Greenhouse agriculture in the province of Almeria has been dominated for decades by a series of crops that have provided profitability and a certain balance to the local producer.
However, more and more actors in the sector are looking for product diversification in the Almeria countryside. Subtropical crops, such as papaya, mango, pitahaya, carambola or cherimoya, are one of the most solid alternatives in this sense, and the papaya is the exotic fruit that arouses the most interest in the sector.
Anecoop, a cooperative from Valencia, is the driving force of this crop in Almeria, as it created the Exoticos del Sur Economic Interest Association to offer a marketing channel to producers of papaya from Almeria.
The role of papaya in Almeria's agriculture
"The papaya won't replace any crop of the province, but it will complement Almeria's agricultural food offer," said the director of Finca UAL-Anecoop and university professor, Luis Belmonte. Papaya cultivation requires more time than the traditional horticultural crops of the Almeria countryside to enter into production.
The main challenge for Almeria's producers regarding this production, is its standardization, its commercial output, and the search for the ideal papaya variety. Anecoop is performing tests in a greenhouse at its Experimental Farm with the largest varietal variety of this product in the province.
Producers are working in a greenhouse with 4,500 square meters of cultivation, with a multi-tunnel structure, more than 200 papaya trees, and more than 30 different varieties to find the variety that adapts perfectly to the climatic peculiarities of the peninsular southeast.
"We are testing the main commercial varieties, which are the Intenzza, Sweet Sense, and Caballero varieties. The rest are varieties with scientific taxonomy; they are not for sale yet," says Marina Casas. The seeds mostly come from Mexican seed houses and the rest from Latin America, said the head of production of Anecoop in Almeria.