Ecuador's top golden berry grower overjoyed at U.S. access proposal

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Ecuador's top golden berry grower overjoyed at U.S. access proposal

As Ecuador's leading golden berry exporter with customers in Europe and more recently Canada, Tankay Social Company looks forward to having a new market on the list. 

Speaking with Fresh Fruit Portal last week, company representative Dennis Brito said the news the U.S. Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) had proposed to allow imports of the fruit - known formally as the cape gooseberries and marketed as 'physalis' in Europe - under a systems approach could not have come at a better time.

On Saturday the company opened a new innovation and packing facility called "Shungo Urco", meaning "Heart of the Mountain" in the indigenous Kichwa language, where it will also collaborate with local universities to adapt new technologies to Ecuadorian conditions.

Brito said his company spearheaded the push for U.S. market access more than 12 years ago when work got underway with the pest risk analysis (PRA).

"The 'uvilla' as we call it is a great support for the country’s development, and a great opportunity for small and medium-sized growers in all of Ecuador because it will generate more employment opportunities," he says.

"We can offer a great quality product. We offer a fruit that’s larger, sweeter and has a longer shelf life."

APHIS will be accepting comments on its proposal until June 19, but Brito is hopeful there won't be any obstacles.

"You can imagine that after doing the process for 12 years we want this to work well for the United States and for us, so in truth we will await observations," he said.

"There shouldn’t be any limitations because we cultivate in systems where we don’t have any fruit fly risks.

"We don’t have that pest at the altitudes where we produce, and actually we are producing in zones that are declared by Agrocalidad, which is APHIS’ counterpart, as fruit fly-free.

"We expect that all the processes are done on time and we can do everything that’s necessary to have our fresh product in supermarkets as soon as possible."

The company sources its fruit from farms between 50-80km (31-50mi) to the south of the capital Quito, at altitudes ranging from 2,000-3,200 meters (6,562-10,499ft) above sea level.

Tankay has around 35 hectares of golden berries planted but sources from a further 150 hectares where the crop is grown by smallholder indigenous farmers with one or two hectares each.

"Last year we moved approximately half a million kilos (1.1 million pounds) kilos between fresh and processed product. We have dried product, pulp and we make jams," he said, adding around 60% of this volume was sold as fresh.

"The main market we have is Germany but we also have England, the Netherlands, we’re in France, and recently we’ve started to enter the Canadian market too."

The executive was very happy with the development, especially considering how far the group has come since 2005 when the nearby iconic Cotopaxi Volcano erupted and covered farms in ash.

"Imagine the heavy blow that we had to suffer, but in the last few years we’ve advanced a lot," he concluded.

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