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Our red-flesh papaya is a point of pride

Publication date: 2 September 2016

Grower profile – Daniel Mackay, Mackays, QLD

The Mackay family may be known for growing bananas, having done so in North Queensland since 1945, but their red-flesh papaya is continuing to gain momentum in the market.

Daniel Mackay is from the third-generation of the growing family and one of Mackays’ five managing directors, alongside three of his brothers and one cousin.

“Getting out and working on the farm is something I passionately love to do,” Daniel said. “My big dream was always to be out there driving big dozers and diggers on the land. I got to do that for a while, but now I mostly focus on the business and marketing side of things – and talking about our red-flesh papaya is a big point of pride.”

Daniel’s family started growing red-flesh papaya about seven years ago. “A couple of us encountered red papaya while travelling overseas. We really enjoyed it, noticed there wasn’t a great amount being grown in Australia, and ventured down that path.”

While the family began growing Solos, the low yields proved troublesome and they set about looking for new varieties. “We were very fortunate that at the time a lot of great varietal work was being done, and we came across one called RB1. We did a lot of sampling and found people were very happy with the taste profile, and it was a good producer for the coastal areas, where we’re based. It looked like a winner,” Daniel said.

“We went on to develop a brand for the variety (Reblo) and developed growing and packing protocols to try and get more consistency in the product. We went out to retailers to show them the product, it was accepted very well and it took off from there,” Daniel said. “We were also really lucky that the industry was sort of heading towards reds already, so we got there at the right time.”

When the Mackays started out they were growing about 25 per cent red papaya to 75 per cent yellow. Now they produce about 65 per cent red and 35 per cent yellow.

“RB1 was definitely a breakthrough for the papaya industry and really instrumental for us,” Daniel said. “The industry continues to invest heavily in varietals and I see that as the future for us, as well as working with tasting panels to try and get the taste profile correct in both reds and yellows.”

Daniel said getting awareness up is also key. He has been involved in the PR and marketing campaign for the papaya industry, attending media briefings with papaya health ambassador Caitlin Reid.

“The result has been great,” Daniel said. “We’ve seen a lot more magazines running short articles on meal solutions with papaya – though I do still think the best recipe is to just enjoy papaya by itself, maybe with a little bit of lime or yoghurt!”

As more health benefits of papaya come to light and keep consumers keen, the potential for the industry can only grow, Daniel said. “I just think it’s an amazing emerging industry. We don’t know how far it’s going to go because it’s just such a great product, and I just hope that we can all stay on that journey together.”


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