Could it be that consumers now have more faith in foodborne illness traceability, or would volumes have been greater still in the absence of this year’s Maradol papaya-related salmonella outbreak?
Mexican papaya exports rose 15% year-on-year from January through August to reach 123,911 metric tons (MT), driven mainly by shipments to core market the U.S. but also with strong growth in Canada, Germany and the Netherlands.
The figures are not as you would expect in a year when investigations of four different salmonella strains have been linked to papayas, with 235 cases including two deaths and 78 hospitalizations.
In the lead-up to the first outbreak announcement the average U.S. price from Weeks 1-29 was understandably down 19% at US$14 a box due to the higher volume, but for the 10 weeks following the recall it was at US$20.80 on average.
The fact prices rose is normal given supply starts to decline in August, but what is striking is that they were much higher year-on-year by almost a quarter.
The U.S. accounts for 99.7% of the total and its percentage growth was in line with the total, but for other destinations the increased was even more pronounced.
Canada increased its intake of Mexican papayas by a whopping 646% to 175MT, while Germany went from a mere 5MT for the same period in 2016 to 148MT this year.
Meanwhile large jumps were also seen for other smaller European markets like the Netherlands which almost doubled its Mexican papaya imports to 37MT, while Spain went from 1MT to 9MT.
At the lower end of scale but representing phenomenal percentage growth, France went from 46kg (101lbs) received from Mexico in 2016 to 2.3MT (5,060lbs) in 2017.
In August, Mert Gumus of papaya shipper Super Starr International told Fresh Fruit Portal demand and prices remained strong despite the outbreak.