North American papaya importer HLB Specialities is reporting an unusually large volume of small Golden papayas due to the effect of the current El Niño conditions in Brazil.
However, the unprecedented drought in the growing region means fruit is showing a high sugar content and intense sweet flavour due to its small size, the company said.
HLB Specialties is the largest importer of Brazilian papayas into the US and Canada. According to Caliman Agricola, HLB’s main Brazilian papaya supplier and one of the world’s largest growers and exporters of this fruit, the state of Espirito Santo normally receives 900-1200mm of rain per year. In 2015 the precipitation levels did not reach 600mm, which places a strain on production.
2015 marks the first year of goldenberries being imported to the US without the necessary cold treatment. Close to Colombia’s capital Bogotá, at 2,200 meters elevation, the Colombian government together with Aphis have declared a fruit-fly free area that is very suitable for growing goldenberries.
Hurricane Patricia did less damage to Mexican agriculture than what was initially predicted, and supplies of many Mexican imports, papaya included, have remained steady in its wake. With attractive prices luring more Guatemalan growers into the market, Central American imports have been increasing over the years.
“Supplies from Mexico have been steady and volumes from Guatemala are up this year,” noted Andres Ocampo of HLB Specialties. “As the market for papaya has grown over the last 10 years, the number of growers who export year-round there has grown from four or five to about 10.” Ocampo estimates that Mexico, Guatemala and Belize account for about 85 to 90 percent of papaya imports in the United States, and with Mexican supplies holding steady, the uptick in Guatemalan shipments has made for larger volumes in the United States.
ATLANTA — Papaya industry leaders got together at the Produce Marketing Association’s Fresh Summit 2015 to discuss forming a marketing order.
A marketing order — along with a national board to implement it — would increase sales and consumption of papayas through efforts to educate consumers, receivers and retailers about handling and usage best practices, said Homero Levy de Barros, president and CEO of Pompano, Fla.-based HLB Specialities.
At the retail level, edible fruit is too often improperly rejected because of a lack of knowledge about color or other factors, he said.
Levy de Barros said he sees generally strong support for a marketing order.
“All the major importers from Brazil, Mexico and Guatemala were positively in favor,” he said. “The growers/distributors from Belize and Jamaica said they were not convinced yet.”
ATLANTA — Members of the international papaya industry met Oct. 23 during the Produce Marketing Association Fresh Summit convention, here, to discuss the formation of a national board.
Homero Levy de Barros, owner of HLB Specialties in Pompano Beach, FL, a major papaya grower-shipper-importer, is spearheading the initiative and invited William Watson, the former head of the National Mango Association and National Watermelon Promotion Board, to discuss the process of getting a board up and running.
Levy de Barros opened by thanking the more than 30 members from the main papaya-producing regions in the United States, Mexico, Central America, South America and the Caribbean for their attendance at the meeting, which he said “is about 17 years late.”
Homero Levy de Barros has been around papayas his entire life. As a child growing up in Brazil, he ate them almost daily. Now as president of a tropical fruit company that bills itself as a papaya specialist, he sells them by the container. So there is very little he doesn’t know about the fruit.
And one thing he does know is that papayas have a much greater potential than they are currently realizing in the United States.
“The key is to better educate everyone in the supply chain, as well as consumers, about the many benefits of this fruit,” said Levy de Barros, who founded his company, HLB, 26 years ago in Germany and opened HLB USA in Florida 17 years ago.
Pompano Beach, FL-based HLB Specialties, a U.S. importer and tropical fruit specialist, has resumed importing fresh Colombian goldenberries, also known as cape gooseberries
Previously, the fruit had to undergo a 14-day quarantine treatment mandated by USDA before being distributed in the United States, which dramatically reduced shelf-life and increased costs. Now shipments from verified “fruit fly free zones” can enter the country without undergoing the cold treatment and HLB Specialties is the first to receive new shipments.
“Previously it was difficult and costly to handle Colombian Goldenberries because the cold-treatment would give us only about one week to sell, distribute, and have the shoppers enjoy the fruit at home,” said Andres Ocampo, HLB Specialties’ director of operations and Colombian himself. “With the new regulation we have two to three weeks shelf-life and can offer a much more competitive price.”
“Until now, organic Formosa (or Tainung) papayas were not commercially available in the US,” says Melissa Hartmann de Barros with HLB Specialties. “In an effort to meet customers’ increased demand for organically grown, non-GMO fruit, we’ve spent the past four years working with a grower from Mexico on developing the right product. We are the only importer to offer conventional as well as organic Formosa papayas in substantial quantities to support year-round programs.” HLB is involved in the entire supply chain, from seed to sales.
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