Pineapple : Queen of Fruits
Sitting beautifully in her crown and guarding herself with her pine, the MD2, Sugarloaf, Queen Victoria and Smooth Cayenne are pineapple varieties grown in Ghana mainly on the Eastern Corridor (Aburi- Nsawam), Coastal areas, Accra plains, Central region (Kasoa and Awutu areas) and the Volta region (Sogakope, Vakpo, Ho and Adidome.).
The MD2, proudly spreading its crown with a large yellow fruit is indeed a sight to behold. The hybrid originated in the breeding programme of the defunct Pineapple Research Institute in Hawaii that led to a more square-shaped beauty with fresh and bright colouring and fruit quality that is a selling point on the international market. Growing to a uniform size of about 1- 2.5kg and ripening evenly, the yellow beauty has a longer shelf life as compared to other varieties. Relatively, it has high brix (15 -17o Brix) and low acidity between 0.4- 0.45%. Both on the international and local markets, the MD2 has been described as super-sweet, self-ripening and having a longer storage life with yellow pulp that is compact and fibrous.
Smooth Cayenne, closely marking the former with respect to demand levels on the industrial and export markets has a fruit that has an average weight of 1.5–2.5 kg when ripe and yellow with a cylindrical shape. The Smooth cayenne variety has high fruit productivity, fresh colour, few slips, very good canning, leaves that are spineless and has very high fruit quality. The cylindrical princess has relatively low fiber, more juiciness and a rich mildly acidic flavour. It is however subject to disease with a relatively shorter shelf life but is prized for canning with sufficient fiber for slices and cubes as well as excellent flavour having sugar of about 13–19 o Brix.
The conical shaped sugar loaf has spines on its leafs and remains green with a skin that is difficult to peel when ripe and produces a lot of slips at the base of the fruit. Sugarloaf’s leaves on the plants and crowns pull out easily giving rise to the unreliable theory which believed that pineapple ripeness is indicated by the looseness of the leaves. The fruit is more or less conical, sometimes round and has a weight of 0.68–1.36 kg. Flesh is white to yellow, very sweet and juicy as indicated by its name. Sugarloaf is primarily grown for the local Ghanaian market since it is too tender for shipping.
Queen Victoria has a small fruit that averagely weighs between 0.5–1kg and like its siblings minus the sugar loaf has a full yellow skin when matured and ripe. The smallish cute damsel has a crispy pulp that is sweet (14–18 o Brix) with an excellent flavour and shelf life. This variety is demanded on the export market too and accounts for 2.5% of export rates.
Pineapple production averagely takes 12‐18 months from planting to harvest, depending on the soil quality, water availability, and other input used. Organic production can take the same time or longer than conventional production depending on the variety, water and fertilizing regime. Many organic smallholders in Ghana use no or very little inorganic fertilizer and no inorganic pesticides. Weeding is then mostly done by hand. When the fruit is almost ripe, each fruit is inspected by the buyer for its Brix value, shape, colour, and size. If it satisfies the quality standard, the fruit is harvested.
Non-organic pineapple is de-greened shortly before harvesting using a chemical to achieve uniform colour of the fruit; an activity that doesn’t happen in organic production. Pineapple harvest takes places all year round if planned out well leading to peak seasons for exports from October to December and from February to April/May. Pineapple is an off‐season fruit on the European market with low exports and low Prices in the rest of the year.
In Ghana, production of pineapple for export is geographically concentrated in the peri-urban zones along the coastal savanna near the capital, Accra; this can be attributed to the proximity of the International airport in Accra and of a major port in Tema. The perishability of the produce and underdeveloped transport networks in rural areas could be major contributing factors to these occurrences or farm concentration. The siting of major fruit processing industries or companies in the cities of Accra, Nsawam, Tema and its environs gives producers in these peri-urban areas a major advantage as compared to the rural population.
The fruit arguably is one of the world’s most healthy and high ranking detox foods rich in numerous nutrients and enzymes. The beauties are a low fat, cholesterol free source of nutrients. Pineapple is also a super booster for Vitamin C which is the body’s primary soluble antioxidant defending all aqueous areas of the body against free radicals that attack and damage normal cells and also prevents nausea including morning and motion sickness. It’s also rich in manganese which is essential in bone formation and the creation of certain enzymes while protecting the gums of the teeth leaving them healthy and strong. The Bromelain in the fruit helps in protein breakdown to amino acids. This property helps remove dead skin cells while fighting free radical damage, reducing age spots and fine lines and oiling the skin. For the heart, it has potassium that helps control heart rate and blood pressure.
On the average, small holder farmers (based on acreage under cultivation) grow about 25,000 slips or more and harvest about 18,000 fruits at the very least with an average production cost ranging between GHC 5,000–9,000. These are sold to processors and aggregators at varying prices with processors paying an average of 1gh per fruit but taking relatively longer to pay and aggregators paying as low as 0.40p per fruit but within a relatively shorter time. The export market offers higher prices but with more stringent rules raising cost of production and invariably giving off more revenue too.
These figures make pineapple farming capital intensive but very rewarding to both the farmer and nation with respect to revenue generated at the end of the growing season all things being equal.
In the end, the queening pine shows herself true by making all those it comes into contact with feel like royalty.