Article by: Hari Yellina
Currently, rambutans are in greater abundance. According to Andres Ocampo of HLB Specialties in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, the rambutan season in Guatemala is in full swing. “We’ve had our first arrivals for a month, and Guatemala is starting to fill up with nice quality fruit,” he says. Guatemalan fruit will continue to arrive until November, potentially even December, since the growing zones transition between August and September. At the same time, Mexico, which started harvesting rambutan a few weeks after Guatemala, began doing so as well, and supplies have been steadily expanding. “However, I don’t expect Mexico to be fully operational for another few weeks.” “However, volume is absolutely increasing,” Ocampo says. Mexico’s season runs from October through November.
Given the rambutan’s developing territories, Ocampo is keeping an eye out for storm systems that could disrupt supplies. “There was a system over the Pacific just a few days ago, but it hit just north of the rambutan-producing zones, which are largely in the south of Mexico. It did bring some rain and clouds, which slowed the maturation process but not significantly,” he explains. Later in the summer, attention shifts to the Atlantic and the systems that are forming there. Overall, volumes appear to be similar to last year’s and may even be somewhat higher than the rambutan volume thus far in 2021.
“The logistics of bringing the product to the United States is the largest challenge right now.” The amount of available airspace is limited and expensive. Since the pandemic, freight rates have risen, and we are now facing significant cost problems, particularly air freight. “This has an impact on the selling prices we can provide in the United States,” says Ocampo. While acquiring space in 2021 was already difficult, things have gotten even more difficult in 2022. “The major freight airlines are relocating their planes to more profitable routes, leaving us with less options and allowing the airlines to raise costs.” “Airfreight is becoming a bigger and bigger part of the fruit price,” he continues.
That means that greater rambutan prices don’t always equate to better returns for growers. “It’s just to pay the cost of flying travel, which is higher this year than last.” “We’re attempting to give them the same pricing as last year, even if it’s already less profitable for them due to higher costs,” Ocampo explains. While demand for rambutan has been strong thus far, assuaging worries that higher-priced fruit will affect demand, the question now is whether demand will remain strong as more local summer fruits become available and customers have more options. Also, how does overall inflation influence consumer purchasing decisions?
“It’s hard to predict how the season will end.” However, an increasing number of merchants are stocking the item and increasing their purchases year after year. “As more people become aware of it, they begin to demand it,” Ocampo says. “Even in this economic downturn, we may see growth.” So, I’m hopeful, but cautiously hopeful.”