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Homestead, FL-based Brooks Tropicals has introduced a new papaya box for its year-round movement of "Caribbean Red" papayas from Belize.

"It is a display-ready, corner-post box," Mary Ostlund, director of marketing for Brooks Tropicals, told The Produce News Feb. 3, explaining that corner post refers to the small triangle that fits into the corner and acts as a post in the box to provide more rigidity and stability.

According to Ms. Ostlund, the new "Caribbean Red" papaya boxes address the company's top priorities. "They provide the best in fruit protection," she said. "Our new corner post boxes have gone through considerable testing and have shown to increase fruit protection substantially. They can stack higher without suffering damage, and when they arrive at stores on pallets, they're in as perfect condition as possible. That results in less bruising and shrink."

The boxes also requires less paper to manufacture, said Ms. Ostlund, so they are also better for the environment.

"We have created new 'Catch the Wave' artwork to grab the consumer's eye," she added. "The boxes are ready for the produce aisle display just by taking off the lid."

The machine that produces the boxes has been installed in Belize, and trial shipments will begin in February. They will then be rolled out in increasing fashion.

Ms. Ostlund said that Brooks Tropicals plants papaya trees based on projected forecasts from its customers. "This enables us to work with customers on promotions and advertisements, in some cases a year in advance," she said. "We literally sit with our customers and work out their papaya shipments so they'll have volumes they need."

Ms. Ostlund said that Brooks has up to 20 people watching the fields at all times and reporting back to the company's laboratory in Belize. "We have really beefed up the lab," she said. "It's a stellar facility, maybe the best in South [America] or Central America. This gives us great insight into the good and negative things that can happen and what conditions create the best quality papaya. Every imaginable detail is considered and examined."

She added that Brooks has several key individuals who manage papaya operations for the company.

Henry Warrington has worked with Brooks Tropicals for a couple of years as the head of its papaya field operations in Belize. His background is in large- scale farming in the citrus industry. He has managed farms in South Africa, Brazil, Mexico and California.

"He has fantastic understanding of papayas, and he understands what bad weather like storms and hurricanes can do," said Ms. Ostlund.

Victor E. Salguero, a new employee at the Belize laboratory, is a leading entomologist. He heads what Ms. Ostlund said might be the best in-field laboratory in Central America or South America. She added that Mr. Salguero's study of the efficacies of fertilizers being used was crucial in advancing the company's quality program.

Richard Mancini joined Brooks Tropicals' sales office in Homestead in mid- January. He got a great deal of retail experience as district sales manager for a regional distributor.

"It takes someone of Richard's ability to focus on our papaya brand and work with customers to meet their volumes and papaya needs," said Ms. Ostlund. "Richard works directly with all our sales reps to ensure they are delivering the best quantities and qualities to our customers."