Brazil’s pitahaya sector, with mostly domestic consumption and limited exports to Canada, is busy ramping up its production to meet growing local demand before reaching more overseas markets. In this month of May the local season ends with 30% more production than the previous season.
Ricardo Martins, an agronomist at Ipagri, confirms: “We estimate about 3,000 hectares of pitahaya in Brazil, with production more concentrated in the south of the country. A small part of the production is exported mainly to Canada. Season December begins in.” and ends in May. Production in southern Brazil has been 30% higher than the previous year, with nearly 3,000 tons.
Ipagri is a state company that is part of the Agricultural Research and Rural Extension Company of Southern Brazil. Martins is an expert in pitahaya cultivation and is responsible for providing supervision and technical support to pitahaya growers in southern Brazil, serving more than 150 plantations in the region. His areas of work are sustainable agriculture, tropical soil management, biological control and organic farming.
Ricardo Martins (centre) with local Brazilian producers.
Commercial cultivation of dragon fruit in Santa Catarina began in 2010 with the Feltrin family from Turovo/SC. According to Martins, the main objective was to transform the areas of tobacco production and diversify the activities of the small rural estate, adding to the farmer’s income and quality of life.
“Our production is well organized in cooperatives, where we allocate most of the production for local consumption. A challenge we have is the organization of the small grower, the search for export markets and the popularity of the fruit in the country, as it is still an exotic fruit. More than 500 families work in this activity. Most are small farmers with commercial sales in the domestic market. Plantation is carried out according to a sustainable model with the use of pinto peanuts in southern Brazil (Archis Pinted) as a permanent ground cover. We use various organic farming strategies, such as organic fertilizers, use of Trichoderma, biological control of pests and diseases, and minimal use of pesticides,” explains Martins.
He is also working on the development of new varieties of pitahaya suited to local conditions. “The company has developed new varieties that do not require labor for pollination, mainly including white-fleshed and red-skinned varieties. We may be able to sell these new varieties to other countries, But for now they are only available in Brazil. Also we maintain a good collaboration with Embrapa (a Brazilian agricultural research company) for the development of new varieties of pitahaya,” he says.
Ricardo Martins (left) with a local Brazilian producer.
Ipagri published a book on pitahaya cultivation last year, which includes key technical information on the crop. “We have disseminated technical material for pitahaya production. Our work is focused on family farmers in the state of Santa Catarina in southern Brazil. We collaborate in research and extension with other South American countries. In Brazil and South America it is currently is also a new crop. , with the exception of Ecuador, which is the largest producer and exporter of pitahaya in South America, where they have been cultivating it for a long time,” says Martins.
As they continue to teach and work to improve smallholder farmers’ pitahaya cultivation, the Martins believe they will grow to reach many more export markets over the next five years. “We plan to expand production in southern Brazil with more than 500 hectares in the coming years. In the country, production is also expected to exceed 5,000 hectares in the coming years,” concluded the expert.