Red papaya production in Belize won’t peak until March, but shipments are expected to edge up weekly from now until then on a crop pegged for hefty volume increases.

“Brooks is projecting a 25% increase in Caribbean Red papaya volumes in 2013,” said Bill Brindle, vice president of sales and marketing for Homestead, Fla.-based Brooks Tropicals.

Late November production, however, was lighter than normal as growers continued to rebound from hurricane activity earlier in the year, said Eric Crawford, president of Sunrise, Fla.-based Fresh Results LLC.

“We replant as fast as we can to fill the gaps Mother Nature gives us,” he said.

Fresh Results ships red tainung papayas year-round.

“There are just a couple large operations in Belize, Brooks and ourselves,” Crawford said.

“Mexico is the largest producer, but out of Belize we’re definitely up double-digits year after year, probably 30% this year over last.”

Given Belize’s vulnerability to hurricanes or tropical storms, only demand can explain the production increases there.

“Demand on red tainungs is increasing exponentially,” Crawford said. “It has to do with the sugar levels and the flavor. They’re less pungent than a maradol out of Mexico.”

Publicity on the health benefits of antioxidants in papayas has helped drive those sales — as have other marketing efforts.

Brooks Tropicals also ships orange-fleshed, Hawaiian type papayas from Belize.

“Solo papayas are coming in strong,” said Mary Ostlund, director of marketing.

Homestead, Fla.-based Fresh King also has Belize papaya production. That has traditionally complemented its fruit out of Mexico, but those operations have shifted to Guatemala.

“We’ve been bringing in 10 or 12 containers a week from Guatemala for the past two months,” general manager Alvaro Perpuly said Nov. 26. The move was initiated eight months ago.

“With the problems Mexico had with salmonella and everything else we switched to Guatemala and it’s been a great success,” Perpuly said.

HLB Specialties LLC, Pompano Beach, Fla., offers formosa papayas out of Guatemala and Mexico, plus the smaller goldens out of Brazil.

“The golden has been tight year round,” said Homero Levy de Barros, president.

“There has been a lot of unexpected rain in Brazil. It will continue to be tight until February. The larger papayas in our Guatemalan and Mexican deals are pretty stable.”