Peruvian mandarin harvest kicks off

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Peruvian mandarin harvest kicks off

Peru's easy peeler harvest has got underway in the Chincha and Cañete valleys with the first satsumas due for export to Europe within two weeks.

Eduardo Mendez, from the country's largest mandarin exporter Consortium of Fruit Producers (CPF), tells a good season is expected with similar growing conditions to last year.

"From the information we’re getting the quality hasn’t really changed from last year and everything is going very well - the weather is good, the soil is good," he says.

"In theory we will note growth this year but it won’t be significant. We aren't planning to increase volumes to or traditional markets of Europe and the U.S.­­­, so the slight growth we do have will come from shipments to new markets like Japan, Indonesia, Singapore and the Middle East."

He says the company shipped US$20 million worth of easy peelers last year but value forecasts cannot yet be made for 2012.

"We will probably ship 20 containers to new markets, and as a season total we’re expecting 1,100 containers. Europe is our main market and around 40% go to the U.S."

He says the strategy in Asia last year was to enter with lower prices, let consumers get to know the product and its quality, and is hoping this year for prices. CPG's competition comes from compatriots Camposol and Procesadora Laran, late season Northern Hemisphere suppliers, and Southern Hemisphere exporters from South Africa, Uruguay, Argentina and Australia.

European outlook

One of CPF's clients in Europe, Netherlands-based Wilko Fruit, is hopeful for a better year for the Southern Hemisphere mandarin deal after the 2011 'Argentine disaster'.

"Last year there were a lot of problems with the Argentine satsuma crop; all the importers were originally very optimistic but in the end it was a disaster year for satsumas," says owner Wilko van der Zwaard.

"Later in the season with the novas and the clementines it was quite normal, but it was already so bad with the Argentine satsumas that now the importers will be very prudent and won't want to have so much volume.

"Argentina's satsumas have become very expensive for the exporters because of inflation and it is not something profitable. Last year the quality was so bad as they were sending early fruit without taste, green fruit; some were using artificial coloring to make it orange, and after a week with it at home the consumer sees it has turned brown."

He says Argentina's low quality fruit over the last few years has a negative effect on the good quality product from Peru, South Africa and elsewhere.

"When a consumer buys a fruit the label of origin is there but they might not look at that, and if the fruit goes bad they're never going to come back."

For van der Zwaard, a lower Argentine satsuma presence will be positive this year, while there have been some other local dynamics that are positive for counterseasonal suppliers.

"You still have the ortaniques, which are not easy peelers and are a stronger variety, and they are selling very very well, and there is a variety called the golden nougat which is one of the best late season varieties, with a characteristic brix of 18-20 and juice inside of more than 60%," he says.

He says strong demand will helps keep a consistency of consumption during the transition period to the Southern Hemisphere fruit.

"I think this year the market will be better with better price; afourers are just about finished with one week to go and then most of the mandarins from Spain will have finished.

"Morrocco finished last week, and I've got three weeks of selling the golden nougats before I get the good satsumas from Peru and South Africa."

He says that like these two Southern Hemisphere countries, Chile has a good reputation too, but it is late season, ships the majority of its fruit to the U.S. and is more expensive so importers.

"We tend to buy the Chilean easy peelers when there's a gap that needs to be filled."

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