Big payoff in paiola papayas

12/29/2008 — New Straits Times Online
TEMERLOH: “Paiola” is a strange word to many but not to farmers here, particularly those involved in the Lanchang Fruit Park project.
Paiola is a papaya hybrid developed and promoted by the Malaysian Agrifood Corporation (MAFC).
Five local farmers are now being groomed by the corporation to supply the paiola papayas under the contract farming scheme.
MAFC is a government- linked corporation that has since 2006 been entrusted with restructuring the country’s agrifood production and distribution system.
It is among the 32 companies being allocated at least 40ha in the Lanchang Fruit Park and has been the anchor company for the production of papayas in the commercial fruit orchard under the East Coast Economic Region.
MAFC vice-president of corporate communications Raja Zalila Raja Safran said the project in Lanchang started with the setting up of a seed garden and a 20ha model farm to grow the papaya variety.
“Paiola is the commercial name for our hybrid which we coined from the word papaya and the expression of ‘oo la la’. It also means ‘nutritional’ in Polynesian,” she said.
Raja Zalila said paiola was the perfect fruit for the project as it had high demand locally and abroad.
“It is small, like the size of a palm, with golden yellow skin and sweet and deep crimson flesh.
“It can also be kept a week longer than ordinary papayas,” she said when met at the MAFC seed garden in Lanchang.
Raja Zalila said the farmers were selected under a programme to develop local agro-entrepreneurs in the Lanchang Fruit Park.
The 3,600ha fruit park contains 400ha gazetted as permanent food production park to allow the participation of local smallholders.
The remaining areas are allocated to companies, including big corporations which act as the anchor for the smallholders.
With the supply from the selected farmers, Raja Zalila said MAFC would be able to export eight tonnes of paiola daily by the middle of next year and 13 tonnes by the year-end.
She said the paiola were now sold in Singapore, Hong Kong and London and could fetch RM12 each.
One of the farmers involved in the project, Shahriman Akma Shabudin, 29, said the opportunity had allowed him to focus on growing the papayas as the production of seedlings and marketing were handled by MAFC.
“They also provide technical assistance and help us deal with diseases and other problems,” said Shahriman, a graduate in information technology.
Another participant, Nori- zan Osman, said she decided to join the project as it would allow her to penetrate the international market.
“I have no problem marketing my produce as MAFC has an extensive network locally and globally,” said the 47- year-old mother of four who was previously involved in the production of organic vegetables in Lanchang.
The Lanchang Fruit Park will be launched by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi on Jan 13.