Efforts to develop a cherry industry in Peru are underway in both the public and private sectors, with expectations that future exports could fit into both the lucrative marketing windows either side of the Chilean deal.
The Peruvian government, through Sierra y Selva Exportadora, is planting small trial orchards around the country to evaluate the performance of the crop.
The organization is expecting the first trial harvests by the end of this year and says it should reach a conclusion on cherries’ commercial viability in three years.
Meanwhile, the Los Viñedos nursery is encouraging its customers to plant at least three hectares of trees and to seek foreign technical input.
Both initiatives aim to make Peru a key player in the international cherry market, which is undergoing strong growth.
William Daga Ávalos, head of Sierra y Selva Exportadora’s berry program, said the industry’s development would also generate wealth in poor areas.
If the commercial project goes ahead, the harvest dates would vary greatly depending on the region but could slot in either side of the Chilean deal and fetch high prices internationally.
“If it were a harvest from the Huancayo area in the Junin region, the fruit would be expected for February or March, while in other areas it could be in September or October,” said Mercedes Auris, manager of the Los Viñedos nursery.
The peak export months from Chile, Peru’s southern neighbor, are generally from November through January.
Peru has been developing strategies and studies for a couple of years for cherry production in a climate characterized by its lack of marked seasons, which are necessary for the crop.
In 2016, Peru imported its first batch of the Colt and Maxma 14 rootstocks to begin studying which varieties were best suited to the Andean country.
Currently, work is being done to evaluate which areas are best suited to the trees’ requirements.
“So far, it is the regions of Cajamarca and the mountainous regions in La Libertad, Huanco, Junin, Ayacucho, Cusco and Arequipa that seem the most promising,” said Daga.
Sierra y Selva Exportadora is also working on bringing new varieties to Peru.
Daga explained that efforts in the public sector to develop cherry production are time-consuming as a number of protocols need to be followed.
“[This] is not the case with the private sector, which can invest a lot of money, have larger areas of land and can bear the costs, like what happened with the avocado and blueberries,” he said.
Some of the challenges they have faced include finding large areas of land in cool places that have the potential for industrial development.
“We hope that in August or September we will see the first blooms and will be harvesting very early varieties at the end of October, beginning of November,” he said.
Following the initial harvest, the team will have a clearer idea of how best to continue with the initiative, he said.
In the private sector, interest in cherry production has been brewing. Auris told Fresh Fruit Portal in 2016 that “everyone” was asking for cherry plants.
Auris is encouraging Los Viñedos’ customers to plant at least two hectares of cherry orchards to gain a decent understanding of how the crop performs in the Peruvian climate.
She said one hectare or less “is not promising, because you can’t really know if the cherries will succeed at an industrial level”.
The nursery has been working independently of the government, she added, “since the farmers have to feel the monetary effort to appreciate the work.”
The current focus is on obtaining technical advice from cherry-producing countries, and for the moment there have been discussions with Chilean entities that could support small-holder farmers.
In the nursery, they are working with self-fertile varieties Santina and Latins.
Auris added that the likely harvest windows on either end of the Chilean deal meant the two countries “would not collide” in the future.
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