Vulnerable yet valuable papaya

By Thai Newsroom Reporters

PAPAYA TREES are not so resistant to drought or diseases as sugarcanes in the tropical climate of a remote district of Petchaburi but papaya is a cash crop worth several times as much at a domestic market.

Farmer Chamnong Meeritthichai of Nong Yaplong district used to operate a sugarcane plantation in about 100 rai of parched soil which had not yielded much of a post-harvest income since the last decade, prompting him to turn it into a papaya plantation for a change.

Sales incomes from his fresh papaya, either harvested as a ripe or unripe fruit, had been so tempting businesswise he finally expanded his papaya plantation from a tentative 10 rai to 50 rai of land over time.

About 2,000 papaya trees of Kaeng Krachan genus yielded fruits which combinedly brought the farmer up to half a million baht in sales to a local vendor who profitably delivered the whole purchase volume of Chamnong’s papaya to a major fresh fruit market in a neighbouring Ratchaburi throughout last year.

Ripe papaya which is immediately edible as a sweet fresh fruit sells faster and fetches a better price than unripe papaya which is largely used as a main ingredient for the ultimately spicy green salad called ”somtam.”

But it has taken Chamnong several years to fight the drought prevailing over his parcels of land and those of his neighbours to produce such cash crops as papaya. Water must not be in short supply or papaya trees will stand dying in the sun or quickly get ruined by ringspots and other diseases. Papaya trees are naturally far more vulnerable to tropical diseases than sugarcanes and many other plants.

Given the fact that papaya trees need a regular supply of water, unlike sugarcanes which can stand a prevalent drought year in year out, the most effectual way to grow them is to set up a sprinkler system on the plantation since one can never rely on rain in such environment.

The purchase and installation of a sprinkler system may cost an average of 7,000 to 8,000 baht per rai but the farmer reassured such investment will undoubtedly be far worth it.

Many of his neighbours apparently learned sooner or later the papapa trees randomly attended in their own backyard could be practically cultivated and expanded for commercial reasons.


Top: A papaya tree. Photo: Dinesh Valke (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Home Page: Halves of ripe papaya on a black background with leaves. Photo: Marco Verch, professional photographer (CC BY 2.0)


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