Sweet prospects for Peruvian lúcumas
Peru's exports of the sugary fruit delicacy lúcuma, also known as eggfruit, surpassed 2011 values in the first nine months of this year. The fruit is slowly moving beyond its role as an ingredient in processed goods like ice cream, yogurt and other desserts, finding favor with adventurous chefs. At www.freshfruitportal.com we speak with Prolucuma commercial manager Gabriela Trujillo about the industry's plans to position this native crop as a global gourmet item.
Trujillo describes the lúcuma as a "product of the flag" for Peru, with cultivation dating back to ancient times and now spanning the departments of Arequipa, Ayacucho and Lima on a commercial scale.
The fruit is mainly sold as pulp or in powder form with the U.S., Chile and the U.K. as the top markets. Trujillo is upbeat about the novel food's opportunities in Europe, especially in Spain, since the recent opening of market access in the European Union.
In 2011 the country shipped 236 metric tons (MT) of the fruit, while in the first nine months of this year the figure was already higher at 249MT, with a value of US$992, 698.
She says Prolucuma's role is to unite the efforts of farmers and the government to promote the fruit in destination markets, while also resolving any problems that could affect the crop. The representative also heads up a lúcuma operation of her own, with her company Mariposa Andina accounting for 25% of the market and 50 hectares of the crop.
"These 50 hectares are really like 150 as we have a high productivity level of 33,000 plants per hectare and they are young trees, which is why we expect production will go on growing," she says.
She says the industry has professionalized to the level of confidence in meeting client needs.
"Before there wasn't the certainty that a provider could comply. Today that's changed - there are export volumes and attractive prices.
"In addition, the Peruvian market has developed a lot with the theme of gastronomy and gives a good price for lúcumas."
Opening new markets
Trujillo highlights that the first shipments of the fruit have been sent to Dubai for use in gourmet cooking.
"We are betting on the lúcuma being seen as a select niche product, and as there isn't much supply the idea is that it will keep a good price.
"Exports are increasingly taking on more importance and year-on-year they're growing at a rate of 30%.
"I see a very good future for the lúcuma as there is already a great unmet demand for the product both domestically and abroad."