U.S.: Pacific Organic Produce strengthens Peruvian citrus program
California-based importer Pacific Organic Produce has been sourcing Peruvian organic citrus - a unique product in its own right - for around four years now, but the make-up of the program is changing.
Pacific Organic Produce founder Greg Holzman says supply from partner Cultivos Orgánicos has not necessarily grown a great deal in volume, but has become more suited to U.S. market demands.
"What we’ve been doing over the last few years is grafting and new planting of crops that are much better suited to arriving in the States, and are much more marketable in the States," he says.
"We’ve really improved the quality of the Satsumas, but moving away from them to Murcotts and other easy peelers, there are more Minneolas in the ground, and we are experimenting with different varieties of Navels."
He says this shift has come about because Murcotts are a "stronger piece of fruit" that is more likely to make the trip up using the required cold treatment without making the applications used by the conventional produce industry.
This is important in a North America market that has come under pressure from increased conventional volumes in easy peelers from all source origins, creating a good business case for organic citrus and its associated premiums.
"So it’s pretty typical what we’ve seen over the years – this is how the wave works, and we think we’re pretty nicely in front of the curve," Holzman says.
"We want to develop more organic citrus in and around that farm, using that farm as a nexus for it. We plan to plant on that farm, we plan to expand into blueberries and grapes - both really valuable crops that can come from that area.
"We try to get a reasonably fair price so the consumer can feel okay at the shelf, but we need to pay for the farm, we need to grow the farm, we need to keep the farmer healthy."
He says the farm is based in the Huaral area, about an hour's drive north of the Peruvian capital Lima.
Thanks to the Huaura River and the Santa Rosa irrigation project, which was set up in the late 1960s, the valley is now a rich and fertile agricultural region.
"To me organic agriculture means working with nature," Adolfo Arias of Cultivos Orgánicos.
"Plants and trees are living organisms just like human beings: they tell you what they need, and all we really need to do is to know is how to listen and how to understand them."
The Minneola is a farm favorite, which Holzman claims has a unique flavor where both its parentages come shining through - grapefruit mixed with mandarin.
Photo: Amada44, via Wikimedia Creative Commons