Nowadays, consumers are used to being able to buy many fruit and vegetable items all year long. Although in-season much is grown domestically, some fruit and vegetable varieties are almost exclusively imported. Papayas are one of these items and 97.7 percent of consumption is grown outside the US, according to the USDA. What is the impact of the coronavirus on availability of tropical and exotic items that are mostly sourced in South America?
Papayas from Brazil.
Air freighters from Brazil
“Our large papaya imports from Guatemala and Mexico are not significantly affected as they arrive by ocean and truck,” says Andres Ocampo with HLB Specialties. However, for papayas from Brazil it’s a different story. “Until last week, we were bringing them in by air.” The company had been able to fly its products on – sometimes empty – passenger planes. “With the number of passenger flights continuing to be reduced, HLB Specialties is now being forced to switch to freighters. The cargo airline HLB has been using flies from the State of Sao Paulo in Brazil to Miami on a regular basis, about five times a week. “We’ve been using this alternative to maintain fruit incoming, albeit at a higher cost,” said Ocampo. “We have also explored charter flights from Brazil that exclusively fly our product, but the distance (fuel needs) makes it too expensive to absorb for the products we handle. Switching to ocean freight from Brazil is not feasible due to transit times.”