An exotic fruit originating in Malaysia is now being grown in Puerto Rico and could become a good source of income for its farmers. Ten years ago, the U.S. Department of Agriculture began a study on the varieties of rambutan at the Tropical Agriculture Research Station in the western Puerto Rican city of Mayagüez, Puerto Rico. The idea of growing rambutan arose because of the decline in agriculture in the island’s central zone, the station’s coordinator and research plant physiologist, Dr. Ricardo Goenaga, told Efe. He said that because sugar cane was disappearing from the mountainous region and moving to areas of flatter terrain, the former lands were becoming available for other crops, but farmers had barely any alternative crops to cultivate. “We think that the cultivation of rambutan could be one of those alternatives for farmers,” Goenaga said. “We understand that it’s a very profitable crop and lends itself to exportation. If we manage to export this fruit to the U.S. East Coast, where there’s a population of Asian origin that likes this crop a lot, then it would be even more profitable,” he said.
Rambutan is a small fruit that grows in clusters with a sweet but mildly acidic taste similar to grapes. It grows on a medium-sized tree and has a very attractive appearance due to its leathery red rind covered with soft hair-like tendrils. “The market for rambutan in Puerto Rico at this time is excellent. The fruit is selling very well. If we can export it, definitely, it’s a very big market that could bring a rather large economic injection to the economy of Puerto Rico,” Goenaga said. The study is in the final phase of data gathering and analysis regarding the quality of the fruit, resistance to disease and insects and production. Soon, recommendations will be offered to all those farmers interested in producing it.
Goenaga said that the fruit has a lot of favorable possibilities because of its nice flavor and its acceptance by all sectors of the public, including children. “It’s had a lot of acceptance among children, which is certainly an advantage because nowadays they’re not very accustomed to the consumption of fruits,” he added.
Rambutan is also grown in Central America and Ecuador, where it is known, respectively, as “mamón chino” and “achotillo.”
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