The project called Majes Siguas II involves the development of a 15-kilometer (9-mile) tunnel from the east side of the mountains to the west in order to irrigate the coastal Pampas de Siguas in Arequipa Region.
Peru’s Ministry of Agriculture said these works would complement those already carried out in the Pampas de Majes, which led to 16,000 hectares being made available for production of crops like table grapes, cherry tomatoes, quinoa, piquillo peppers and artichokes.
The works to provide irrigation to the area will also involve the construction of a hydroelectric plant with the capacity to store 1.1 billion cubic meters of water to be distributed to the Pampas de Siguas.
The region Arequipa government told Fresh Fruit Portal works began last week and are expected to be completed by 2021, when authorities will begin to distribute the lands for agricultural production.
It also said that the 38,500 hectares will be tendered to both large companies and small-scale farmers, and the lands will be divided into 200-hectare plots with a base price of US$5,500.
The plots will mainly be destined for the production of agricultural export products with a focus on the Asian and European markets, it added.
The regional authorities will also provide suggestions for which commodities are most suited to growing in the desert conditions.
Agricultural Association of Producer Unions (AGAP) president Ricardo Polis said that given the characteristics of the area, there would be opportunities to grow non-traditional agricultural commodities.
“From the climatic point of view the area is different to the rest of the Peruvian coast – it is between 900 and 1,000 meters above sea level, with temperatures ranging from lows of 5°C and highs of 30ºC in the summer with a lot of sunshine,” he said.
Polis added that the industry is beginning trials to evaluate which crops grow best in the area.