailand, Philippines and Indonesia, as well as problems in Del Monte’s Kenya plantation, have brought production levels down and caused further complications which are making the supply even worse.

El Niño hit Indonesia last year and excessive rain during the last quarter will require some months for the plants to recover.

In Kenya, Del Monte Foods did not renew the lease on its pineapple plantation, with unconfirmed reports that thousands of acres were not producing, that its cannery had been closed down for months at the end of 2015, and that it is now shut down.

Thailand has had chaotic weather, with severe droughts and severe flooding simultaneously in different parts of the country, and is suffering its fourth consecutive small pineapple harvest. The result has been less fruit and cutthroat competition among canneries for the dwindling amounts of raw materials.

A further complication is the tendency of farmers to pick the fruit unripe and smaller than usual, resulting in fruit which rings are too small for the larger foodservice size cans, and whose juice yield is down. This has contributed to further drive Thai pineapple prices up.

Worse still, the immature fruit picked has high levels of tannins, which cause a blackening of the insides of cans and of the pineapple, especially in pineapple packed in its own juice.

In order to solve this problem, packers have adopted different tactics: Some simply avoid packing in juice until they can guarantee the supply of fully ripe fruit, which they estimate will be towards mid 2016. Others are packing in lacquered cans, either gold or white, which is causing other issues, including product that is bland tasting with lifeless color, has a shorter shelf life and the possibility of the lacquer itself impregnating the taste and color of the canned pineapple.

All this has driven international buyers to China and Vietnam, where packers are dealing better this year with the increased demand than they had in previous years. Prices have remained below the levels of the Thai product, and there is still availability of product, especially for smaller orders.