Peru to pack new citrus punch, says industry body

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Peru to pack new citrus punch, says industry body

Peru has squeezed its way into the international citrus market on the back of its strength in Minneola tangelos, but now growers are looking to throw more varieties in the basket. The general manager of the country's citrus growers' association tells about the industry's grand plans.

ProCitrus general manager Sergio del Castillo, says early clementines and satsumas are the future for Peru's citrus stakes, following a period of steady growth for the fruit category.

The country is expected to register moderate growth of 2.9% to 70,000 metric tons (MT) in 2011, with Minneolas as the star performer in terms of quality and profit margins, but the concern is how long this success can last.

Del Castillo suspects the variety's popularity could wane further down the track.

"The minneola is a variety which offers exceptional productivity and quality. But it is an old variety which has conquered the market through its quality but it is likely to decline," he says.

A Minneola tangelo is a cross between a Dancy tangerine and a Duncan grapefruit.

New pastures

He explains that oranges have been key in opening up the U.S. market, followed by mandarins and minneolas, however it's important ProCitrus promotes the development of other easy peeler varieties.

"There is still much to explore. The clementine is being developed with cultivation in Ica and in Nazca," adds del Castillo's colleague and technical director Alberto Berardo.

Berardo highlights Arequipa as an important development region, although its potential is limited by a lack of available water. However, regional development projects to transfer water from the Colca and Apurímac rivers to the fields of Majes-Siguas should help the situation.

Berardo says efforts to develop other varieties have been led by major exporters including the Peruvian Corporation of Fruit (CPF) and Procesadora Larán. The results of their cultivation tests for production for export should bear fruit in the next five to six years with some positive 'surprises'.

While large companies have been focusing on new varieties, del Castillo says medium and small producers continue to pay great attention to the local market, which often absorbs fruit that has failed international standards.

About half of Peru's production of citrus fruit goes to the domestic market with richer consumers prepared to pay more for good quality.

"When they have more money in their pocket  the first thing they do is spend it on food and eating better. We want the housewife to go to the market thinking about what good citrus fruit she can buy," said del Castillo.

Del Castillo asserts the country's vast experience in handling citrus fruit is one of Peru's key strengths.

ProCitrus has its eye on developing exports to Asia, particularly Japan and South Korea. Del Castillo expects growers will pass Japan's import entry tests by the end of the year.

In the case of South Korea, growers expect to be able to export table grapes by the end of this year with citrus fruits after that. China is already a key export destination for the industry.

Photo: Boletin Agrario

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