Boosting papaya exports to Europe
Global papaya exports generated a revenue of $330 million, with Mexico leading the way as the top exporter, accounting for one-third of the total exports. Although India holds the title of the largest papaya producer worldwide, it still ranks 17th in terms of global exports.
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The increased consumption of fruits to maintain a healthier diet is notably driving the papaya market growth. The rise in veganism will continue to facilitate papaya market growth. Papaya consumption in Europe is not yet as common as it is in most tropical countries, but it is gradually increasing. Developments in better logistics, convenience such as ready-to-eat and increased product promotion contribute to its growth and make papaya an interesting supplement to more well-known tropical fruits such as mango & pineapple.
As an exporter, you will have to deal with strong competition from Brazil and excel in quality and product handling to export to Europe successfully. With the technological push in areas such as slowing down the ripening process and temp. controlled container transportation as well as seeking out new ports for distribution, Indian exporters can break into the lucrative European markets.
According to Trademap, Papaya exports fetched a total of $330 million globally. Mexico, due to its proximity to the US is no. 1 rank with one-third of total exports. India is the largest producer of papaya in the world but it occupies a low 17 rank. India’s exports have progressively declined from $8.72 million in 2015 to $2.6 million in 2021 while total exports have grown by 13% during the same period. Our main markets are Nepal, Qatar, UAE and Kuwait.
If properly cared for, papayas can sustain a shelf life of up to 3 weeks under lower temperatures (10°C to 12°C). Container ships can take fresh cargo from Mundra Port to Genoa Port in 14-16 days. It should be noted that Italian ports are closest to Indian ports and fresh papaya can reach over 200 million consumers within 24 hours of discharge. Since a large quantity is still transported to Europe by air, the recent hike in air freight costs has increased the price of the fruit for the customers. The use of temperature-controlled containers can reduce transit costs without damage to the fruit.
Ethylene plays a key role in promoting fruit ripening. Studies show that nitric oxide spray can reduce the generation of ethylene and slow down the ripening process. These two technological developments can ensure that post-harvest quality is maintained for a longer period and fruits reach their destination in Europe in prime condition.
Prices for papaya are high across the global market in 2023, but there are different reasons for this in different locations. For many, the increase in price is due to the rising cost of air freight, which many importers of the exotic fruit rely upon. Despite these high prices, there are no reports of a decline in demand for papaya, and most markets even note a continued rise in purchasing of the fruit. Both Mexico and Australia appear to be capitalising on this and are currently focused on improving the quality and safe production of the fruit through investments in research. India should do the same and here Indian Institute of Horticulture Research (IIHR) can help exporters
According to www.cbi.eu, Germany and the Netherlands are leading importers of fresh papayas, and also show the highest import growth. A large share of German imports takes place through the Netherlands, which explains the high import figures for both countries. The Netherlands is a trade hub for Europe and exporters will face strong competition from Brazil. This exotic fruit is also loved in Germany and Portugal – imports reach 11 000-14 000 tonnes per year there. Volumes in Eastern Europe are still low. Poland and the Czech Republic have increased their imports to several hundred tonnes per year.
According to statistics, the percentage of households out of the total number (26 million) of those living in the Italian territory that buys papaya is growing. This testifies that this fruit belongs to that category of products that are often tried for the first time. In the year ending August 2020, there were 660 thousand households that had purchased it, two years later there are as many as 679 thousand. These volumes are comparable with those of the Scandinavian countries. If volumes grow in Western Europe, you can expect the Eastern European demand to increase as well.
Therefore, by using Italian ports for European distribution combined with the deployment of technical innovation in logistics and the ripening process, Indian exporters can break into the highly competitive EU market, especially the Central European countries where papaya consumption is rising.
The exporter should also conduct market research on the type of fruits which are popular in Europe. According to a report in Fresh Plaza, some countries like France prefer the Formosa papaya weighing about 1kg while others like smaller golden papaya weighing around 600gms. The same report also noted the high cost of airfreight. In Italy, an average sale is currently around 20 euro (Rs.360) for a 4 kg box, coming by air from Brazil. Indian exporters can take all information into account and draw up their entry strategy using the expertise of IIHR.
However, the export of fresh papaya can be supplemented by frozen papaya chunks, papaya puree and its powder. These are rising in demand due to the proliferation of commercial kitchens and the consumption of beverages like smoothies.
Papaya puree is used for the preparation of papaya and mixed fruit beverages and baby food. The fruit is also growing popular in the dairy industry, with the introduction of fruit yogurts and ice creams. Although papaya puree has traditionally been less popular in the European region compared to the US, a growing demand has been observed in the demand for Western Europe. Demand for puree has been augmented by the rise in demand for fruit flavours and healthy food consumption. Market research firms forecast high growth for puree over this decade.
As the demand is set to increase, end-product manufacturers are willing to introduce new products with applications in the field of cosmetics as well. The enzymes papain and chymopapain in papaya can decrease inflammation. The protein-dissolving papain can be found in many exfoliating products. These products help reduce acne by removing dead skin cells that can clog pores. Papain can also remove damaged keratin that can build up on the skin and form small bumps. Therefore, the use of papaya products in face packs is increasing.
Green papaya is also an excellent tenderizing or marinating agent for red meat, which is widely consumed in Europe. Raw Papaya is almost tasteless and not sweet at all, which makes it a suitable choice for marinating meat. Frozen or powder varieties can be exported.
As more consumers are demanding organic produce, exporters should gradually move into the export of organic papaya and its derivatives in the European market.
The author is Suhayl Abidi, Research Advisor, GOG-AMA Centre for International Trade & Consultant, Centre for VUCA Studies, Amity University.