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Beginning in August, a GlobalGAP working group will be officially installed in Peru, according to Alberto Berardo, technical director for ProCitrus, a Lima- based organization formed 12 years ago to promote the welfare of its members through programs to develop the production and marketing of citrus fruits and their derivatives.

In a July 6 e-mail to The Produce News, Mr. Berardo indicated that food safety in Peru "is a very important issue for the export industry; it has a lot of relevance. This has been growing along with the citrus exports activity growth."

The technical team at ProCitrus is not directly involved in its industry's food safety matters, he said, but added, "Indirectly, yes, since we are constantly in touch with the exporters and they do have the obligation to follow these matters. Now that we are part of the Peru GlobalGAP working group, we are going to be more in touch with this."

Mr. Berardo said that his group to date has been involved in "general coordinations" to involve the citrus industry in an "extensive national food- safety program." So far, "The results we have obtained are that we have gathered the specialists in agricultural quality norms in order to form the GlobalGAP working group in Peru. We have a lot of work for the next two years."

Asked if ProCitrus is involved in certifications or audits, Mr. Berardo responded, "We as an association have not had direct participation with audits since this is the responsibility of each grower. But the main certifications are GlobalGAP and Tesco." The choice of food-safety programs has been a decision exclusively made by exporters.

As previously reported in The Produce News, Peru's exporters by and large have individually already implemented sophisticated food-safety programs. According to ProCitrus, Peru first exported citrus in 1999. After meeting U.S. Department of Agriculture phytosanitary requirements, the first citrus shipments were sent to the United States in 2006. Today, the United States receives 24 percent of Peru's total citrus export volume.

Peru's export volume increased 37-fold between 2000 and 2008. In 2008, Peru exported about 73,000 tons of citrus. The volume dipped slightly in 2009, but overall is on a fast-rising curve. Soft citrus represented 89 percent of Peru's citrus export tonnage in 2009.

ProCitrus has 136 associated members -- including six export companies -- that handle 85 percent of the country's citrus exports. The growers represent Peru's main citrus-growing valleys, with more than 15,000 acres planted.