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Thursday, September 13, 2018

SUPERSWEET MD2 PINEAPPLE IN MALAYSIA (Part 2)

PINEAPPLE VARIETY MD 2 is known by its trade names as “Golden Ripe”, “Super Sweet”, "Rompine" or “Gold”. Compared to other pineapple cultivars, MD2 is better in several qualities. Among them are: uniform bright gold colour, sweeter taste, fourtimes Vitamin C content, lower fiber, lower acidity, thinner skin, smaller fruits at an average of 1.5 kg each, and longer shelf life. Additionally, because of its superior eating qualities, MD2 can command three times the price of other pineapple varieties. These are the major factors that have motivated pineapple planters to grow MD2. For example, pineapple planters in Ghana have replaced the Smooth Cayenne varieties with MD2. Because MD2 has longer shelf-life of 30 days compared to 21 days for other varieties, it performs better in long-distance shipping. Prior to MD2, consumers outside the tropics had to consume mostly canned pineapples. With the arrival of MD2, these consumers can finally enjoy fresh pineapples. The introduction of MD2 to Malaysia started in 2008 when MPIB bought 100,000 suckers from the Philippines. Pineapple Technology Development Division (BPTN), a division of MPIB, was put in charge of planting the pioneer batch before releasing the cultivar for industrial planting. Initially, suckers were sold at RM2.50 per stalk but eventually the cost was brought down to its present level of RM1.70. To bring down the cost MPIB had to work out a scheme that required registered planters to provide two suckers in return for every sucker they received from MPIB.

This scheme made it possible to increase MPIB’s sucker stock exponentially and eventually to bring down the cost. The scheme commenced in 2012 with the involvement of 16 industrial planters in Peninsular Malaysia with a total area of 55 ha. Currently, the majority of MD2 growers are located in Johor. In Perak, MD2 is only planted in Pengkalan Pegoh. In other states such as Pulau Pinang, Kedah, Selangor, and Pahang, the planting of the first batches has just begun. Planting MD2 is similar to planting other pineapple cultivars in terms of site preparation, cultural practices, final harvesting, and propagation. However, there are some differences in relation to disease control and hormone application. MD2 is prone to bacterial heart rot which is caused by Erwinia chrysanthemi and fungal black rot by Thielavipos paradoxa. Bacterial heart rot of pineapples was first reported in 1957 in Malaysia. These diseases are also regarded as a serious disease by pineapple planters of other varieties around the world. Growers of MD2 are required to spray fungicide benomyl 50% in the first week after planting. Other fungicides to be used include copper hydroxide 77%, Mancozeb 80% and Thiram 80%. For hormone application with the objective of inducing flowering, a mixture of  chemical namely140 ml of Ethrel (2-Chloroethylphosphonic acid), 180 g of urea fertilizer, and 18 L of water should be prepared for spray application. 50 ml of the mixture should then be watered onto shoot tips. Hormone application is best carried out when the plants’ stomata are opened which is before 9am and after 5:30pm. It is a known fact that pineapple stomata close during daytime to prevent water loss.

When all best practices are diligently carried out, MD2 pineapples are ready for harvesting for export at around 142 to 150 days after flowers are first formed. Resulting from Del Monte’s highly successful introduction of MD2 from Costa Rica to the global market in 1996, MD2 has become the most popular fresh pineapple variety for now. Costa Rica is today’s largest world exporter of MD2 fresh pineapples while Thailand and the Philippines are the largest producers of pineapples for canned pineapple. The United States of America is the largest fresh pineapple importer, followed by the European Union, Japan, Canada and France. Malaysia’s current fresh pineapple export markets are Middle Eastern countries. However, Malaysia plans to start exporting fresh pineapples, particularly MD2, to China in 2015. China has placed a request of 100 containers on monthly basis, but Malaysia can only supply 10 containers monthly at present. MD2 has a weight range between 1.3kg and 2.5kg. There are three grades - A, B and C - based on the weight of the fruits. Grade A pineapples are more than 1.7kg which would be selling at RM 3.20 (or more) per fruit, and these are mainly for export. Grade B pineapples are between 1.3kg to 1.6kg and Grade C pineapples are below 1.3kg. At time of this writing, the price is RM2.40 for Grade B and RM1.50 for Grade C. These are average farm prices at growing sites in Perak. For Malaysia to acquire larger market share, and to meet the target production of 700,000 MT in 2020, both smallholders and industrial planters will need to play a critical role. For that, MPIB has set up the MD2 Pineapple Unit to provide technical and funding assistance, especially to smallholders. The unit is led by the Director General of MPIB and it aims to nurture 20 new growers every year. Each grower is expected to plant a minimum 10 acres of MD2. MPIB has set a target of 300 acres of MD2 planting for 2015. Area size is expected to reach 5,000 ha in 2020. At the end of 2014, 2,250 ha had been planted with MD2, an increment of 18% from 2013. Total production for 2014 was 412,720 MT. MPIB is determined to drive Malaysia into becoming, once again, a prominent pineapple producer. With MD2 as the new lead, the pineapple industry in the country is poised for a bright future. Thanks.
By,
M Anem,
Senior Agronomist,
Bandar Baru UDA,
Johor Bahru, Johor,
Malaysia.
(5 Ramadan 1439H).

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