Due to the rising costs of growing tomatoes, peppers and other greenhouse vegetables in Antalya, Turkey, some producers, like Bilal Bayram, are switching to the cultivation of pitaya, the so-called "dragon fruit."
Bayram had his first first harvest last year, and this season the fruit is being sold at a price of 1.75-2.5 US dollars per piece. Like all cacti, the pitaya does not need a lot of water, and it can be grown with organic fertilizers, which reduces costs and makes them more predictable. He started with an area of 1500 m2, on which he planted 1500 plants.
The harvesting started exactly a year after the planting, and the producer is very pleased with the prices paid. According to him, in the first year, they oscillated between $ 1 and $ 2.5 for each fruit, depending on their size. The grower also says that production costs are low and believes that pitaya can be a good alternative for many producers in the region. The fruit's yield turned out to be higher than planned. He expected to obtain 300-500 fruits in the first year, but in fact he harvested 2000-3000 fruits.
Another important advantage is the reduction of labor costs for cultivation. When growing greenhouse tomatoes, 3-4 employees are required to harvest an area of 3000 m2, while only 1 person per 5000 m2 is needed for the harvesting of pitaya. Another advantage of the fruit is its long shelf life. At an air temperature of 4 °C, the fruit can be kept in storage for up to 34 weeks. This is good for both the producer and the trader, as it minimizes product losses.
Given these results, growers in other regions of the country are now starting to show interest in producing pitaya. For them, the benefits of the fruit are not limited to sales and marketing, but also to the production process itself, as it is cold-resistant and is not yet threatened by diseases and pests.
In the period from May to November, the product can be harvested in five separate periods. Besides, the fruit is very healthy. It is believed that it can help prevent diabetes. Producers in Turkey sell their crops at a price of about $ 2.5, while in some EU countries their retail price reaches 9 Euro per fruit. In the local market, the retail price for pitaya fruit reaches $ 6.5–11.5.