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Papaya as a Money Crop

There are many ways one can make money from papaya. There are risks as well as rewards, so one has to be smart to know how to make the papaya project profitable.

One money-making project that is starting to become popular is growing papaya seedlings for sale. If one is_proficient in production as well as in marketing the seedlings, there is big money to be made. There’s a lady employee from Antipolo City who has been producing Sinta and Red Lady papaya seedlings as a sideline. She sells her production to a nursery of a friend where there are many customers. It is just a small operation but she makes a net of about P10 per seedling that she delivers to her outlet.

The big-time seedling producer of papaya seedlings, of course, is Desiree Duran of Basuit, San Ildefonso, Bulacan. She has been producing seedlings of Sinta papaya since 2003. She estimates that she had supplied the planting materials to about 50 hectares out of the 100 hectares planted to papaya in 2006 in San Ildefonso.

Desiree has mastered the production of papaya seedlings (as well as vegetable hybrids). The papaya seeds are germinated in seedling trays and when they have developed a few leaves, they are transferred to a 2.5-inch-diameter black plastic bag so they can be hardened. Forty-five days from sowing the seeds, the seedlings are ready for sale. In 2007, a lot of papaya growers, not only from Bulacan but also from Pampanga had ordered papaya seedlings from her that could have easily planted 100 hectares.

Desiree says that a lot of farmers are getting interested in planting papaya, particularly in her province, because Desiree is assuring them of the market. She is helping them market their harvest by supplying papaya fruits to Bagsakan Food Terminals set up by the Department of Agriculture at the current rate of one ton a day. She expects to supply a lot more as more outlets are being opened in Metro Manila, those in Muntinlupa, Maypajo and Marikina being among the latest.

Desiree has computed the cost of her production of ready-to-plant seedlings at P8. She is selling them to her townmates at a concessional price of P15 because she wants them to plant more so that she can have more fruits to sell to her outlets in Metro Manila. She is now an accredited supplier of agricultural products to the DA’s Bagsakan Food Terminals. For buyers in distant places such as those in Pampanga, the price she charges is P35 per seedling. That’s to cover the transport cost.

In the seedling business there is the risk that the seedlings might not be sold. If they are overgrown, nobody might want to buy them. And if there are buyers, they probably would buy at a low price.

In the case of Desiree, however, that is not a problem. The fact is, she has a hard time coping with the big orders. If there are seedlings that she can’t sell for one reason or another, she could always plant them in a farm she could rent. Right now, she has planted three hectares of her own to papaya.

What’s important in papaya seedling production is to germinate the right variety. She plants both the Sinta papaya from East-West Seed and the Red Lady from Harbest Agribusiness. It is of course important that one germinates the first generation seeds (F 1). That’s to make sure the resulting seedlings will bear the high quality fruits expected of them. One should not germinate and sell the seedlings grown from seeds taken from the fruits in the market.

Not many people may know it, but producing green papaya for use as vegetable is also profitable. In fact, many planters in Bulacan prefer to produce green papaya instead of ripe fruits for a number of good reasons. For one, the fruits are harvested within a much shorter time than ripe fruits. When green fruits are harvested, the tree tends to produce many more fruits. There are less risks in producing green papaya than ripe ones. For one, there is no fruitfly problem. And there is also a ready market at a reasonable price, according to Desiree. The price ex-farm as of December 15 is P7 per kilo.

In San Miguel, Bulacan, Engr. Jaime Tecson reveals that green papaya is very saleable at a high price during the months of July and August. The usual price is P 15 per kilo. That’s because sayote is in short supply in the market and green papaya is a highly suitable substitute.

There is also an excellent opportunity to make money in making pickled papaya or atsara. One lady who is making money from this business is Mrs. Milagros Coo who has been making atsara from the off-size fruits of her husband’s papaya trees. Her husband William has a one-hectare Red Lady papaya plantation in Calinog, Iloilo.

A few years back, she started making atsara out of the off-size fruits. Friends told her that her atsara was really good. That’s why she was encouraged to make a business out of it. Soon, she was supplying her bottled atsara to groceries in Iloilo. Now, she processes about 150 kilos of green fruits everyday. Her big buyers are the lechon manok makers. Every day she supplies some 1,000 small cups of her atsara to lechon manok makers. Her atsara serves as appetizer that goes with every lechon manok sold. The price is about P5 per cup, according to her husband.

Mila’s atsara is providing employment to three workers who help her make her atsara everyday. William is very proud that his wife’s atsara has become a bestseller. It has been approved by the Bureau of Food and Drug (BFAD), according to William.

A hitherto untapped potential of locally grown papaya is papain which is used as meat tenderizer. Desiree Duran is looking for a market for this product because, she said, they have the technology to produce papain. The missing link is the big buyer.

Another moneymaking possibility for papaya is in the manufacture of herbal soap. There are already a number who are into this business. Probably, more should get into it.

Of course, the biggest market is the ripe fruit market. And producing ripe fruits can be highly profitable, too.

In Iloilo, William Coo is enjoying good business from his papaya plantings in Calinog town. He grows his papaya trees in succession. For instance, he planted 1,000 trees in a one-hectare area two years ago from which he had harvested for two years. In another area, he planted a similar number from which he had recently started harvesting.

It takes a considerable investment to set up a one-hectare plantation. Land preparation has to be thorough. Drainage canals have to be provided to make sure water-logging is avoided. The seeds for planting cost about P5.50 each. All in all, the cost of planting material is not as much as the cost of the daily maintenance of the farm. William points out that the most costly part of the operation is the daily maintenance of the trees. They have to be watered during the dry months to make sure that the fruits will be big and fleshy. It could cost P250,000 to establish and maintain the one-hectare plantation for one year. However, he says that the expense can be easily recovered. The trees are productive for two years in his place where there is no virus infection. And from the time he starts harvesting, he usually harvests P15,000 worth of ripe fruits every week from his 1,000 trees. That’s excluding the 150 kilos of green fruits which his wife makes into atsara everyday.

Like in any other crop, there are risks in papaya production. One fellow we know planted 5,000 papaya trees after experiencing a highly profitable operation with a hundred trees. Thinking he would make a fortune by growing 5,000 trees, he went into papaya production in a big way. The problem was that his plants were attacked by ringspot virus. His crop was a total failure. And he lost a big amount. The lesson here is that one should avoid planting this crop in an area where the ringspot virus is prevalent. Also don’t intercrop with papaya plants that are susceptible to aphids which could transmit the virus to the papaya trees.

One other big risk is when the plantation is stuck by typhoon. Once that happens, the plantation could be totally ravaged. Water-logging is another risk in the papaya business.

For every problem in the papaya business, however, there is a corresponding solution. The best thing to do is to get familiar with the problems and be aware of the possible solutions.