The Canary Islands, the only Spanish region with a subtropical oceanic climate, account for most of the national production of papayas.
Biodiversity is determined by the climate, and the archipelago’s location, only about 5 degrees north of the Tropic of Cancer, has allowed the development of a thriving subtropical fruit industry. Bananas are the most representative product, but papayas and passion fruit are also gaining ground and have emerged as an alternative to tomato production. The islands have thus turned into an important local supplier for the European market, with companies such as Plantate, which is currently the largest producer of organic papayas in Europe.
“Mara Fruits Bío is Plantate’s marketing company. It is owned by grower Felipe González, who cultivates organic papayas and passion fruit on the island of Tenerife,” says Juan Muñoz. “We have been working for 8 years now with papayas and about 6 with passion fruit, gradually increasing our volumes, and we are currently exporting them all over Europe.”
“The main market for our fruit is Germany, where organic consumption is highly developed, just like in France, although 15% of our sales correspond to the domestic market, where we sell our papayas and passion fruit under the Dulzita brand to some very important customers in Navarra and Barcelona.”
“Since it grows in a tropical climate, our fruit has a higher sugar content and more flavor than the fruit from the mainland and that imported from South America or Africa, which has to be harvested with a lower degree of ripeness to allow it withstand the long transit time. In fact, our papayas reach levels of 16 degrees Brix, and we are seeing how, little by little, customers who were working with other origins are switching to our fruit of European origin.”
Achieving sustainability in agricultural production and supplying fruits that are more environmentally and socially friendly have been the main objectives of the Mara Fruits Bío project. “I have been in the fruit business for 40 years, and 8 years ago I switched to the exciting organic sector. It is a wonderful experience to be able to produce fruit under the organic method and it makes you see that you must have a lot of respect for all producers. They are the ones who work hard and make costly investments to supply the best fruit to consumers, and that is why it is necessary that they receive a fair price for their production,” says Juan.
“In Europe, we are currently marketing about 400,000 kilos of Canary papayas and about 50,000 kilos of passion fruit. 70% of the latter’s production is red passion fruit and the other 30% is yellow.”
“When it comes to growth of the production, we are looking for new farms and converting conventional hectares to organic, although we are being careful. The organic market is a limited market and we must ensure we do things right to prevent a collapse. This already happened with conventional papayas. There was an increase in the supply, but not a good approach when it came to varieties or the market, and in the end it was impossible to compete with Brazilian papayas. It should also be taken into account that these are expensive productions that require considerable investments.”
“However, for now, we have well-established customers for organic papayas and we are gradually expanding. As for passion fruit, the demand still actually exceeds the supply,” says Juan Muñoz.
The privileged location of the Canary Islands and its ‘eternal spring’ also allow the cultivation of the exotic soursop, a fruit that is said to have multiple beneficial properties and whose consumption has experienced an interesting boom in recent years.
“We used to work with soursop; in fact, we have 4,000 trees planted in the archipelago, but competition with the fruit from South America and the product’s short commercial shelf life led us to focus on other species for now. However, it is worth stressing that the only place where it is produced in Spain is here, in the Canary Islands.”
For more information:
Mara Fruits Bío
Juan A. Muñoz
Tel.: +34 659 459 130
Tel.: +31 626 949 721
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