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Unprecedented drought conditions in papaya fields cause ongoing shortages
North America’s largest Golden Papaya importer is reporting continuous shortages in the Brazilian papaya supply, caused by extraordinary heat and El Niño-related drought in the previous months. The shortages are expected to last throughout July.
HLB Specialties sources from four different Brazilian papaya growers, including Caliman Agricola, the world’s largest Golden papaya producer. All four suppliers are reporting a drastic drop in production that was caused by three main factors: high heat that killed the blooms, lack of rain, and the start of the winter.
Summer in the producing area of Espirito Santo was especially hot, so much that it killed many of the blooms that would have developed into fruits. Those fruits that survived were developing small, as the heat caused them to ripen before they could grow to bigger sizes. HLB is currently seeing over 50 percent of the crop yielding sizes 10 and 12, while under normal circumstances the commercial Golden Papaya production concentrates in sizes 8, 9, and 10.
Adding to the heat was also the lack of water. The region receives an average of 35 to 47 inches of rain per year, and in 2015 they saw less than 23 inches. The missing rain not only affected the crops, but also failed to fill the irrigation reservoirs that Caliman depends on to supplement missing rainfall.
“The drought we are seeing in the papaya growing region is historically unprecedented and devastating,” explained Melissa Hartmann de Barros, HLB Specialties’ director of communications. “The locals in the area say the last time they saw such conditions was back in the 1950s.” Brazil’s internal papaya prices have also soared drastically, in some places reaching three times the original price.
Winter in Brazil is starting in June, so temperatures are dropping already, which will help with the sizing of the fruit. Unfortunately, it does not rain much in winter. However, as weather patterns have been completely unpredictable in the last few years, HLB Specialties is cautious when giving a forecast. “We could see the shortage lasting several more months, but hopefully things will improve by July,” added Hartmann de Barros. She notes that the silver lining is that the papaya production recovers very quickly. It is a fast crop and trees can resume bearing fruits within 4 months of experiencing trauma, which this weather definitely is.
For more information:
Melissa Hartmann de Barros
+1 954 475 8808
Publication date: 5/10/2016
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