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Supply chain, marketing and consumption
Spanish Operational Group tested cultivation of papayas in subtropical and Mediterranean climate On the Spanish Canary Islands and south-eastern part of Spain, Operational Group Carismed has been working on papaya cultivation. The proximity to European markets allows these papayas to be harvested at a perfect degree of ripeness and the carbon footprint is limited. Therefore, the cultivation of tropical crops in the outermost regions of the European Union can be an interesting option to promote more sustainable and resilient production systems.
Papaya is the third most produced tropical fruit in the world after mango and pineapple. Spain is the only country in Europe which produces this tropical crop. The cultivation is concentrated in the Canary Islands and also in the south-east of Spain (Almería, Málaga, Granada and Murcia).
“The proximity to European markets allows harvesting at the optimum maturation stage, with fruits ripening on the tree, giving consumers an excellent product. The aim of Operational Group Carismed was to study the sustainable cultivation of papayas in a subtropical and Mediterranean climate”, says Juan José Hueso. He is involved in the project on behalf of the Cajamar Foundation. The OG is coordinated by ANECOOP (the largest export-import company of fruits and vegetables in Spain) and involves 3 local companies, an association of fruit producers (Coexphal) and 3 research institutes.
Carismed is working towards sustainable and resilient production systems. One way they are doing so, is by growing papaya in greenhouses. Cultivating papaya in a greenhouse, instead of in the open air, can save up to 40% of water for irrigation purposes, because of a lower evapotranspiration. The Canary Islands are the major producers of papaya, due to the perfect climatic conditions for the fruit crop. Many farmers have decided to replace their tomato crops with papaya, taking advantage of the existing greenhouses.
Juan: “What is more, greenhouses can help to protect the crop against intense rain, wind or hail, which occur more frequently due to climate change. Climate control in the greenhouse also allows us to adapt conditions to the optimum. Natural ventilation, shading and misting systems help to withstand high temperatures outside. On the other hand, the use of tools such as tensiometers and suction probes, have allowed us to adjust irrigation and fertilisation to make more efficient use of these resources and reduce losses. In greenhouse cultivation, pest pressure is lower and with proper climate management and biological control, phytosanitary treatments are not necessary.”
The project selected four commercial varieties (Intenzza, Caballero, Sweet Sense and Iuve) and studied their behaviour in four different greenhouses: two in Almería and the other two in the Canary Islands. This helped to identify the best papaya varieties for each cultivation area. Strategies to improve the climate within the greenhouses were established, but also ideal dates for transplanting, plant spacing, irrigation needs, adjustment to fertilisation and biological methods for pest control. Juan: “The project also helped the three companies to jointly start marketing from the Canary Islands and mainland and to start exporting to other European countries. The project demonstrated that papaya is an economically viable and competitive crop that can be successfully exported to the European market.”
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