The Papaya Journey
A lot of love and hard work goes into getting a fresh Neofresh papaya on your plate. The process starts with careful selection and cross-breeding to produce our own seed. This is done by pollinating female flowers with the correct pollen and closing the flowers to prevent subsequent pollination with incorrect pollen. Seedlings are planted at a density of 6600 plants per hectare. After the emergence of the first flowers, the plants are “sexed”, leaving 2200 plants per hectare. This is done to reach a predetermined ratio between female and hermaphrodite plants.
Planting is done in tramline formation on ridges. The latter is done to ensure good drainage.
Fertilizer application is determined by soil and leaf analysis. Preference is given to organic fertilizer. No insecticides are used. Environmentally friendly fungicides are sprayed on the fruit. To ensure and adhere to food safety requirements, only locally and internationally accepted pre-harvest sprays and post-harvest chemicals are used on our crops. No products on banned or “red” lists are applied. All volumes of applied chemicals are carefully measured, recorded and audited.
We regard ourselves as custodians of the land. High emphasis is placed on:
- Enhancing microbial soil life
- Minimizing the use of chemical fertilizer
- Promoting bio-diversity
Harvesting commences ten months after planting. Neofresh applies a strict Quality Control System to ensure that all products are handled and packed to the clients’ detailed specifications.
Fruit is harvested when it starts to show yellow colouration. All our products are picked by hand by employees from the surrounding communities.
Papaya picking is done in teams. Each papaya is selected for its correct ripeness by the picker who then carefully passes it onto a receiver who places it into a lug. Lugs are placed in the shade for collection and transportation to the packhouse. To eliminate the necessity of pickers having to climb ladders to pick the fruit higher up in the tree, new innovations such as picking poles (trade named PICK IT) and automated picking trailers are being evaluated. Fruit is carefully placed in lugs containing aero theme sheets, preventing mechanical damage.
At the pack house fruit is sanitized, packed in plastic lugs and placed in ripening rooms. Ethylene is used for ripening. The fruit produces ethylene naturally. By adding a little extra we ensure even ripening and enable us to forecast shelf-life accurately. Fruit is then pre-packed into punnets. The wrapping used in punnets enhances shelf-life. All labelling happens before it is transported to the supermarket distribution centres.
Strict cold-chain maintenance is very important to ensure shelf life.
Neofresh makes daily deliveries to distribution centres in Gauteng, Cape Town and Durban as well as to Municipal Markets. Neofresh also supplies overseas clients via air freight from Oliver Tambo Airport in Johannesburg. Neofresh has developed protocols to enable us to also sea-freight papaya.
Traceability of fruit is crucial in our business. We are therefore able to trace a fruit to a specific irrigation block on the farm.
Although the origin of Papaya (Carica papaya) is unknown, it is thought to be native to Southern Mexico and nearby Central American Countries. With its deliciously sweet and soft flesh it’s no wonder that Christopher Columbus called it the “fruit of angels”! Today it is commercially produced in several tropical and sub-tropical countries including India, Brazil, Mexico, Nigeria, Indonesia, The Philippines, The Caribbean Islands, Malaysia and South Africa. Together with bananas, pineapples and mangoes, papaya is one of the most popular tropical fruits.
Many published studies have demonstrated that fruit and vegetables contribute to the reduction of several diseases including cardiovascular, neurological and carcinogenic illnesses. This is partially due to the amount of antioxidant compounds present in fruit and vegetables which reduce the oxidative stress produced by free radicals, and in consequence, cellular damage.
Much can be said about the wonderful benefits of papaya and according to literature papaya fruit is a rich source of antioxidant nutrients, B vitamins, vitamin A, minerals (Potassium and Magnesium), folate and fibre. Antioxidants in papaya pulp include Carotenoids (lycopene, β-cryptoxanthin and β-carotene), Vitamin C and Flavonoids. Vitamin C and vitamin A are both needed for proper function of a healthy immune system so papaya is therefore a great choice for preventing illnesses such as colds and flu. The fibre, together with the digestive enzyme papain, makes for improved digestion.
The combined nutrients promote the health of the cardiovascular system and may prevent colon cancer. Papain is used as an industrial ingredient in brewing, meat tenderizing, beauty products, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals.