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Peru expects reefer break-bulk access in 2011 for its citrus

by Tad Thompson | October 25, 2010
ORLANDO, FL — In 2011, Peruvian citrus exporters will have access to break- bulk refrigerated cargo ships, according to Sergio Del Castillo, general manager of the Association of Citrus Producers of Peru, based in Lima, known as ProCitrus.

The Peruvian seaport of Callao, which is several miles north of Lima, has expanded its containership capacity, taking pressure off other seaports and opening greater opportunities for break-bulk ships to serve the country's citrus exporters — and exporters of other produce items.

Mr. Del Castillo spoke with The Produce News Oct. 16 at the ProCitrus booth at the Produce Marketing Association’s Fresh Summit 2010 event. The cold treatment process required by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service to export Peruvian citrus to the United States to date has been done within refrigerated sea containers. Now training is underway to prepare the industry and carriers to meet cold treatment standards within refrigerated ship holds.

About two-thirds of Peru’s exports to the United States land in the ports of Philadelphia or New York, and the remainder goes to California ports.

Mr. Del Castillo foresees the break-bulk ships calling on the port of Pisco in Ica, Peru. He said that there is also a possibility of break-bulk service leaving Callao. These ports are in two of Peru’s three primary citrus-producing provinces. The third, Junin, is adjacent to the provinces of Lima and Ica.

Peru also has citrus production to the north in the provinces of Piura and Lambayeque. Production in the hotter northern coastal areas is limited primarily to limes.

For Peruvian citrus growers and exporters, the 2010 shipping season "was pretty good," Mr. Del Castillo said. The country’s citrus export volume bounced up to 63,000 metric tons after falling to 46,000 metric tons in 2009 as a result of adverse weather problems. Peru exported 60,000 metric tons of citrus in 2008.

In 2010, Peru had three major export markets: The United Kingdom, the Netherlands and the United States. Each of these received about a quarter of Peru’s total citrus export volume. Canada ranked fourth, with 12 percent of the total volume. Russia was the fifth-largest single market, taking 2 percent of the volume.

“If there are no climate disturbances, next year we will have more fruit. We don’t know how much more,” but December estimates on bloom counts will give an indication. In northern Peru, “there is a very strong blossom.”

Mr. Del Castillo said that the Peruvian monetary unit, the nuevo sol, is “very, very strong versus the dollar,” which puts a lot of pressure on the industry to receive good prices.

In October, the exchange rate was 2.78 sols to $1 U.S. “Maybe by the end of the year it will be 2.75. Each cent it goes down is a lot of money for us.” With the option to sell to Europe, the exchange rate “is a key factor” in sales decisions.

“We are improving quality. We are doing a lot of training with the growers in production and in improving their packinghouses.” Good quality is critical for maintaining international markets, he said.