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Peruvian citrus exporters anticipate hitting record volume levels in 2011.

Sergio del Castillo, chief executive officer of Peru’s citrus trade group, ProCitrus, told The Produce News May 27 that Peru expects to export 70,000 metric tons of fresh citrus this year.

 

Peruvian
Workers inspecting citrus on a packingline at Agricola Hoja Redonda in Chincha, Peru. The South American nation is expecting to export 70,000 metric tons of fresh citrus this season, which would set a record. (Photo courtesy of ProCitrus)
The season’s first Peruvian clementines were to arrive in the United States in the week of May 30. By mid-June, Peruvian Minneolas and W. Murcotts were expected to hit the U.S. market.

 

A small volume of Peruvian Satsumas was already in the U.S. market by May 27.

“The season is going pretty well. We have a good crop,” said Mr. del Castillo. “The production is a little bit lower than last year, but we are having a better packout, and the size and quality of the fruit are excellent.

“The only problem we have had is that we are behind by two or three weeks because we have high acidity,” he continued. “We had to wait until that lowers in the fruit. We are not sure why this year there was this delay and high acidity. There are different positions, but I am not sure what is the right one.”

Mr. del Castillo noted that cold damage is never a factor in Peruvian citrus production. “Our temperatures are between 12 to 26 or 27 degrees Celsius [54 to 81 degrees Fahrenheit], so we never have cold problems.”

Aside from the acidity issue, Mr. del Castillo said that “everything is going fine. We expect to ship 5 [percent] to 8 percent more volume to the U.S. than we did last year.”

A higher packout “is helping us with more volume to export,” he said. “The production for the whole country is 2.5 [percent] to 3 percent lower” in 2011, “but we will increase our exports by 5 [percent] to 9 percent.”

The three main markets, which are the United Kingdom, the rest of Europe and the United States, receive about 25 percent each of Peru’s fresh citrus export volume. Canada buys another 10 percent, while the remaining 15 percent is an evolving story.

“This year we are starting to export to Asia, especially to China,” Mr. del Castillo said. “We are starting to send some to China, and we also may be shipping some clementines and W. Murcotts to Mexico. This is the first year we have access to Mexico, but only for Mandarins. And we may try to ship some mandarins to the south to Chile. We just opened that market, but I don’t know if anyone will ship there this year. But the access to the Chilean market is officially [open], so whoever has that intention can do it. We are still working with Japan and Korea for access. We are working on protocols to access those markets in the coming years for Peruvian citrus.”

ProCitrus works to “help the exporters participate in fairs” around the world. This includes Fruit Logistica in Germany, the Produce Marketing Association’s Fresh Summit and the upcoming Fruit Logistica show in Hong Kong.

ProCitrus makes “a big effort to keep maintaining export growth,” Mr. del Castillo said. The group also works with growers on production matters, with the overall goal for Peru’s citrus industry to be more productive for less cost and better quality.

“We do whatever we can be doing for promotion,” Mr. del Castillo said. “If the exporter needs to work together with us in developing a country, we help with that.”

Listing Peruvian export-market citrus varieties, Mr. del Castillo said, “We have a little bit of Satsumas, and the clementines and the Minneolas, which are the main export varieties to the U.S.”

Additionally, a variety growing “very fast” in volume for the U.S. market is W. Murcott.

“We are also shipping a few oranges,” he added. This August and September, the United States will receive no more than 1,500 tons of Peru’s late Navels.

One good characteristic of Peru’s early citrus deal is a “very strong local market. Prices are good locally. We are doing some promotion in Lima, with good prices for the growers.”

In Peru, “we have a lot of citrus growers who in the past were focused on local markets,” he said. “They are changing their crops to varieties with export potential. That, I think, will be happening in coming years. People will be changing to new varieties, with more emphasis on export than local business. That happened in recent years, and I believe it will in coming years.”

These varieties for the United States and Europe are for seedless easy-peelers with good flavor.

The producers thinking of the Asian market — particularly China — are producing bigger fruit with very full color. “They don’t care too much if it’s seedless, but they want very sweet fruit,” said Mr. del Castillo. “Some growers are preparing for the Asia market with this kind of fruit.”

As to prices for today’s export market, Mr. del Castillo said, “Citrus is not a commodity of high prices. But the comments of exporters indicate similar export prices to last year. They are acceptable prices.”

Again this season, Peru is shipping to the U.S. seaports of Philadelphia, New York and Los Angeles.

The seaport for 85 percent of Peru’s fresh export volume is Callao, which is a 30-minute drive north from Lima on the Pacific coastline.

Mr. del Castillo said that the port of Callao has a new operator that recently signed a 30-year agreement with the Peruvian government. This “will improve our competitiveness and lower the port rates and increase the efficiency of port logistics,” he said.

Callao is divided, with a southern pier and a northern pier. The southern pier in recent years has been improved by the management of the Dubai-based marine terminal operator DP World.

The newest port agreement is for the northern pier. APM Terminals, based in The Hague, is now building new infrastructure to streamline its portion of Callao.

Mr. del Castillo said that DP World and APM would compete against one another, which will benefit all interested parties. For the exporters, there will be “more efficiency and lower cost. This will be good for all exports.”

It will be a couple of years until the benefits of APM’s work will be felt.

In 2010, Peru exported about 68,500 tons of fresh citrus. This represented 8-9 percent of the country’s total citrus production. Thus, the exports “were not a big amount compared with (total) production. But this is an increase compared to 2009. In 2010, we had an increase of exports of about 40 percent.”

Production problems in 2009 lowered Peru’s citrus exports to 46,000 metric tons. In 2008, that volume was 65,000 metric tons.

Overall, Peru’s citrus export tonnage has skyrocketed since the South American country began exporting in 1999. According ProCitrus statistics, export volume was about 1,800 metric tons in 2000.

After meeting USDA phytosanitary requirements, Peru first exported citrus to the United States in 2006.

ProCitrus was established in April 1998.