Supplies of papaya from Guatemala are steady right now.
“Supplies are good, but it’s been a challenging year with COVID-19,” says Sam Skogstad of WYCO Produce Inc. based in Tampa, FL. “But supplies are now looking steady through to the end of the year and to the first quarter of next year.”
This hasn’t always been the case. Skogstad notes that September saw some challenges in getting product. “It was a very hyperactive storm season. We had a very wet summer,” he says. “By September we started to see a few issues, so volume was down a lot that month. But as of October we bounced back and now it looks like steady going from here forward.”
Along with supplies from Guatemala, volume is also coming in from Mexico. WYCO markets the Kaya Paya label, Tainung variety of Guatemalan papaya.
Better demand for papaya
At the same time, the tropical fruit has seen strong demand this year. “We weren’t sure what to expect on demand for papaya in the beginning of the pandemic. But it’s worked out really well. Demand at retail was stronger than ever, especially in the spring and into the beginning of the summer,” says Skogstad. “We were able to adapt to some restrictions the government put in place in Guatemala such as curfews and other measures designed to slow the spread of the virus. We were able to adapt to those and ramp up production to meet the demand.”
He also adds that consumers are increasingly aware of the health benefits of papaya, a fruit that is high in Vitamin C. “I think that is one reason there’s a surge in demand. The other thing is people were just at home more, so they tended to eat more fruit and the healthier, the better,” he says.
This means pricing has been strong and stable on papaya. “It’s been one of the steadier years as far as pricing that I remember due to the strong demand,” says Skogstad, noting that the first six months of each year are generally when prices are at their strongest.