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Lychee—Specialty Crop Profile
The principal product derived from lychee is fresh fruit. In production areas where the quantity of fruit harvested exceeds demand, a range of processed products is produced that includes: whole in-shell and peeled dried fruit, processed and canned fruit, purees, and drinks.
World commercial lychee production is estimated to exceed 1.8 million metric tonnes (MT) with the bulk of world production occurring in China (1.0–1.3 million MT). Exporting countries include China, Taiwan, Thailand, South Africa, Mexico, Mauritius, and Australia. Export of lychee into the Pacific islands is minimal with Tahiti importing small amounts from Australia. New Zealand currently imports small volumes from Thailand and Australia. In Hawai‘i, 2008 production was 105 MT which was sold at an average price of $6.05/kg paid to the farmer (NASS 2009).
Fresh lychee fruit is eagerly consumed by many people is well known for its flavor, juiciness, and texture. Lychee can be well suited, where favorable climatic conditions exist, to small-scale production particularly where there is no competition from large commercial orchards or cheap imported fruit. This is particularly relevant on Pacific islands, where air shipping has become very expensive.
Variety selection and plant spacing should be considered to allow high density planting. Recent plantings on commercial farms in Queensland are at densities of 600–700 trees/ha, which is considerably higher than a traditional density of 100–200 trees/ha. At high densities, yearly heavy pruning is undertaken after harvest to keep the trees small.
The real value of lychee is for its fresh fruit, particularly in a market that is not oversupplied. The production of lychee for processed product is unlikely to be economic unless high volumes of fruit are available. However a number of specialty products have emerged from production regions where fruit is produced in excess to demand. These include lychee wine and or mixed tropical fruit wines with lychee as a base.
Use in the Pacific
The distribution of lychee in the Pacific is limited to island groups north or south of 20° latitude. Lychee does not perform well in tropical zones. Hawai‘i and New Caledonia both have small commercial production areas that produce fruit for the local and tourist communities.
Lychee has a minimal contribution to the nutritional health of pacific communities given its limited distribution and commercialization in the Pacific. However, where it is produced it offers an important healthy fruit alternative to the community.
Original source of this article
This article is excerpted by permission of the publisher from:
Diczbalis, Y. 2011 (revised). Farm and Forestry Production and Marketing Profile for Lychee (Litchi chinensis). In: Elevitch, C.R. (ed.). Specialty Crops for Pacific Island Agroforestry. Permanent Agriculture Resources (PAR), Holualoa, Hawai‘i. © Permanent Agriculture Resources