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Erwin Callebaut, Starfruit:

"The papaya has an elite character"

Starfruit is specialised in overseas products and exotics. The main goal is to have the main exotics and specialities available all year round. "One of our products is the papaya. It's a real exotic and has therefore been in our assortment since the beginning," says Erwin Callebaut of Starfruit. "They are mainly imported from Brazil and Ecuador. Other export countries are Colombia, Malaysia, Ivory Coast, Ghana and Thailand. It's a lovely fruit with a deep orange coloured flesh and a typical fine flavour, which is enhanced with a few drops of lemon juice sprinkled on top. Papaya's mainly find their way to the consumer through the supermarket and the specialised vegetable shops." 

Erwin indicates that papaya's took over Europe at the same time as the mango and avocado. "The difference to the other two exotics is that the papaya is rather delicate when it is ripe. They have to be transported with the utmost care. While other exotics arrived by sea container quite quickly, papaya's had to be flown in for a long time."

Steady advance

"By picking the fruit earlier, which meant the fruits were greener, harder and less vulnerable, people began to ship the papaya's by sea container int he mid 90's with adapted methods. Because of the lower price the sales greatly increased and it soon looked as if the papaya had started a steady advance like that of the mango. But soon it turned out that, unlike mangoes and avocados, papayas are hard to after ripen. Papayas by sea were less ripe, less tasty and much more susceptible to diseases and deterioration. The demand for papayas stagnated, there was an over supply, low prices and soon the papaya market by sea container collapsed."

"Nowadays papayas are mainly imported by air transport and demand and supply are quite stable. The prices remain at around the same level and are only affected by the exchange rate of the dollar and changes in air fares. Yet we do see an increase in interest for this exotic during the holidays."

Elite character

"The papaya has a strong, outspoken flavour, and not everyone likes it. Because of the high costs of air transport, the price is a lot higher than for a mango or avocado. This gives the papaya an elite character and it remains a real exotic, whilst mangoes and avocados are almost a part of our normal fruit assortment," he concludes.

For more information:
Erwin Callebaut
Starfruit Company
Werkhuizenkaai 112-154
Brussel - België
Tel: + 32-022420876
Fax: + 32-022421208

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