Originally a crop traded only by the Indigenous people of Central and South America, pineapples are now grow commercially on four continents and are the most popular tropical fruit.
A tricky crop to plant, pineapple plants produce fruit once every 15-22 months. Even commercially, pineapples take patience. They also have to grow in very specific climates: dry and tropical. Therefore, commercial production of the pineapple has had to find homes with climates that cater to this picky fruit.
What States Grow Pineapples?
Hawaii and Puerto Rico are the United States’ biggest commercial pineapple growing regions. Despite the majority of pineapples sold in the U.S. being imported, there is some commercial production in Hawaii, Puerto Rico, California, and Florida.
The Hawaiian center for commercial pineapple production is on Oahu, where Dole’s original plantation still serves as a tourist attraction. Primarily raised for canning, the pineapples grown in Hawaii were not originally exported as a fresh crop.
The canning method is how Dole got their start in the pineapple industry in 1885. Recently, there has been more focus on growing pineapples in Hawaii as a fresh crop.
Dole moved 75% of its operations to the Philippines due to rising costs of labor, production, and shipping in Hawaii. However, some pineapple farms still exist on Oahu and act as commercial plantations.
These other farms face the same production obstacles as Dole and are therefore not the primary suppliers of fresh pineapple in the continental United States.
This information was found in the Origin and Distribution section of this article on pineapple published by Purdue Horticulture.
Pineapple farms are also located on Maui and Lanai, but much like Oahu, they started with canning farms and transitioned to growing a fresh pineapple crop.
All Hawaiian pineapples are grown below 3,000 feet and are situated in the valleys at the base of the islands’ mountains.
Though a United State’s Territory and not a state, the United States does claim Puerto Rico as one of the primary stateside producers of pineapple. The town of Lajas is the capital of pineapple production in Puerto Rico and is a cultural staple.
Though it has the right dry, tropical climate, Lajas has a small crop yield so it is not considered a primary commercial hotspot for pineapple imports in the United States.
Because the pineapples in Florida require a lot of extra care, the farms there do not grow bulk crops. These farms are primarily on the Treasure Coast which includes Indian River, St. Lucie, and Martin counties.
Florida’s pineapple production takes place in either home gardens or in specially created landscapes for pineapple growth in the Southern part of the state.
California also has some small-scale pineapple production farms. Like Florida, California’s pineapples are grown in either specially created landscapes or in private gardens more so than commercial grow operations. Because pineapple is drought resistant, it does well in California’s dry seasons. These farms are primarily on California’s southern coasts.
What Countries Grow Pineapples?
The majority of pineapple crop is imported to the United States from Central and South America and Mexico. Though the United States does grow pineapple, these commercial farms cannot keep up with the country’s consumer demand. Pineapple is the most popular tropical fruit.
Costa Rica, the Phillipines, and Brazil are the world’s largest commercial pineapple producing countries.
Global pineapple production in 2019 was 28.18 million metric tons. Costa Rica produced 3.33 million metric tons of pineapple in 2019.
Other countries that lead pineapple production include Indonesia, China, India, Thailand, Nigeria, Mexico, and Colombia.
In the United States, pineapple primarily is imported from Costa Rica, Ecuador, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, and Panama.
Pineapples are extremely susceptible to damage during transport, so most countries import pineapples from the growing regions nearest to them. This limits the opportunity for the fruit to be damaged.
Like most other crops, pineapples have to pass a quality test before they are sold to consumers. Here you can see some of the grading regulations for pineapples in the US.
Despite the wide and varying geographic locations of pineapple production, all of these locations have similarities.
With dry, tropical coasts, they can accommodate the pineapple’s need for a unique climate. Overwhelmingly, pineapple crops are grown on these coasts and the drier climates yield the largest crop.
Where Do Pineapples Grow Naturally?
Pineapples still grow in the wild in Brazil and Paraguay. They also have become part of the ecologic systems in Costa Rica, Trinidad, and Guatemala, and Honduras. These wild pineapples are much smaller and more bitter than those commercially grown and then sold in grocery stores.
Where Do Pineapple Plants Originate?
Pineapples began as a wild and natural crop in Brazil and Paraguay along the Parana-Paraguay River. Long before European settlers had landed in the Americas, Indigenous groups were eating, trading, and growing pineapple throughout Central and South America.
Pineapple crowns were often seen by these groups as symbols of friendship and hospitality. Across Central and South America, pineapples were placed outside of dwellings as a welcome to guests.
Europeans were introduced to the pineapple in the 1500s when Christopher Columbus and other explorers landed in the Americas.
They then took the pineapple to the Philippines for trading and eventually Hawaii and Guam. Portuguese traders took pineapple seeds to India and also introduced the pineapple to Africa’s coasts.
Captain Cook planted pineapples in islands in the South Pacific in the 1600s. There were also failed attempts to grow pineapples in Israel, Australia, and Europe, but these climates were not favorable to the crop even in greenhouse climates.
It has been in the past 100 years that pineapples have gained their worldwide popularity and have become one of the largest commercially produced tropical fruits.
Dole, established in 1885 on Oahu was the leading pineapple producer exporting the fruit and canned varieties of the fruit from Hawaii and making up 70% of canned pineapple productions. However, as transport and labor prices rose, Dole was forced to move its operations to the Philippines.
Costa Rica is now the top exporter of pineapples making up 11% of the world’s yearly pineapple production.
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