Colombia: Top Fruits seeks out top shelf grapes for export
A company in the Cauca Valley plans to pioneer seedless table grape exports from Colombia by the second half of 2016, with an ambitious planting plan now underway.
As part of a Swiss Import Promotion Programme (SIPPO) buyer mission to the South American country, a networking event was held in Cali to connect local growers with key international traders. It was there that www.freshfruitportal.com caught up with Top Fruits' manager Marco Aurelio Cadavid and agronomist Augusto Fernando Duplat.
"Currently we have 25 hectares in production, basically with the varieties Red Globe, Thompson, Crimson, Flame and Sugraone - we are currently we are planting 65 new hectares of the same varieties, but with a view to export to the international market," Duplat said.
"Being in the tropics there are dry and wet seasons, and the difference in temperatures is not an obstacle – on the contrary, it is an advantage as it helps the brix [sweetness] levels of the grapes.
"In the Cauca Valley the temperature between day and night is 8-10°C and that helps, but there are four months of the year - April, May, October and November - when there is rain, so our aim is not to produce in those months so as to avoid the propagation of pests and diseases, or rotting fruit."
Cadavid said Top Fruits would start by exporting fruit to Canada and the United States, as well as some shipments to Central America.
"We are now just starting to explore our path as we will have available supply in the second half of 2016. Our window is July to August when there is low supply in international markets - we can have a good supply in those months, as well as in December," he said.
"We believe we have an important comparative advantage. The tropics have some disadvantages and you have to fight with them, but there are also advantages – one of them is that out of 12 months in the year, we can certainly produce in 10 if we want.
"That's an advantage compared to other South American growers, as well as Californians."
Duplat said a greater focus would be placed on red grapes than white, with 90% of the supply as seedless. The agronomist would also like to be in touch with international seed and breeding companies to trial new varieties. At the moment, plant material is either local or from Peru in the case of the Crimson, Thompson and Sugraone varieties.
"Colombia harvests around 20,000 metric tons (MT) of grapes a year, and in seedless grapes we are the only growers in Colombia," he said.
Click here for more stories relating to the SIPPO buyer mission, which was undertaken with support from ProColombia and Germany's Import Promotion Desk (IPD).