HLB Tropical Food rides out Brazilian papaya shortage


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Gill McShane


HLB Tropical Food rides out Brazilian papaya shortage

Group reports upsurge in fruit sourced from the country

HLB Tropical Food rides out Brazilian papaya shortage

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At the start of the year, papaya production areas in the northeast and southeast of Brazil were hit by unusually long-lasting and powerful rainfall, which succeeded in damaging the blooms that would have become fruits. The resulting production shortage also meant higher demand on the domestic market, which consumes 97 per cent of production.

The chief losers from this situation have been overseas exporters. The shortage in Golden papaya production has drastically affected the North American and European markets. In April, international papaya importer and distributor HLB Tropical Food revealed that imports from Brazil to the US were down by 51 per cent compared with March.

With fewer growers to source the fruit from, HLB has had to form new contracts with Central American growers, which has helped to bridge the gap during April. Now HLB is reporting an increase in papayas from Brazil to the markets of North America and Europe, and the company’s growers predict that production will be back to its normal output in the first weeks of May.

"We are happy to report that the shortage is almost over," said Melissa Hartmann de Barros, director of communications at HLB's North American headquarters in Florida. “We are thankful to all our clients for their understanding and sticking it out."

For more than 15 years, HLB Tropical Food has been sourcing its premium Golden, Formosa, and Calimosa papayas from Brazil, mainly from grower Caliman Agricola, which has growing areas in three different states. However, recent years have thrown up a number of problems. The weak US dollar, adverse weather conditions in Brazil and competition from growers in Central America and North Africa have forced HLB to discover additional sourcing areas and forge links with more suppliers from Brazil, as well as from Central America.

According to Homero Levy de Barros, president and CEO of the HLB Group, this has not been such a bad thing. "The whole HLB team is very excited about these new deals and opportunities," he said. "With the new contracts we have a stronger position and are better equipped to supply our clients, whose demand has always been higher than what we could supply."

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