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Follow the thing: Papaya
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Follow the thing: Papaya

October 2012

Papaya: an exotic fruit. Grown in Jamaica. Eaten in the UK. However, all is not as it seems. How did that papaya come to your dinner table?

Follow the thing: Papaya

Papaya: an exotic fruit. Grown in Jamaica. Eaten in the UK. However, all is not as it seems. How did that papaya come to your dinner table? Who are the people behind it? What connects you with the farmer that grew it, the picker that picked it, the packer that packed it and the supplier that supplied it? What role do you play in this chain of people? Given the opportunity, what might you say to the person that grew your fruit?

Associate Professor of Geography Ian Cook of the University of Exeter spent six months in Jamaica working with women in a packing house where papayas were washed, graded, wrapped and boxed ready for export to the UK. However, when he returned to the supermarkets in Britain, those same papayas looked and felt very different to him. He knew that, behind them, there was a highly complex chain of people and things. He knew there was also an awful lot of poverty and hardship on the part of workers.

It was this experience that encouraged him to tell complex stories of people’s lives and global trade. These stories aren’t perfect or neat - they are complex and can be messy. However, they need to be appreciated. Ian hopes that his story of the papaya will encourage deeper appreciations of the work that goes into the things we buy and the geographical connections between them. He wants to help you bring these debates alive. The following article will lead you through the different stages of the export of papaya and through this you will also meet some of the people involved in its trade.


Although this research was done 20 years ago – in 1992 – the hidden relationships it describes and the questions it asks are as relevant today as they were then.

It is particularly useful for decision-making tasks. It tells personal stories about a range of different players, each with their own situations and motivations. This is intended to spark discussion and debate. Remember, there are no right answers and no easy solutions!


AS unit 1, Human option (Food Supply Issues). A case study of a global pattern of food supply, consumption and trade

A2 unit 3, Human option (Development and Globalisation). Exemplifies the spatial organisation of TNC trade. Could address ‘Trade versus aid’ debate


AS unit 2, topic 2: Going Global (Global networks). Examines ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ of global trade

A2 unit 3, topic 5: Bridging the development gap. Awareness of the global balance of trade and the different impacts upon different people


A2 unit F763: Global issues (Globalisation). Highlights the positive and negative impacts of TNC trade. Raises questions as to whether globalisation is increasing or narrowing the ‘development gap’


A2 unit G3, section A (Globalisation). A detailed case study of the effects of globalisation. Addresses the ‘development gap’.

In the Members' Area:

  • The farm
  • The picker
  • The papaya packer
  • The farm foreman
  • The farmer
  • The importer
  • The pre-packer
  • The buyer
  • The consumer
  • Conclusion

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