Open any social media platform and the chances of getting messages extolling the benefits of papaya are very high. Papaya seeds are good for health, papaya can cure dengue fever, papaya can give glowing skin and thick manes … the list of benefits is pretty long. One message that is doing the rounds is that papaya is the secret behind actor Mammootty’s youthful looks.
Beyond these tidbits, no one really knows the worth of this large oval sweet fruit that has roots in far off Mexico. But now, papaya in a new avatar is taking Kerala by storm.
The novel papaya tapping will be a boon for rubber farmers who are left in the lurch because of plummeting rubber prices. And everyone is also sceptical on whether rubber will return to its glory days. The rubber farmers can only ruminate over the good old days as price fluctuations, rubber imports and bureaucratic entangles have taken a toll on the market viability of rubber. But the cost-effective papaya tapping is a silver lining for farmers as it is lucrative for them. It is the sap of papaya, like in rubber, that is filling the coffers of the farmers.
It may sound unbelievable, but it’s true. About Rs 25,000 per month could be earned from one acre of papaya tapping. Many farmers in Kerala are toeing the line of their counterparts in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka who had hit a jackpot with papaya tapping. One such Keralite farmer who is into papaya tapping is Ayub Thottolli hailing from Wayanad. And Ayub reveals how to strike gold with papain (papaya sap).
The Mexican touch
“Keralites usually experiment with intercropping, terrace farming and floriculture, and they are interested only in farming that’s pretty lucrative. The Kerala farmers will get into uncharted waters only if a particular type of farming was a success in some other place. Papaya farming started to make inroads into Kerala only after other states found it raking in the moolah,” says Ayub.
“Everyone will be surprised to know that lakhs of rupees could be earned from the papain tapped from papayas that are thrown away, but initially I too had doubts regarding what will the quantum of income and how farming could be done. I got very interested after realizing that the farming technique was simple,” he recollects the days when he stepped into papaya farming.
It was i-STED (Innovation-Science and Technology based Entrepreneurship Development), an agency under the Department of Science and Technology, which encouraged the farmers to tread this path. This agency was instrumental in making bamboo products and virgin coconut a success.
“I didn’t have to think twice to take up papaya farming as i-STED had vouched for it,” adds Ayub.
Papaya trees should be planted where there are good sunshine and less water, and one advantage of papaya farming is that it is conducive to all weather conditions. It is better to cultivate the Philippines variety of ‘Sinta’ papaya as it gives more papain, says Ayub. The CO3 variety can also be tried out.
“The cultivation of papaya is easy as no special attention is needed for the trees. The fruits will be ready for tapping in six to eight months and as in rubber tapping, tapping of papaya should also be done early in the morning,” he adds.
A good option indeed
“We harvest papain and there are government approved agencies to collect and store the tapped papain. The farmers will get their share of profit as price and other related clauses are fixed as per the agreement inked with the company that buys papain,” assures Ayub, who earns Rs 15,000 to Rs 25,000 per month from an acre of papaya cultivation.
Adds a new hue to papaya
Now, the humble papayas transform into something extraordinary. The papain collected from the farmers is made into papain powder. Around 40 kgs of powder are made out of one tonne of papain, and one kg of papain powder can fetch close to Rs one lakh in the global market.
“These are the number given by the agencies. The actual price will be much more than Rs one lakh,” says Ayub. After tapping, the papayas are sold at Rs 4 per piece to various bakeries as papaya is the main ingredient of many candies.
Value-added products from papaya
Just think again if you have a notion that papaya is just a fruit. Papain powder is one of the main ingredients in the majority of beauty products in the market.
“Papaya is present in creams, powders, medicines and baby powders, and also a vital component of packed meat and gripe water. Papain powder is even included in poultry feed. Another point to be noted is that papain-based products don’t have any side-effects,” Ayub adds with utmost confidence.
Ayub is getting plenty of orders after he tasted success in this venture. Moreover, young farmers are keen to meet him to learn the nuances of papaya farming and tapping. Following the footsteps of Ayub and other farmers who made it big in papaya farming, the government is introducing this type of cultivation in various districts. In the first phase, papaya farming had been put in place in Kasaragod, Malappuram, Wayanad, Thrissur, Idukki and Kollam districts. Many farmers from other districts too are expected to take up this novel way of farming. Ayub can be contacted at 9387752145.