Peruvian Agri Institute forecasts bright pomegranate future
Peruvian pomegranate exports grew by 46.1% reaching US$3.9 million in 2011, with Europe and the U.S. as the main markets. Peruvian Agri Institute professor Jorge Taipe tells www.freshfruitportal.com how the same growth rate is set to continue in 2012, while the industry looks for ways to widen its production window.
Global consumption of the "functionally superior" fruit is still not as high as it could be, but Taipe at least has made the switch from orange to pomegranate juice with his daily breakfast. His dream as that the rest of the world will do the same.
Plantations have been on the rise over recent years, albeit from a small base, growing a product that Taipe believes can easily differentiate itself from the current pomegranate supply overseas.
"This is not because I'm Peruvian, but I've seen pomegranates in international supermarkets both in the U.S. and in Europe that don't compete in the external or internal quality of the fruit we have to offer," he says.
"Our fruit is of an excellent quality and size. We are going to displace many in this race."
Taipe does not mention specific competitors, but Chile's season between April and May happens to coincide with Peru's, and the southern neighbor is also ramping up production on a fast scale.
He says the Peruvian season goes from March to the end of May with peak supply in April, but the industry is looking to extend this timeframe.
"It is a good window but we are working with agronomic methods and early varieties to concentrate higher production in the months of February and March, when the world doesn't have pomegranates," he says.
"For example the SUKA variety is a selection in an experimental field where it has repeatedly been observed that the fruit is ready for harvest in the month of February."
Taipe says that several factors including water use, weather, soil issues and market strategy are driving many Peruvian companies to expand their export baskets of fruits, and pomegranates have been a part of that equation.
"2012 will incorporate approximately 600 hectares more - for example, our nursery has commitments for more than 400 hectares this year," he says.
"Over the past three years around 500 hectares per year have been added on average, with sustained growth. By 2015 we will have 3,000 hectares on board."
With this increased level of production Taipe expects Peru to export 6,000 metric tons (MT) in 2012. When asked about the profitability of the industry, he prefers not to give a final answer.
"If you have a look at the average FOB (Freight On Board) price in 2010 and 2011, it was US$2 per kilogram (2.2lbs), and you have an average exportable yield of 20,000kg (44,000lbs) per hectare, and a cost of US$10,000 per hectare."
Provided all fruit is sold at those prices and other factors are held constant, this equates to a profitability of US$30,000 per hectare.
Health benefits, processing and training programs
Taipe highlights pomegranates are becoming increasingly popular around the world, with fashionable health properties.
"It's a fruit that purifies you're soul just a little more (he laughs). The medicinal properties that this fruit has exceeds any other, so I'm very optimistic that consumption will have a positive trend for many years," he says.
He believes Peru can learn a good lesson from the success of U.S company POM Wonderful with it's juices and processed pomegranate aril products.
"For the moment we can take advantage of the fact this can be done in Peru and give an added value to the fruit that is not exported, and in the medium term this will be done more in Peru.
"It's a great way to harness 100% of the fruit that comes from the field."
The Peruvian Agri Institute will be running a specialized training program for pomegranate growers in Ica on Jan. 21-22.
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