Though peculiar looking to some, cherimoya are readily accepted by western tastes and have become a favourite sub-tropical fruit. Demand greatly exceeds supply, with fruit commanding high wholesale and retail prices (particularly in Japan), but costs are high (labour, pruning, pollination, pest control and irrigation) with potential major crop losses from frost, fruit splitting and opossums.
Fruit must be of good size and colour, have no defects or decay, and be handled with care (Annona fruits are relatively soft and bruise easily). Fruit must look good until it is consumed, or at least until it is purchased. The main qualities that consumers appear to want are smooth, creamy, juicy flesh with excellent flavour and unblemished skin.
Good money can be made for top-quality cherimoya exported to Japan, where the fruit are widely known. They are sold in speciality fruit stores where Japanese retailers and consumers regard them as the best exotic fruit available. They seem to prefer, and expect, perfectly shaped, well-coloured, blemish-free fruit of 450650g, with few seeds. The window for New Zealand fruit is very tight (only about 12 months), so this market shouldnt be depended on too much. Californian and Chilean cherimoya cover the Japanese market needs for most of the year. Another market is California, where they know the fruit and will accept a lesser grade in regards to shape and blemishes, taking fruit ranging from 400g1,000g.
Little is known of cherimoya in New Zealand as they are a relatively new crop that are only just beginning to be sold in local shops. They have a good selling position in the market as they are harvested locally from June till October, when the range of fresh fruit is limited and few other subtropical fruit are available. The public just need to become aware they exist, then, once their deliciousness has been tasted, word will spread and the market will become huge.
Although the fruit are popular throughout South America, Central America and Japan, their commercial potential in Asian, European and North American markets has only recently been recognised. Thailand, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Singapore, China and Malaysia are possible markets who are used to sweet fruits similar to cherimoya (like the squamosa and soursop) and know and like them. In response, commercial orchards have been developed in New Zealand, California, Chile, Spain and Australia.
Cherimoya have natural market protections that stop oversupply. They are limited to where they can grow, being frost-sensitive (only commercially grown in the north of New Zealand), and the fruit have a short shelf life (ready to eat in 510 days) so cant be stored for long periods, although this can be extended by up to five weeks if theyre stored in a controlled atmosphere.
Frozen cherimoya pulp, with the seeds removed by hand, is sold in Chile.
A Dr Ernesto Saavedra from the University of Chile, who experimented with growth regulators, developed a cherimoya 1015cm wide and weighing up to 1.8kg, symmetrical, easy to peel, seedless, with 25% more flesh than ordinary cherimoya. The only drawback being the large fruit were subject to cracking.
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