Colombian papaya industry 'transforming' into export business
While less than 1% of Colombia's significant papaya production is shipped overseas at present, an industry head believes things are about to change.
Demand in the country's domestic market is strong enough to absorb almost all of the 180,000 metric tons (MT) produced annually across 4,800 hectares, but Colombian Association of Fruit and Vegetable Growers (Aprocol) executive director Luis Felipe Bocanegra Henao says the industry is being tempted by opportunities further afield.
"Colombia is starting a transformation process toward the export sector," Bocanegra told www.freshfruitportal.com.
"This is a process that has ample opportunities for development, and probably in two or three years it will allow us to operate as a papaya-exporting country."
"Colombia is aiming to become a key fruit exporter, given its strategic geographical position and environmental offerings."
Aprocol has shipped 25 containers to Europe this season, where Bocanegra said the fruit was sold to major retail chains.
Colombia also ships to the U.S., and Bocanegra said the work plan agreed to by Aprocol, the United States Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), and the Colombian Agricultural Institute (ICA) was currently being updated.
"At the moment our main markets are Europe and the United States, but there are other natural markets like Ecuador, Chile, and the Caribbean islands, which will be developed as the industry consolidates the transformation process," he said.
Bocanegra also explained Aprocol has been developing an integrated production model for fruit exports that complies with international markets' requirements.
"We are establishing a postharvest plant that will have a cold storage facilities and will allow us, from 2017, to begin a process of continuous export to Europe," he said.
"By the end of next year, our expectations would be to export four or five containers to Europe per week, equivalent to 25 containers per month. In the second half of the year we also want to start shipping three weekly containers to the U.S."