JUST as the booming papaya export industry was recovering from the two floods last year with the promise of a record 2013 harvest, Tropical Cyclone Evan swept in and pushed business back by four months.
According to the chief executive officer of the leading produce growers organisation in the country 30 per cent of plants were completely destroyed and 70 per cent were defoliated by the category 4 storm.
"We had planted 200 acres after the April flood and this was significantly more than what was there pre-flood. We had expected a record harvest until Evan came and set us back by four months," Michael Brown of Nature's Way Cooperative Limited said.
"The 70 per cent that were defoliated are slowly recovering and we expect to have export quality fruit in four months," he said.
Despite the effects on the export trade, he said businesses were being kept afloat by a huge demand for the fruit from the local market.
"The fruit that we currently have is not good enough for export but local markets are absorbing whatever papaya is available at the present time," he said.
Papaya exports have seen significant increases over the past few years, with 140 tonnes exported in 2010 to 800 tonnes in 2011. Record production expected last year failed to materialise when two floods hit the Western Division.