While the Mexican National Institute of Social Economy (INAES) has been supporting small farmers in dried fruit projects for a few years now, the entity has recently upped the ante with revamped projects in the state of Michoacán.
At www.freshfruitportal.com we caught up with INAES delegate in Michoacán, Mónica Sánchez, to discuss the recent opening of a drying plant for the company 'Peras y Duraznos de Ucareo'.
"In this locality they produce a lot of quinces, peaches, pears, plums and apples, and this company had the initiative to give them added value to their production, transforming the fruit into dried sweetened products and even liquor in the process," Sánchez said.
"Currently they have 24 people working different hours dailys and they have a productive capacity of approximately 400 (metric) tons per product."
INAES has been working with the company for three years but previously the work was done with what Sánches referred to as "rustic" equipment. Now the situation is different, with cleaner, better quality machines that have more precision in the dehydration process.
The new scenario helps growers make the most of more fruit, while the machines save energy compared to their more artesenal predecessors.
"They have managed to improve the process a lot as now the fruit takes a little more than 24 hours inside the oven so the fruit doesn't lose its properties, nor its characteristic flavor. Now they can measure what time the fruit really needs to make the final product."
Peras y Duraznos de Ucareo currently dedicates a quarter of its production to the project, and the plan is to consolidate its presence locally while also building an export market.
"They are entering the state of Guanajuato and the idea with these quality products is that they have an accessible cost, mainly for the people from the region.
"Now that they have a drying plant, we believe they already have the capacity to export. They are looking at which markets they could access but this phase has just started."
"El Huerto" is the commercial brand of the products, which also have the marketing pitch of production without chemicals.
"Pears and peaches are already in the process of certification, mainly to be able to export to the U.S. The other fruits will also enter this process soon. The idea is that all production is certified [as organic] in the short term."
Sánchez added half of the region's production could feasibly be processed by the company within the next year.
"In general it's the fruit that's not the prettiest, it's what the supermarket doesn't sell, and the truth is that despite the appearance, it's very tasty. This project is an opportunity not to lose food."
“Por lo general esta fruta no es la más bonita, es la que en el supermercado no se vende, y la verdad es que a pesar de la apariencia, es sabrosisíma. Este proyecto es una oportunidad para no perder alimentos”, concluye Sánchez.
Another group to benefit from the project has been Sani-Frut of Buenavista Tomatlán, also in Michoacán.
Executive director Julio César Sandoval said Sani-Frut started drying projects four years ago and now works with ovens that have the capacity to process 400-600kg (882-1,322lbs).
"We are working according to the availability of fruit that's there. Additionally, we have a mix of 10 vegetables that we are selecting based on their availability."
Sani-Frut is still unable to satify demand.
"Last year we had a contact in Israel, but not the volume they needed (250 metric tons of dried mangoes), so we associated ourselves with a company from Nayarit, with which we could send 10 containers, and this year together with them again, we expect to be able to send 20 to 30 containers.
"Thanks to that we could keep a customer and that allows us to continue prospecting."
Thanks to INAES and a new round of funding, Sani-Frut will be able to improve its equipment very soon, giving it the capacity to produce between 3.5-5 (metric) tons.