Importers say buyers should expect adequate fall papaya volume.

Fall supplies of Belize papayas should be consistent, said Peter Leifermann, director of sales and fruit procurement for Brooks Tropicals LLC, Homestead, Fla.

Liefermann and other shippers say the fruit represents a growth item in retail stores.

He said Brooks is enjoying a record year with its Caribbean Red-labeled variety and is seeing high demand from retailers promoting the fruit through aggressive merchandising.

"Production is increasing every month of the year," Leifermann said. "We expect it to continue well through the fall and into the winter. There will be multiple opportunities for retailers to promote papaya throughout the fall."

While Brooks" growers send fruit throughout the year, supplies are heaviest July through March.

Because of drier weather, the natural variations in production during lower-producing summer months typically don"t exceed volume declines of 10%, Leifermann said.

Brooks expects to increase production and, this coming year, ship 2 million 32-pound cartons, similar to last season, Leifermann said.

Brooks also markets papayas under its Caribbean Sunrise label.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture reported Sept. 4 that 35- to 40-pound cartons of Mexican maradols crossing through Texas were selling for $22-$23 in variable conditions.

For Belize and Guatemala product arriving through south Florida ports, the USDA on Sept. 4 reported cartons of 30- to 35-pound cartons of tainung variety 8s-12s selling for $15, and 13s-15s fetching $14-$15.

Central American Produce Inc., Pompano Beach, Fla., began importing papayas from Guatemala this fall.

Michael Warren, president, said supplies in late summer and early fall were lower, but that"s a part of the normal gap that occurs between plantings.

"As they increase plantings being harvested, there won"t be that big a gap between cycles because they"re preparing more land," he said. "There will definitely be promotable supplies but later in the season. The quality has been great."

Warren said buyers can expect bigger supplies from Central American Produce to begin in November.

Southern Specialties Inc., Pompano Beach, which ships fruit throughout the year, imports tainung and golden variety papayas from Belize and Guatemala.

Charlie Eagle, vice president of business development, said the fruit generally ships with fewer blemishes, and he is seeing higher consumer interest.

"We have seen significant growth for the larger papaya varieties," Eagle said. "We don"t think papaya sales will overtake mango sales, but we"ve seen growth in the papaya category as people become more familiar with the fruit. We are experiencing year-over-year growth in that category."