Colombia-based La Dona Fruit, a leading producer and exporter of fresh golden pineapples and tropical fruits, says it is prepared to meet European demand for MD2 pineapples from Panama this summer, after adapting its business to mitigate the global coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.
La Dona has introduced strict hygiene measures to protect workers at its pineapple farm in La Chorrera, Panama. To guarantee the continuity of exports, the company says it has secured alternative airfreight and seafreight capacity where necessary.
Despite the pandemic, La Dona says its fruit quality and export volume remain consistent because of the resilience and adaptability of the workforce and its leaders.
“We’re exporting over 60 tonnes of pineapples a week by air and sea to retailers and wholesalers across Europe," said Paul Vergara, La Dona Fruit’s Director of Pineapple Operations. "Air cargo space is limited out of Central America currently, but we’ve worked hard to negotiate space and rates. Now every KLM flight leaving Panama has some of our pineapples on board.”
La Dona Fruit specialises in growing and supplying tropical fruits on the market, including: Golden pineapples, Hass avocados, Tahiti limes, and soon Kent
mangoes, from Panama, Colombia and Peru.
The brand stands out in Europe for its plant-ripened, premium quality, airfreighted pineapples. But La Dona says it is evaluating seafreight technologies that would enable its pineapples to arrive in optimum condition by sea.
“During the first few weeks of June we will trial shipping highly ripened pineapples under different ozone atmosphere conditions to gauge whether we can switch more airfreight volume to containers," Vergara said. "Nonetheless, we expect airfreight to return to normal by September as the airlines start to resume routes over the next two to three months.”
La Dona says it has retained all of its 70-plus workers throughout the Covid-19 mitigation plan and says no employees have contracted the disease.
“We’re taking everyone’s temperatures, everyone is wearing face masks, we’re stopping to wash hands every two hours, and we’re documenting anyone coming onto
the farm," Vergara said.
With exports set to increase by least 30-40 per cent between September and December, La Dona says it is vital to satisfy Europe’s traditional peak in demand.
“It’s going to be a strange year, and difficult to predict week by week," Vergara said. "Europeans usually consume local produce over the summer, while pineapple consumption rises again from September onwards. But anything could happen this summer, especially if some countries do have issues finding enough workers to pick local fruit.”