The golden fruit of Ecuador – Papaya

 

When you move to a new country and try to sell a product to the locals, there are two ways to do things.

The right way.

And the wrong way.

Especially when it comes to food.

The wrong way, at least if you dont have a multi-million dollar marketing budget, is imposing your “superior” foods on the local population.

For instance, pizza.

Maybe you can make a much better pizza than they have available locally according to your North American or European standards.

But maybe the pizza in Ecuador is the way it is for a reason.. with its more liquidity and almost sweet tomato sauce… cause thats how the locals like it.

Its hard to know as a new-comer.

So all you can do is observe.

And to sell the locals something they already eat like crazy.

Its simply much easier.

Enter Papaya.

But there are two types of Papaya that grow in Ecuador.  The Hawaiian breed and the Criolla breed.  The Hawaiian is smaller and for export primarily, cause the locals don’t eat it.  (Actually, some consider it pig food.)

The Criolla is the gigantic rugby-ball-looking Papaya that is for local consumption only, not export, and boy do the locals love it.

Its truly one of those products where if you grow it they will come.

Papaya Criolla likes a dryer climate, while it can and does grow in the Amazon region its better grown in the coastal region of Ecuador.  Specifically in the areas of Santo Domingo to Independencia or on down to Quevedo.

In these ideal areas, the Papaya can grow without any formal irrigation system in place, its fine with just the natural rainfall in this area.

The Papaya is also best grown on flat or almost flat land.

In these areas land apt for Papaya production usually can be found starting around $3-6000 USD per hectare.  According to my local Papaya expert, 30-40 hcts is the minimum for a worthwhile, highly-profitable Papaya farm.

For today, lets take a closer look at the Papaya Criolla (lets give the locals what they already want).

The Papaya tree has a lifespan of 2 years.  It begins to give fruit at the 8 month mark.

And harvests from there are weekly.

The Costs

The initial costs of planting the crop and preparing the soil average around $4-5k per hectare.

After that, costs are minimal with this crop as for a farm of 40 hectares, all you need is one live-on full-time employee (who makes about $500 a month).  And about 5 part-time employees that from the time the plant begins to give fruit at the 8 month mark, you will need to hire them about 2 days a week paying each $15 a day to harvest, weed and fertilize the crop as needed.

It may also be a good idea, especially starting up, to hire a technician or agro-engineer with experience in the crop, to help manage the technical aspects of the farm.  For a full-time agro-engineer you are looking at minimum $1000 a month, but you could also hire one on a part-time basis.

The Production

Each hectare fits about 1100 Papaya trees.  About 100 of those are masculine and dont bear fruit and are used for future breeding purposes only.

Each tree during its lifespan gives at least 20 fruits, some can give as many as 30 if the care has been good.

Thats 20,000 fruits per hectare per each 2 year cycle.

The Sale and The Profit

The fruit sells wholesale at about $1 per fruit.

The fruit is an easy-sell and is often sold to the retail sellers at open-markets or directly to top-end restaurants.

Thinking in ballpark figures for busy people like yourself, thats $20k per hectare in brute sales over the course of a 2 year period.  According to my expert, the grower can expect about 40% of that is usually the profit for the farm owner.  Thats $8k per hect, every two years… so for a 40 hectare producing Papaya farm, that would be about $320k over a two year period or $160k per year, however youd like to look at it.

ROI

So even if you bought the land at the more conservative $6000 per hct for a 40 hct farm… for a total of $240,000 youd be able to realistically make that money back within a bit over 1 and 1/2 years.  Not bad.

This is certainly a product Im considering for my upcoming agro-investment here in Ecuador.

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