Dragon fruit (pitahaya, pitaya) is an exotic plant, the first mention of which can be found in the ancient Aztecs. Today the pitahaya tree is grown in Mexico, some countries of Central and South America, Vietnam, Israel, but it is exported all over the world. Dragon fruit has become extremely popular due to its unusual look, delicately sweet flavor, pleasant honey-like aroma, and a lot of health benefits. But why is dragon fruit so expensive? Is it worth the money? Let’s find out.
How much does dragon fruit cost? In the USA, according to Walmart, dragon fruit costs $5.38 each, but the price may go up to $15 per one dragon fruit, depending on the size, color, ripeness, and country of origin. On average, one dragon fruit weighs 200-300 g, so the dragon fruit price per kg is $21.50.
Why is dragon fruit so expensive? Here are the 6 main reasons why dragon fruit is so expensive:
- Expensive shipping fees and taxes
- The demand far exceeds the supply
- Short shelf life and difficult storing
- Laborious growing conditions
- A lot of health benefits
- Heavy advertising made dragon fruit a popular and expensive superfood
Let’s dive into each of these reasons and see if a dragon fruit is worth the price.
Expensive Shipping Fees and Taxes
The main reason why dragon fruit is so expensive is expensive shipping. Since it is grown in Mexico, South and Central America, it needs to be exported to the rest of the world. Dragon fruit is very fragile and starts deteriorating quickly when in contact with other objects, so each fruit should be wrapped in special paper or put in a small box to keep them away from other food, moisture, direct sunlight, and temperature changes. Due to this, the dragon fruit price can go up as high as $15 per fruit. On average, one pitaya weighs 200-300 g and is not much bigger than a big apple or a medium mango, so 1 kg of pitaya usually costs $20-$21. In addition to shipping fees, the final consumer also has to pay for all regulatory charges and taxes.
Interestingly enough, dragon fruit is also grown in the USA, namely in California, Hawaii, and Florida, but the production is not on a large scale due to the poor weather conditions affecting these states – hurricanes, wildfires, and even droughts. Most of the dragon fruit in the USA comes from Vietnam, so the shipping fees are massive. Dragon fruit prices in America can go down a bit in season which lasts from June to September, but during the rest of the year, dragon fruit remains steadily expensive. If you ever happen to travel to Mexico, Vietnam, or Thailand, you should stock up on pitaya which in season costs only 40 baht ($1.30) for a kilo. And it is not surprising since growing dragon fruit locally is much cheaper than exporting it overseas.
Demand Is Much Greater Than Supply
Are dragon fruits rare? Dragon fruit grows in Mexico, Central America, and South America, but is shipped all over the world. The demand for dragon fruit still exceeds the supply, so it is pretty rare. If you see fresh and ripe dragon fruit in your local store, grab it!
As of now, according to the Agricultural Marketing Resource Center, the demand for dragon fruit in the USA far exceeds the supply, so the price inevitable goes up. Dragon fruit is not easy to find in a ordinary grocery shop, but you can try your luck and go to a specialty store where all exotic fruit and vegetables are sold. Usually, dragon fruit is sold out fairly quickly, but your chances increase if you buy dragon fruit in June-September. Dragon fruit became extra popular thanks to its health benefits ( a lot of vitamic C which strengthens the immune system), mildly syrupy-sweet flavor and delicate honey-like aroma with floral and grassy hints.
Short Shelf Life and Difficult Storing
Ripe dragon fruit quckly deteriorates – it needs to be stored in the fridge wrapped in a paper towel for not longer than 3 days. If you want to buy a dragon fruit for a special occasion, we recommend bying slightly unripe fruits that do not have a bright skin yet and are firm. Dragon fruit cannot be stored for over a week, so the price goes up significantly. Shop workers need to create a temperature of 45 and 50 degrees Fahrenheit, which is best suited for preserving dragon fruit for longer. Add long transportation to difficult storing conditions, and you will understand why the price of dragon fruit is extremely high.
Laborious Growing Conditions
Dragon fruit grows on cacti in countries with a humid tropical climate (Thailand, Vietnam, Mexico, etc.). Unlike other fruits, dragon fruit really rakes its time to grow – it can take up to half a year for a cactus to sprout after it was planted, and another 3 years before the cactus bears dragon fruit. Farmers have to dedicate 3 years before they actually start making money. A lot of plants die and never bear fruit due to unfavorable weather conditions like droughts, temperature drops, or heavy rain. Dragon fruit bears fruit after 30-50 days of flowering, like other trees, and can produce 5-6 harvests per year. Since all workers have to look after the plant manually, their labor becomes expensive.
Even though countries like Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam grow dragon fruit on a large scale to export later and can get over 30 tons of fruit per hectare annually, the demand for the fruit still far exceeds the supply. Also, a lot of the fruit goes bad because of improper shipping and storing, which also contributes to the high price of dragon fruit.
That said, before farmers actually start making money selling dragon fruit, they have to dedicate 3 years and make a lot of investements, and not all cacti will actually give profit. There is a big competition in the dragon fruit growing niche, so farmers have to put a lot of funds into the business to ensure their products are of high quality and taste nice. All this contributes to a high price of dragon fruit overseas.
A Lot Of Health Benefits
Why is dragon fruit good for you? Due to the high content of vitamin C, dragon fruit strengthens the immune system. It contains B vitamins, iron, calcium phosphorus, proteins, fiber, and niacin. Dragon fruit is good for those suffering from endocrine diseases, and it has a beneficial effect on the cardiovascular system.
Dragon fruit is rich in vitamins, especially vitamin C, proteins, iron, fruit acids, antioxidants, fiber, dietary fiber and minerals. The tiny black seeds contain a lot of tannin, which is good for eyesight. Pitaya removes toxins, improves bowel function, neutralizes free radicals, improves well-being in chronic diseases and arthritis, and regulates blood sugar levels, which is especially necessary for people with diabetes. Dragon fruit strengthens the immune system and is a good prevention of respiratory diseases and asthma. The calorie content of pitaya is very low, only 50 kcal per 100 g, so you can safely include it in your diet. Dragon fruit quenches thirst, since it is 85% water.
The high content of ascorbic acid impoves the protective properties of the body and helps fight flu, SARS, scurvy. Dragon fruit has a beneficial effect on the state of blood vessels and the heart, increases the number of leukocytes in the blood, and fights against anemia. It removes excess water from the body, which helps the kidneys and heart.
Pitahaya is eaten raw and can be combined with other fruit, for example, banana, pear, kiwi, pineapple, strawberries. To make dragon fruit taste better, serve it slightly chilled – put the fruit in the fridge for 1-3 hours. In addition, dragon fruit normalizes the functioning of the stomach and intestines and has a beneficial effect on the cardiovascular and endocrine systems.
Is dragon fruit any good? Dragon fruit is an excellent source of vitamin B and C which strengthen your immune system. Dragon fruit has a delicate syrupy-sweet grassy taste with notes of honey, vanilla, and flowers. Ripe dragon fruit has a creamy texture with tiny black seeds reminding of kiwi.
The last but not least reason why dragon fruit is so expensive is its massive popularity and heavy advertising. Dragon fruit is a real superfood thanks to all the above-mentioned health benefits, so it is extensively advertised on social media platform, movies and lifestyle magazines. Dragon fruit draws the attention of millions of people with its attractive look, unusual creamy texture with tiny black seeds, a number of health benefits, and of course, delicate, sweet flavor with hints of honey and vanilla. Such loud advertising leads to enormous demand and lack of supply, which makes dragon fruit so expensive.
The Bottom Line
Is dragon fruit worth the price? Dragon fruit is definitely worth the price since it is rich in antioxidants, high in fiber and prebiotics, good for strengthening the immune system, has a delicate syrupy sweet and grassy taste, and honey-like pleasant aroma as well as an unusual exotic look.