The pineapple market has been brisk in the last few years with a combined sales volume of over 100 million baht. Major buyers are hotels in Phuket which serve the tropical fruit to their guests and tourists.
Vichai Saetan who owns a 30-rai pineapple orchard says Phuket pineapples are in great demand in the market. His orchard produced more than 100,000 pineapples last year which were insufficient for distribution.
Phuket pineapples are popular among tourists. We have never had enough supplies to meet consumer demand. Our pineapples sell like hot cakes. Consumption here in the province alone exceeds the total supply, he said.
Farmers normally plant pineapples in between rubber trees to make full use of the land.
According to the Phuket agriculture office, pineapple fields in Talang and Katoo —the only pineapple-producing districts—cover about 4,500 acres. The provincial specialty pineapple was registered as a geographical indicator or GI —a kind of trademark--by Thailand's Intellectual Property Department in 2009.
Phuket has an increasing number of pineapple growers in the districts where they’re grown. Last year’s export value was over 100 million baht. It’s a growing market and pineapple planters help each other here, said a specialist of Phuket Agriculture Office, Panapach Krajansri.
Phuket commerce officials said more than 30 planters have applied for GI registration from the European Union’s Intellectual Property Office. If approved, Phuket pineapples will be certified and granted an official label. The GI label will boost future exports and prices should be higher.
Applications for geographical indicators must be thoroughly screened by the European Union. It must inspect the quality of the fruit and ensure that its taste is stable. GI-labelled pineapples will indirectly promote Phuket as a resort and differentiate themselves from other pineapples in the international market, said Phuket commerce official, Prakong Rakwong.
The Phuket Tourism Association is also looking at the possibility of introducing pineapple extract, known as bromelain, to spa operators as a skin care preparation.
Phuket recently launched a pineapple trading centre, the first of its kind in the province, aiming at penetrating markets in neighbouring countries given the commercial advantages in 2015 when Southeast Asia becomes the ASEAN Economic Community.