STARFRUIT (Averrhoa caramola) or Carambola or locally known as Belimbing Besi are one of the tropical fruits grown in Malaysia for many decades. Total planted area in 2011 are 1,320 hectare with estimated production of 12,437 tonnes especially in Selangor, Negeri Sembilan and Johore. In 2007 only 1,047 hectare of Starfruit was grown increase to 1,117 hectare in 2009 and this trend almost status-quo due to limited market access, high cost of production and uncertain ex-farm price. From my observation in few farms in Semenyih and Mantin seems that this industries depend on small market for export to Europe, China, Hong Kong and Middle East compare to other popular tropical fruits such as Banana, Papaya, Pineapple and Citrus. Malaysia are the largest exporter of starfruit in the world today to Europe market about 90% of the total exporters. Most of the starfruits are from the Malaysian Best Varieties B10 clone and B17 Clone.
The B10 flowers ready for fertilization process. The flowers blooms after manuring program with NPK 15:15:15 and NPK 16:16:16 (Using Yara Milla Brand) and bright sunlight. Peak flowering season in February-March and July-August every year. Other months the flower blooms according to the agriculture practices.
From my observation on the commercial starfruits farm with proper Good Agriculture Practices, about between 6 -12 young fruits appear each flowers stalk with sized about 1-2 cm long and it will fall accordingly due to natural cause. Only 2-5 medium size fruits (2-3 cm long) remain after few days old.
When the young starfruit reach 4-5 cm long was the most suitable size for thinning and bagging activities. Select only one fruits for bagging to ensure high quality fruits. Select the standard fruit formation without any damages or deformation. The bagging using old newspaper about 20 cm x 30 cm costs about RM 0.04 /piece. Cost of bagging RM 0.04/fruit and the rope RM 0.02/piece to make a total of RM 0.10 /fruits.
A skilled worker able to bag 800 - 1,000 fruits a day depending on the fruit heights and experience. A single tree of 4 years old able to produce 600 - 1,200 fruits for bagging. The bottom of the bagging paper push inside to make the bagging with round shape to make the young fruit has more space.
It takes 4-6 weeks from the bagging activities to harvest the fruits. The bagging paper normally indicate by different color code to ensure the harvesting index's. This farms using different type of news paper (Malay, Chinese and English Newspaper) to differentiate the harvesting index's. This tree has 1,220 bagged fruits for April 2012 harvesting seasons.
The matured starfruits are harvested by marketing requirements. For export purposes the workers have to select index 2-3 (Green fruit) and for domestic use using index 4-5 (Yellowish green). Ex-farm price for domestic market about RM !.50 - RM 2.00/ kg whereby ex-farm price for export market about RM 3.00/kg. The grading process was started at the collection center before sent to packaging house near the Semenyih Town.
This farms has SALM (Sijil Amalan Ladang Baik Malaysia) of one of the accredited farms in Selangor since 2 years ago. The farm owner manage to apply all the Good Agriculture Practices to ensure all the fruits are high quality and safe for human consumption. The certified fruits are using SALM sticker.
For exports purposes the high quality fruits are arranged in the special boxes with 18-24 fruits/box priced at RM 50.00 - RM 60.00 /box depend on the quantity, grades and export market. The box kept in the cold room for the consignment and inspection from official before export through various means.
Semenyih, Ulu Langat,
(28 Rabiulawal 1433H)