SPAIN: Greenhouse papayas can yield around 5,000 € (USD 5573.00)/ha per week


Papaya is the third most consumed tropical fruit and demand has grown steadily in recent years because of it being considered a healthy product. It has been traditionally produced in Latin America, India and Indonesia, but now it is also being grown in Almeria.


The advantage of having access to state-of-the-art greenhouses is that it is possible to reproduce a tropical climate or humidity. That is exactly what the Experimental Farm Foundation of the University of Almeria-Anecoop is working on, with more than encouraging results.


The attempt to introduce papayas to Almeria’s intensive agriculture is not new. About ten years ago, the engineer Francisco Martínez Portero conducted the first tests; later, a grower, Manuel Ramón Berenger, joined him and planted the fruit on 6,000 square metres, with remarkable success, after which he registered the trademark ‘Papaya de Almeria’.


But the final leap has been made recently at the Experimental Farm of the University of Almeria-Aneccop, largely as a result of the research carried out by Francisco Camacho, director of the Cajamar Chair of the UAL, which has achieved the sexing of papaya plants.


The point is that, until now, it was necessary to plant three or four of these trees because only hermaphrodite plants reach good production levels. Camacho’s research has managed to predetermine the sex of plants by means of molecular techniques. It is a pioneering study in the world, which shortens the process needed before growers can actually start producing to just five or six months.


An agreement with Vitalplant, a renowned Almerian nursery that decided to go all in with this new crop, has made it possible to put the knowledge into practice. Its manager, Asensio Navarro, affirms that the response in the early stages of this adventure has been spectacular. In fact, Vitalplant produced plants for a maximum of four or five hectares, “and in just a few weeks, all available material was sold out and demand continues to increase.”


It is not a whim, of course, as the cultivation of papayas offers great advantages, including a reduced need of labour and a significant profitability.


Profitable crop
The fact is that during the five to six months it takes before the papaya tree becomes productive (thanks to the new sexing technique), the plant does not require great care, beyond keeping the weather conditions under control.


After that, it is estimated that it is possible to harvest around 2 kilos per tree, and taking into account that the ideal plant density is 2,000 trees (just over 2 metres high) per greenhouse hectare, with a price ranging between 1.30 and 1.50 Euro per kilo, the weekly value of the papaya production can potentially amount to 5,000 Euro per hectare.


Luis Belmonte, director of the Experimental Farm, says that the project’s success is attributable to the excellent confluence of public and private labour: on the one hand, that of the University and its researchers, and on the other, that of companies like Anecoop or Vitalplant. As a result, the fruit is currently shaping up as a good alternative to traditional vegetable crops in Almeria.


At the moment, there are some 15 hectares of papayas trees in production in the province, but interest has exploded because growers “have shown their willingness to diversify,” affirms Asensio.


Source: Fresh Plaza

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