Mexico forms association to unify papaya exporters
Since the 2011 salmonella scare that shook the Mexican papaya industry, exporters have been forced to reevaluate their standards to keep the industry afloat.
As a response to the industry's needs, Proexport AC Papaya was formed this September to bring various levels of the production chain together.
Association manager Anebella López Gaxiola said the group works with Mexico's largest exporters to help maintain the nation as a top producer of the fruit.
López said Mexico already has the national committee of the Papaya Productive System that encompasses various industry players, including producers, researchers and exporters.
Proexport AC Papaya, however, focuses on exporters, a group that faced serious complications working with the United States during the salmonella scare.
She noted the association was born from exporter need to have an agency that responded to their unique problems and the situations the sector was going through. It seeks to align a certification process that is currently distributed across various channels.
"They had already been thinking about the need to create this for about two years but what pushed it was the warning issued by the FDA [Food and Drug Administration] on Mexican papayas," she said.
The organization's objectives include standardization of the production process, packaging and member exports, as well as having a third party safety verifier.
"That is something very important that the association is considering," she said.
"Having a third party verifier from outside of the company to come and certify that what this production-export company is doing, that complies with the standards set by the association.
"The second step is to invite other companies, including packers and producers, to become members of the association, to adopt the same quality standards that are being developed in the association and to take on a third verifier to have more consistency in product safety," she said.
Other association goals include research to innovate and improve certain processes taking place.
FDA warning impact
López said when the first alert was launched last year, exports of the product declined in the U.S., the top buyer of Mexican papayas. The number of requirements asked for at the border went up, complicating business.
"The week-to-week volume of papaya entering the U.S. diminished drastically because producers began to gather all of the information they were asking for at the border, to have up-to-date certifications, things they had not done before," she said.
She added that the process is now more fluid and has become more agile but the alert was a wake up call for the industry to do things better.
"Yes there was an effect, but we feel that this is a push for Mexican papaya to be the best exporter with the best quality."
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