(Aug. 6) In an effort to potentially double sales within a year, HLB Tropical Food, Plantation, Fla., and Caliman Agricola SA, Espirito Santo, Brazil, have entered into a joint venture under the name of Caliman International.

HLB Tropical Food, a leading marketer of papayas to 15 countries in Europe and North America, and Caliman Agricola, which produced 37% of Brazil’s papaya exports in 2002, formed the new company to meet the demand of a growing market share.

Since moving into the U.S. market five years ago, HLB Tropical Food has experienced 50% growth each year in sales of its fruit, grown by Caliman Agricola.

“We never had enough,” said Homero Levy De Barros, president and chief executive officer of Caliman International and president of HLB Tropical Food. “Growth has been faster than we could supply. So we made the decision to double the area that we plant and made agreements with other growers.”

Caliman International will produce fruit on 1,500 acres operated by Caliman Agricola and has contracted with other growers in the area for production on another 1,500 acres. The company also will export fruit to Europe and Canada from Natal, Brazil.

HLB sold 1.2 million 8-pound boxes in the U.S. last year, which was about 50% of the company’s sales. De Barros said he expects those numbers to increase substantially within a year as U.S. buyers and consumers become more educated about papayas.

De Barros’ first challenge in the U.S. was to convince buyers that a tree-ripened, yellow fruit was better than a green fruit.

The golden papaya, the variety sold in the U.S. has a bright, yellow skin and a sweet, orange pulp. It is high in vitamins A and C, as well as potassium and fiber.