Peru on track to maintain asparagus exports

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Peru on track to maintain asparagus exports

Judging from early statistics, Peru's asparagus industry looks to be on par with - and perhaps surpassing - its 2012 campaign.

The nation's small campaign at the beginning of the year reached around 50,000 metric tons (MT) in fresh asparagus exports. With the esparragos_82737490larger asparagus campaign coming up in September, the value puts Peru on track to reach the 117,000MT exported in 2012.

Peruvian Asparagus and Vegetable Institute director Carlos Zamorano said the numbers so far gave Peru reason to expect a strong year overall.

"If we look at asparagus in Peru, it’s a business worth around US$500 million. We are basically at US$230 [million] or US240 million dollars this year," he said.

"At least in terms of prices, I don’t see a bad start to the year. We'll have to see how the big campaign goes at the end of the year but this doesn't have to be a bad year."

Zamorano warned against concern regarding Peru's aging asparagus plantations, explaining that the drop in planted acreage was a natural part of the planting cycle.

"At moments we see some declines, like in our last census which had a drop of 10%. But, on the other hand, there are intentions to plant more. We have around 2,000 hectares being planted," he said.

"The short-term benefit is that a drop in the offering, alongside growing markets, means prices tend to rise. This helps farmers return to plant asparagus again."

A complication for asparagus farmers has been the inability to replant asparagus where the vegetable was already grown. Exhaustion of the soil means that land must, at least temporarily, be dedicated to other purposes.

"If you plant asparagus over asparagus, it’s not going to work. This phenomenon has opened land to other crops. Many farmers with 100, 300 hectares of asparagus have killed off parts and other crops have seen growth, especially table grapes and avocado," he said.

Despite the need to alternate land, Zamorano said the future looked bright for asparagus plantations.

"What we do know is that people involved in asparagus are still interested in asparagus, continue planting and markets continue growing," he said.

One significant new market has been China, which opened to Peru earlier this year.

"The growing middle class in China is giving an economic push to eat fresh asparagus, which has created an opportunity for Peru. In the medium-term, this could become a very interesting market in terms of volume and price," Zamorano said.

Another hopeful market is the United States. Peru is currently pushing to open the market up to its asparagus without fumigation.

"We’re making serious progress for the sanitary requirements to export fresh green asparagus to North America. We’re doing a lot of phytosanitary work with Senasa [Peru's Agricultural Sanitation Service] nationally for planting, more or less is the equivalent to work done with fruits to kill off fruit fly," he said.

"We have implemented a national asparagus program in all production zones to decrease diseases and to improve phytosanitary conditions."

If the United States were to accept Peruvian asparagus without fumigation, Zamorano said prices would drop and Peru would have the opportunity to focus on new market segments.

Zamorano added that opportunity and challenges on new markets are what keep the industry pushing forward.

"Many times challenges are necessary. They obligate you to stay alert and continue on. The asparagus industry is more alive than ever," he said.


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