Cultivating what the world wants to eat pays off

If you follow FreshPlaza, the portal for global produce news, (and we do) you may have noticed the news on Peruvian agricultural exports is all good.

Peru’s export sales of table grapes to newly opened Asian markets are surging, up 166% in Taipei in 2010 alone. Canada is forecast to double its imports of Peruvian exotic fruits in 2012. Peruvian avocado exports are likely to outpace Mexico and Chile by 2013.

Now Peru is poised to join a select list: the European Union’s list of “third countries” whose organic food exports to EU member nations are accepted as equivalent to products originating within the EU. (Currently on the list: Argentina, Australia, Costa Rica, India, Israel, New Zealand, and Switzerland.) The listing will promote sales of Peru’s organic exports – led by bananas, coffee, mangoes, and quinoa – already up 50% year-on-year during the first five months of 2011, as reported by the Peruvian Export and Tourism Promotion Commission (Promperu).  [See the growth trend in Peruvian exports of mangoes overall and to the US market here.]

Peru’s is not a single success story but several export promotion initiatives aimed at meeting the growing global appetite for foods that are healthful, or organic, or exotic – or all three.

Take, for instance, quinoa (quinua), an Incan staple now claiming shelf space in US health food stores. A pseudocereal that is gluten-free and protein-rich, quinoa’s health benefits have been cited by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, the Mayo Clinic and the American Institute for Cancer Research.

Small wonder, then, that demand for quinoa is up and Peruvian farmers have boosted output for export sale – with an assist, in some regions, from public-private sector partnerships (see, for example, this case study on quinoa market development funded by the US Agency for International Development).

You can see the growth trend in Peru’s quinoa exports, 73% of which went to the US in first-half 2011, against the backdrop of surging US imports in this area chart.

According to Promperu, more indigenous products are finding niche markets for health foods and nutraceuticals, including lucuma (a tropical fruit and source of a powder sweetener), kiwicha (Andean amaranth, another gluten-free pseudograin), and passion fruit.

The Peruvian Exporters’ Association (Adex) forecasts the country’s agricultural exports will reach $10 billion in the next five years, with much of the growth coming from products little known beyond Peru’s borders until recently. When that milestone is reached, Adex members can raise a glass of pisco, an Andean grape brandy that is reportedly making inroads in the US market with sales of $2.3 million in the first seven months of 2011, a 139% increase from a year ago.

We took note of Peru’s rapid rise as an exporter of grapes in December 2010. Datamyne’s free report on US imports of fresh grapes from Peru, January through October 2010, including top shippers and consignees, is available for download here.

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