Papaya to fare well at food park

1/14/2009 — The Star
Papaya will be among the main products of the proposed food park in Lanchang.
A total of 32 companies were allocated 40ha of land each in the park set up under the East Coast Economic Region masterplan.
For a start, 20ha will be planted with the Pailo papaya (a hybrid species) together with crops like dragon fruit, guava and star fruit.
The initiative has been carried out by Malaysian Agrifood Corporation Bhd (MAFC) aggressively since last year.
MAFC corporate communications vice president Raja Zalina Raja Safran said that five farmers were groomed by the corporation to supply Paiola papayas under a contract-farming scheme.
Raja Zalina said that MAFC was a government-linked corporation formed to restructure agrifood production and distribution in 2006.
It was among the 32 companies allocated 40ha in the park and the anchor company for the production of papaya as a commercial fruit.
Raja Zalina said the project started with a seed garden and a 20ha model farm growing the frangi papaya hybrid.
“Paiola is a commercial name coined for the hybrid by combining the word papaya and the expression of ‘oo la la’.
“Overseas customers are attracted by the name because of its easy pronunciation,” Raja Zalina said in an interview recently.
“Coincidentally, it means nutritional in the Polynesian language,” she said.
Raja Zalina said the papaya was perfect for the project as it had high demand locally and abroad.
“It is petite and palm-sized with golden yellow skin and firm, sweet, deep crimson flesh.
“It can be kept a week longer than ordinary papayas and this makes the exporting process favourable,” she said.
The 3,600ha park has 400ha of gazetted land for the participation of smallholders. The remaining areas are allocated to companies, including big corporations, which act as anchors for the smallholders.
With supply from selected farmers, Raja Zalina said that MAFC could export eight tonnes of Paiola papayas daily by the middle of next year and 13 tonnes by yearend.
She said the Paiola was sold in Singapore, Hong Kong and Britain and fetched RM12 per fruit.
Participating farmer Shahriman Akma Shabudin, 29, said the opportunity allowed him to focus on producing papayas as seedling production and marketing was handled by MAFC.
“The company provides technical assistance and helps us deal with plant diseases and other problems,” said Shahriman, who has a degree in information technology.
Another participant, Norizan Osman, 47, said she joined the project to penetrate the international market.
“I will have no problems as MAFC has an extensive network locally and globally,” said the mother of four, who was previously involved in producing organic vegetables in Lanchang.