Fyffes taps container technology to broaden market reach

Irish group’s Costa Rica base can now export fruit to growing markets in Russia and the Middle East

Minister of State for Trade and Development Joe Costello  with Rafael Amaya, managing director of B Braun’s subsidiary in El Salvador, earlier this week. Yesterday Mr Costello met Fyffes representatives in Costa Rica as part of a 12-day tour of Latin America.

Minister of State for Trade and Development Joe Costello with Rafael Amaya, managing director of B Braun’s subsidiary in El Salvador, earlier this week. Yesterday Mr Costello met Fyffes representatives in Costa Rica as part of a 12-day tour of Latin America.

 


New shipping containers will allow Fyffes to export fruit from Central America into growing markets in Russia and the Middle East, according to the managing director of the Irish company’s Costa Rican subsidiary.

Speaking on a visit by Minister of State for Trade and Development Joe Costello, Fyffes general manager for Central America Alasdair Macleod said the company had been exporting 120 atmosphere-controlled containers of bananas and pineapples a week to Scandinavian countries this year. The containers can keep the fruit fresh for 23 shipping days.

Advances in container technology that preserve fruit over 35 days of shipping could allow the company to export more produce into Europe, better quality food into Russia and more fruit into the Middle East.


Growing volumes
“As we grow our volumes, we will have to find a home for our fruit. These are markets that we would hope to sell our fruit in,” said Mr Macleod at Fyffes Bananas International in San José, the capital of Costa Rica that has been the Central American headquarters for Fyffes for the past decade.

Fyffes, Europe’s biggest banana importer with sales of about €1 billion, exports some 40 million boxes of bananas – roughly 4.5 billion bananas – and 8.5 million boxes of pineapples every year from farms in Costa Rica, Belize and Panama.

Ireland accounts for 10 per cent of the company’s exports.

The Costa Rican subsidiary has received requests for fruit from South Korea and New Zealand, and was looking at exporting into China “in a small way”, said Mr Macleod, who is originally from Scotland.

The company buys most bananas from farmers but owns about 6,000 acres of pineapple farmland in Costa Rica as well as smaller farms in Panama and Belize.

It grows about four million boxes of pineapples but is increasing this to five million this year and is aiming for eight million a year, which would represent 60 per cent of the pineapples it sells.


Pineapple sales
Mr Macleod believes Fyffes can grow pineapples sales in Europe where, based on current sales relative to the size of the population, it amounts to just two grammes a day, “the equivalent of a tea-bag”, he said.

Fyffes employs 75 people in Costa Rica and about 2,000 more on its farms in Costa Rica, Panama and Belize.

Bananas shipped to Europe unripened take between 14 and 18 days.

Mr Macleod said that only once in his 20 years in the business had he lost an entire shipload of fruit as a result of a ripe box of bananas prematurely ripening others on board the ship.

Management in the Costa Rica subsidiary of Fyffes includes two Irish executives – Margaret O’Cleirigh, finance director of the tropical sourcing and US business, and Philip O’Shea, finance director of the company’s pineapple division and special projects for the Latin America region.

Mr Costello travelled to Costa Rica with President Michael D Higgins on a 12-day tour of Latin America that included stops in Mexico and El Salvador.