Papaya is harvested all year round with production peaks during autumn and spring.
The plant starts to flower 5-8 months from planting and the fruit is ready to harvest 5-6 months after that. The plants grow fastest in warmer climates with good growing conditions. The fruit forms in the leaf axils and hangs on the tree after the leaves fall. Commercial harvesting continues for about two years until the trees become too tall to pick easily or tree losses become a problem.
Papaya is a labour-intensive crop that requires harvesting and packing at least once a week all year round. In North Queensland, harvesting and packing is required twice a week thoughout most of the year.
Papaya is a fragile fruit that is easily damaged, so it needs careful handling to prevent skin blemishes and bruising. Therefore, the fruit should be packed in a single layer box. Generally, 30 L cartons are used for yellow papaya and 18 L for red papaya. The fruit is then protected from damage with poly socks or paper wraps. Cardboard or polystyrene cartons are used.
The best storage and transport conditions for green papaya are 13oC with a relative humidity of 90-95 per cent. Ripe papaya is best stored at 10oC with a relative humidity of 90-95 per cent.
Papaya is ripened using ethylene gas under controlled conditions in special ripening rooms.
Yield and fruit quality varies with location, variety, crop management, disease incidence and the weather. Typically, in North Queensland, harvesting begins 9-10 months after planting, depending on your location and time of planting. Eventually the trees become too tall to harvest. In coastal North Queensland, this is usually about 8 months after harvesting begins if ladders are used and after about 10 months if harvesting platforms are used.
In North Queensland, marketable yields range from to yields of 2-7 cartons (13 kg) per bearing tree per year with 5-6 cartons being the average yield. Yields are generally higher in North Queensland than Central and South East Queensland.