Reaping rich returns through Red Lady, the queen of papayas

papaya farm
Varkey George and Varkey Roy in their papaya farm

Red Lady, the high-yielding papaya is the most favoured variety by farmers for large-scale commercial production as it is more resistant to infestation. When Mundatt Varkey George, a retired teacher, and his brother Varkey Roy, who was an expatriate, decided to start papaya farming, they didn’t have to think twice before choosing Red Lady.

Thiruvambady native Mundatt Varkey George, the former headmaster of St Jospeh's Higher Secondary School, Kozhikode, has farming in his genes as his forefathers were into agriculture. After retirement, he was engaged in the farming at his own yard when his brother Varkey Roy ended his long NRI life as a mechanical engineer and returned home. Inspired by a farm in Attappadi that belonged to his friend, a Kozhikode native named P M Sebastian, Varkey Roy learned more about farming techniques and decided to start papaya farming at his 1.5 acres of land at Kaappichuvadu near Kaliyambuzha at Pullurampuzha, Thiruvambady.

The brothers brought two-week-old Red Lady saplings from a nursery in Pune at Rs 45 per sapling. As many as 350 saplings were planted in 50-cm-deep pits at two-metre gap in the whole of 1.5 acres of land. The brothers say that the pits should be filled with a mixture of soil, cow dung and sand before planting. Adding neem cake is also beneficial for good yield. Monthly application of organic fertilizer should be ensured.

The best time to plant papaya saplings are the months from November to January. The saplings will have to grow well by monsoon. The saplings should get ample sunlight and there shouldn’t be waterlogging, especially during monsoon, when excess water could result in root decay.

By the seventh month, the papaya bears fruit. Proper support should be given to avoid the fruit from dropping in the wind. Each fruit may weigh between 1.5 kg and 2.5 kg and can be sold at Rs 25 per kg. Each papaya tree bears around 30 fruits and each harvest can yield up to 500 papayas. Ripened Red Lady papaya stays fresh for at least a week.

Papayas could be affected by fungal diseases, which can be prevented by spraying Bordeaux mixture. Each tree can yield for three years and the harvest is pretty easy. One papaya tree can earn the farmer up to Rs 2000 annually.

Contact: Roy 7594943879

Papaya, the real ‘money’ plant

Do you know that the latex of papaya called papain has high medicinal properties and has great commercial value? Papain is used in cosmetic and pharmaceutical industry as a component in drugs against cancer and liver diseases and to increase blood cells.

The Sinta hybrid variety of papaya is cultivated for extraction of latex by scoring the the raw fruit using a special blade. The latex is collected in a Rexine sheet kept under the tree and when dried, it is scraped from the sheet. Tapping can be done weekly on fruits which are 40% mature till they turn 80% ripe. The latex costs Rs 140 per litre and is in great demand at Coimbatore.

A farmers’ collective in Wandoor of Malappuram is engaged in papaya farming in 12 acres of land for papain collection alone. After extracting the latex, the ripe papayas can be processed into value-added products, says P. Basheer, secretary of the collective.

Contact: Basheer 9544901067

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