Mexico works towards papaya exporters' association

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Mexico works towards papaya exporters' association

Mexico accounts for the majority of U.S. papaya imports while the industry is also looking to boost other market avenues such as Canada and Europe. To make better use of the opportunities available, the industry is working towards the creation of a Mexican Papaya Exporters' Association. Nazario Rodríguez Guerra represents an existing group of exporters called Propapaya, and he gives a breakdown of the season this year and what lies ahead.

With an average shipment of 140-160 containers per week Mexico is a papaya exporting powerhouse, with Maradol as its main variety spread across 17 growing zones around the country.

Rodríguez Guerra says 80% of production is concentrated in 10 states with the fruit available all year due to different climates. The output varies geographically however, with the most advanced zones producing 80-100 metric tons (MT)/ha, while other regions only yield 20-30MT/ha.

He says strong demand for papayas has meant exports have mainly been for fresh fruit.

"Our exports continue growing, recovering from last year's problem," he said.

Food safety and quality

The problem he is referring to is a a salmonella outbreak that spread across 23 U.S. states, which led to the U.S. Department of Agriculture tightening quarantine measures in terms of the level of laboratory testing and sampling.

For its part the Mexican government is backing a MXN10 million (US$708,975) campaign to push the health benefits, quality and safety of its papayas in the U.S. The industry is pushing for better health and safety, seeking to improve its positioning with U.S. consumers.

"Our main difference is the quality and health of the fruit. Important campaigns have been introduced to reduce the risks, fostering hygenic food handling through Good Agricultural Practices (GAP)," adds Rodríguez Guerra.

"This has helped many growers today to have certifications in the farms and packinghouses."

He says the main challenge for the industry is quality and health standard regulations to be able to comply with both national and international expectations.

On the production front, Rodríguez Guerra highlights that rain this year has worked in favor of papaya crops.

"We haven't had major problems with this, except for the case of growers in Oaxaca that were affected by Hurricane Carlotta in June.

"The threats we have in all seasons are normal, particularly pests, but fortunately Mexican growers have a lot of experience in reducing health risks and taking countermeasures."

Destination markets

The representative says 65% of the U.S.'s papaya imports come from Mexico.

"Currently 90% of our export papayas are directed to the United States, we are the biggest exporter of fresh papayas.

The remaining 10% goes to Canada, where papaya demand is growing. Mexico's main competitors are Belize, Guatemala and to a lesser extent Brazil.

When it comes to diversification, he says the European market is an objective for the Mexican industry, which is carrying out postharvest research into this with government organizations to help improve fruit management.

Locally, Guadalajara, Monterey, the Federal District and Tijuana are the main trading areas.

Exporters' Association

Rodríguez Guerra says the industry is working on the creation of a Mexican Papaya Exporters' Association that would act as a moderator and negotiator.

"It would have the function of monitoring the production and export of papayas. For this there will be a supervision department that is responsible for ensuring the papayas are healthy and meet the requirements of international standards.

"The association would only include exporters that are found to be working well and that are committed to papaya health and quality."

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