The papaya, also known as ‘fruit of the angels’, adds an exotic spin to many dishes and drinks. Tapping into growing demand in Europe, Panama-based specialist Panafruit S.A. is preparing to introduce Europeans to its own unique variety: Hawaiian Big Papaya. The fruit is available all year round, and to offer buyers wider distribution time frames, the company is also evaluating air freight as a transport option.
Based in the western part of Panama, Panafruit is a family-run business that has been exporting papaya for over 20 years. Initially working with a variety known as Tainung, the firm developed a genetic improvement programme that recently led to a new hybrid: Hawaiian Big Papaya. Mayan Safi, Director of the Packaging Plant, explains what makes this variety special: "Hawaiian Big Papaya is a hybrid between Taiwanese and Hawaiian varieties, and produces flavourful, sweet and slightly larger than average fruit. It is a registered trademark in the United States and Panama."
Safi mentions an additional benefit of Panamanian papayas in general: "Many countries are subject to seasonal changes and varying temperatures. In Panama, there is only a slight difference between summer and winter. This means our papaya plants produce year-round."
Panafruit has a hand in the entire supply chain, from planting to packaging to shipping. "Once the fruit is ready, we harvest, wash and treat it, then transport it by land to Panama City,’ says Safi. ‘From there, we traditionally ship it by sea to the US and Canada. However, we are exploring new markets and new shipping possibilities. As we expand into the European market, for example, we are looking into air freight options. Papaya has a 21-to-28-day shelf life, if the cold chain is maintained. Shipping to Europe by sea takes 14 days, so it is an option, but air freight means we can get the product to our customers faster, allowing them a wider time frame to distribute the fruit throughout Europe."
Another new venture for Panafruit is organic farming. In order to meet the requirements for certified organic fruit, the firm has opened an entirely new plantation. "It is a long-term investment, as we have to demonstrate compliance with the standard for five years before we get certified," says Safi. "But offering organic papayas means we can reach a whole new market in Europe."
In other areas as well, Panafruit is making the investments necessary to meet European buyers on their own ground. For example, the company is currently in the process of getting GLOBALG.A.P + GRASP certification. The process was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but Safi hopes it will be finalised in December 2020.
Healthy living is a huge trend among European consumers, with the COVID-19 virus pushing it to even greater heights. This means fruits like papaya, with high levels of vitamin C, are in high demand. Panafruit took a knock from the pandemic at first, having to shut down for a few weeks at the beginning of 2020. "It affected the ripening and picking cycle," Safi explains. "But we have now installed the necessary measures and processes to keep our workers safe and to maintain the quality our clients have grown to expect."
The family business is intent on managing whatever conditions come along, looking ahead and keeping up with market needs. "By improving our infrastructure and increasing our staff, we can maintain high quality and build strong partnerships with clients, while also continuing to benefit our local community."
Learn more about Panafruit and other reliable Central American suppliers in the Connecting Central America brochure, or get to know them personally by requesting a virtual B2B meeting through the Virtual B2B Meetings event page. You can also get in touch or find out more via the Panafruit website.
Panafuit is being promoted by the Centre for the Promotion of Imports from developing countries (CBI) as a part of CBI’s Connecting Central America initiative. This initiative is co-financed by the European Union and coordinated by the Secretariat for Central American Economic Integration (SIECA).
Arno van der Maden
Mob: +506 884 74 74