Q&A: The key to Peru’s table grape success
Despite global inflation, increased costs and a complex political scene, Peruvian exports of table grapes during the 2022-23 campaign are expected to reach 73 million boxes, according to projections made by the Association of Peruvian Table Grape Producers and Exporters (PROVID).
This would mean a 13% growth year- on- year, in more than 58 markets in North America, Europe, Asia, Latam, Oceania and Africa.
FreshFruitPortal.com recently spoke with Alejandro Cabrera, manager of PROVID, who explained that one of the key factors for the good export numbers of Peruvian table grapes has been the country's capacity to bet on varietal change in a faster and more determined way than other sources.
“Peru bet on testing in small areas and as soon as something worked in terms of performance, the areas were increased, which made us always go for more,” said Cabrera. “The Peruvian table grape industry has demonstrated its dynamic and rapid adaptation to consumer preferences for new and improved varieties.”
Check out below the interview where Cabrera speaks about his expectations for Peru to become the main exporter of table grapes very soon given the ascent that the market has enjoyed recently. He also discusses the local geography, and how they have overcome some of the recent local and international crises.
How much of the industry does PROVID represent and what are your expectations for this season?
As an association of producers and exporters, our estimated data is in relation to exports, rather than production data. However, Provid has as associates around 75% of the companies that represent the entire export volume of Peruvian grapes. This allows us to have a more accurate estimate of what the shipments are during the seasons.
The 13% growth projected for 2022-23, compared to the previous campaign indicates that Peru will be exporting 73 million boxes compared to the 64.4 MM of the 2021-22 campaign.
Compared to the first estimation from early September 2022, growth would be +2%. These projections are based on volumes projected by associates and producers as well as exports to date. It’s worth noting that the table grape export season is concentrated between October and March.
To what do you attribute the leading role that Peru is playing in the table grape industry?
We have determined that there are some main factors that stand out in this Peruvian protagonism.
Our export campaign is extending across more weeks within the normal and annual calendar. The maximum concentration occurs in this season of the year (November- February), however we have had shipments of table grapes practically since July, for example with traditional varieties such as Red Globe. However, these are minimal volumes compared to what happens in the official season. Regardless, it makes us a reliable supplier to the world by always having grapes available for export.
This also allows us to send grapes before our normal season and it is extending towards the end of the season thanks to producers who have a good agronomic and technological management in areas of Piura (Northern Peru), who have a double harvest, at the beginning of the season in September-October and at the end of the traditional grape season in March-April this second harvest is achieved, with this we have a considerable extension.
Having more weeks of grapes available makes you a more reliable supplier to northern hemisphere countries.
Is Peru's change in varietals a few years ago also having a decisive influence on this increase in exports?
Peru began changing varietals about six years ago, it must be six or seven seasons ago. It was one of the first countries in the southern hemisphere to switch from traditional table grapes to licensed or patented varieties, which are not only more in demand because of their good attributes for consumers, but also because they have a positive effect on production, with better yields.
This work is not done overnight; results can be seen in four to five years of work. These higher yields are not based on larger production areas; rather, we have the same areas, but more productive. This means that in every season Peruvian table grapes hit double-digit exports.
There are many factors that influence the choice of a patented variety, but we could divide them into three: higher productivity in the field, better price at destination and consumer preference over other varieties.
The white seedless grape variety dominated the previous season with 42% of total exports. This was followed by the seedless red grape variety group (28%), in third place was the Red Globe variety (25%) and, finally, the seedless black grape variety group (3%).
Political instability came at key moments of the season, how have you dealt with the situation?
Since the last week of November, the situation has been very hectic. We had the transporters' strike, road blockades, attacks and in Piura everything was more complex. Right when the most intense table grape campaign was taking place in the region, there was no movement of cargo, with chambers full with storage and in some cases the harvest was stopped, but this was restored and normalized after 5 days.
Fortunately there is a roadmap between private organizations of producers and exporters with public institutions to activate mechanisms in situations like these, to safeguard the operations of the companies.
Although the whole of Latin America is experiencing a very particular current, Peru is experiencing total political instability, we have had 8 ministers of agriculture in a year and a half, not even plans and programs can be implemented due to the instability of the authorities, today you sit down to talk to someone and then they are not in office.
China is lifting restrictions and somehow getting back to normal, but new outbreaks and even new variants of Covid emerge. How are you preparing for what's to come?
We are aware of what is happening and even the new variants of Covid that are limiting operations. There were some spaces of greater freedom, but in the face of this pandemic and any outbreak they immediately began to close entire regions.
For Peru, Asia is a powerful and expectant market, the restrictions did not close the market for us. In the last table grape season, China was the third most important destination, but this uncertainty does not allow us to know how everything will behave.
Our largest volumes of shipments to China began in December and now in January, in order to arrive well in time for the Chinese New Year. We will experience restrictions in the coming weeks, but so far there have been no problems and we hope that this will continue to be the case.