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U.S.-bound shipments of Peruvian citrus continue to grow

LIMA, PERU — Since the U.S. market opened to Peruvian citrus in 2006, shipments have increased approximately 20 percent per year, due in part to the quality of the product but also to the work of the association charged with promoting the category to foreign markets.

"We participate in several expos and information sessions to educate our growers, and that's one of the advantages of being an association — being able to work with our growers to improve production," said Emilia Belaunde of ProCitrus, based in Lima.IMG 3024Emilia Belaunde of ProCitrus, a growers association representing the interests of 95 percent of Peru's citrus exporters, at the recent Expoalimentaria trade fair in Lima. (Photo by John Groh) "We reserve our best quality fruit for the export markets, and clients have been very happy with the fruit we have been sending and we have seen increases every year."

ProCitrus is a growers association representing the interests of 95 percent of Peru's citrus exporters. ProCitrus coordinates with the government of Peru on a range of issues to access new markets and works on programs to ensure food safety.

Growers that produce for the association have earned a number of top certifications, including Global GAP, Tesco Nature's Choice, US GAP, BASC and ETI. Safety and traceability are two important attributes of Peruvian citrus, and the fruit is grown in compiance with the best labor practices, according to ProCitrus.

Peru's domestic market is huge, and it exports only 10 percent of its citrus production. In all, Peru ships citrus to 29 different countries, with the top export markets being the United Kingdom (33 percent), the Netherlands (23 percent), the United States (20 percent) and Canada (12 percent). Belaunde said citrus has been in demand on the domestic market due in part to the focus on health and wellness, and reaching kids at an impressionable age to help that develop good eating habits.

"We are the only association within Peru that is making an effort to increase consumption," she said.

Volume this year has been up 15 percent over last season, and Belaunde said ProCitrus is looking for new markets to supply. It will be attending trade fairs in Russia and Asia to look for new export partners.

Tangerines and other easy-peeler varieties have been seeing the biggest increases, said Belaunde, who added that 60 percent of all citrus grown is the soft citrus variety.

Peak season of production is April through September. The Peruvian coast is an arid desert area that provides unique characteristics that creates a "natural greenhouse" and conditions that are ideal for growing citrus.

"We do the best job we can and let the fruit speak for itself," said Belaunde.

Baloian Farms introduces new convenience item

Capitalizing on the growing popularity of convenience-driven fruit and vegetable snack items, Baloian Farms has expanded its product line with a new offering: sweet mini peppers with fat-free ranch, packaged together in a single-serving cup.MiniPeppers-LO-RES-mockup

The snack-ready, grab-and-go cup will include three to four mini sweet peppers, along with an enclosed, separately sealed container of fat-free ranch dip. In a recent consumer survey, 58 percent of those surveyed indicated that they would purchase a mini peppers with dip product if available at a retail location.

"We know that today’s consumer is looking for convenient, easy and on-the-go options for snacking," Jeremy Lane, sales manager of Baloian Farms, said in a press release. "We saw this as an opportunity to not only expand our product line and continue to build the pepper category, but introduce a product that would appeal to all consumers with its convenient, ready-to-eat, portion-controlled size, and flavors that all ages enjoy."

Because the product features fresh, whole mini sweet peppers, the issues of freshness and shelf life commonly associated with fresh-cut products have been reduced.

“We are excited to be able to offer consumers another healthy option that they can enjoy year-round, as well as to be able to offer retailers a product that will help increase sales in the pepper category," Lane said. "We are constantly striving to find innovative and new opportunities to continually bring our customers premium fresh products.”

The product is available year-round and has a 21-day shelf life.  Peppers are packed in an 11-count case and are available for sale.

For more information contact Jeremy Lane at 559/264-3427 or via email at jlane@baloianfarms.com.

Growth of Expoalimentaria reflects rising importance of Peru in world agriculture

LIMA, PERU — Peru is becoming a bigger player on the global agriculture stage, and that was reflected at the recent Expoalimentaria trade fair, held Aug. 27-29, here.

The Asociacion de Exportadores de Peru, or ADEX, which organizes Expoalimentaria, has seen significant growth in the trade fair since its first installment in 2009, when the exposition was held in a 6,600-square-meter hall with 195 national and 10 international exhibitors.PachecoGaston Pacheco, president of ADEX, discussed the growth of the Expoalimentaria trade show since its first installment in 2009. The 2014 expo was held in a 23,400-square-meter space and drew 470 national and 195 international exhibitors. Visitors at this year's event numbered more than 40,500, compared to 8,300 in the 2009 show, representing a nearly 500 percent increase.

"Peru has become a very reliable supplier and firms are committed to providing the best quality all the way though the supply chain," said Gaston Pacheco, president of ADEX. "There is a consistent effort of small producers to meet requirements, and they are duplicating what they are seeing in more developed markets."

At the same time, Pacheco admits that there is still work to be done regarding infrastructure in the country, as logistical issues can add up to 35 percent to the cost of production for some items.

"We are working to reduce that number to become more competitive in the world market," he said, adding that international markets typically see about an 8 percent cost in production.

Key-PeruMiguel Ognio of Key Peru, a sweet onion grower in Peru that exports to the United States, on the exhibit floor of Expoalimentaria in Lima, Peru."We are behind on our infrastructure and need to further develop that," Pacheco said. "We are working on developing good roads and rail systems to move products more efficiently, and we are getting investment from the private sector as well to fill some of the funding gaps."

The trade show featured agricultural products from throughout the country, including grains and seafood. But fruits and vegetables stood out as a highlight, with various exhibitors touting their fresh and processed products.

Rafael Zapata, a director at Wolf Peru SAC, which grows a variety of produce items including avocados, mangos, asparagus, citrus, grapes and onions, greeted visitors to the company's booth during Expoalimentaria.

"The United States is a natural partner for Peru due to its location," he said. "We have 10 to 15 days of transit time to the United States vs. 25 days to Europe."

He said Wolf Peru grows about 50 containers of avocados from Peru and would ship approximately 30 percent of its production to the United States, with the remaining volume going to Europe. But he said avocado exports to the United States are poised to make a significant jump, and he is currently looking for more U.S. importers with which to work.

"Two years ago the market opened up as a result of the free trade agreement," he said. "In the beginning, the packinghouses in Peru were not certified, but now we have certification at five packinghouses, and next year we expect certification in about 200 packinghouses. Peruvian quality is getting much better as we are getting more investment and government involvement."

At the Key Peru booth, Miguel Ognio spoke of the company's rapid rise as a sweet onion supplier to the U.S. market, working in coordination with its major import partner Keystone Fruit in Greencastle, PA.

Ognio said he started growing onions in 2000 on a about a three-hectare plot. After seeing some initial success, he began leasing more land to grow more product. In 2006, he started his own farm north of Lima on 40 hectares, and then purchased land to the south in Ica. Currently, Key Peru has about 70 hectares of its own land and has obtained certification of its land and packing facilities. In 2012, the company started a direct supply relationship with Walmart.

"In the United States, the preference is for sweet onions and consumers want to get the best product at the best value," he said. "We have been working with Keystone to get the word out about our onions, and that has been very effective for us. It is a very good partnership, because we trust them to get the best prices for us, and they trust us to send the best product."

He said water and soil management are the key factors in producing a sweet onion, and they continually work to ensure they produce onions that register low on the Pyruvic acid scale.

"We work consistently to produce onions that are low in pyruvic acid," he said. "We like to be below 4.5 on the scale, and we average about 3.5."

Key Peru ships about 1,200 containers to the United States from early August to early January, with about 60 percent being marketed through Keystone and the remaining 40 percent to Walmart. Walmart has been looking to take more from us, and we would like to develop more direct supply deals with other retailers as well.

He added that Key Peru has been in compliance with traceability from the very beginning, and also has Fair Trade, Global GAP, Rainforest Alliance and Tesco certifications.

Rafael Cortes, managing director of CWT Group, a grower of grapes, ships Red Globes, Flames and Sugraones to the United States through importers AMC Group and Wm. Kopke, said he would like to increase his business in the United States because of favorable prices, but the U.S. market can be a challenge due to the exacting quality standards that are demanded.

"We will be attending the PMA Fresh Summit [in Anaheim, CA] this October, because we are looking for another strong partner," he said. "We grow grapes, but we also export avocados and citrus to the United States."

Doña Pancha is relying on increased business with the United States as it is looking to ramp up its asparagus production in the coming years. Currently, there are about 295 hectares in production with a goal of hitting 1,000 hectares in the coming years, according to Jan Hoefsloot.

"Currently, we ship about 1.8 kilograms to the United States, working with importers Gourmet Trading, Harvest Sensation, Crystal Valley and Pac Pro," he said. "The U.S. wants good shelf life and good quality. Demand has been there, but prices have been low. We came in a little early this year at the end of February, but we'll push that back to June when we have a better market."

Hoefsloot said the company is adding Mandarins, pomegranates and lemons to its product roster, but won't have production for about five years when trees come into maturity.

"We have to plan for the future," he said.

Gaspar Nolte, a Lima-based senior agricultural specialist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, said grape exports are poised for big growth, calling them "the next asparagus," with new areas being planted in the northern region of Piura.

Additionally, blueberries are showing good potential to be the next big fresh produce product in Peru, and companies are making major investments in that category. Currently, there are about 2,000 hectares of blueberries, which carry a cost of $60,000 per hectare in irrigation and planting. In five to seven years, about 10,000 hectares of blueberries are expected to be in production.

Whole Kids Foundation campaign to fund school salad bars and educational gardens

Whole Kids Foundation is kicking off back-to-school season with a goal of raising $3 million to fund salad bars and gardens for schools and nutrition education classes for teachers.wholekids

The effort is part of the foundation’s annual campaign aimed at raising awareness around the importance of childhood nutrition and helping schools provide healthier food choices for students. Throughout September, Whole Foods Market stores will host a variety of educational and interactive fundraising events and shoppers can also get involved by making a donation at store check-outs or online at wholekidsfoundation.org.

“Well-nourished kids miss fewer days of school and are better able to pay attention in class, improving academic performance, and as Whole Kids Foundation celebrates its third anniversary, we’re excited to see visible results from our work,” Nona Evans, executive director of Whole Kids Foundation, said in a press release. “School salad bars are getting kids excited about school lunches and eating fresh fruits and vegetables, and school gardens are not only connecting kids to the roots of their food and how nutrition helps their bodies, they are increasing their curiosity around trying new foods.”

Each of the following Growing Healthy Kids supplier partners has pledged to donate $40,000 to support the foundation’s work: Annie’s, Applegate, Cascadian Farm, Lady Moon Farms, Lug Life, Organic Valley, Roots, Rudi’s Organic Bakery and Suja. During this year’s campaign, many of these brands in addition to others, including Health Warrior, Honest Kids, Horizon Organic, Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day and Vega, will donate a portion of proceeds from product sales at Whole Foods Market stores to benefit Whole Kids Foundation programs.

A recent study of the Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools campaign in partnership with the Gretchen Swanson Center for Nutrition found that salad bars increased students’ access to fresh fruits and vegetables, increased student participation in the school lunch program, reduced plate waste and are complemented by other health promotion activities in school.

Applications for the foundation’s salad bar grant program, created in partnership with Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools, are accepted year-round at wholekidsfoundation.org.

Recent studies have found that gardens play a key role in improving children’s knowledge, understanding and curiosity about whole foods. Having funded more than 2,000 gardens to date, schools can apply for a grant through the foundation’s school garden grant program, which was created in partnership with FoodCorps, from Sept. 1-Oct. 31 in the United States and Sept. 1-Nov. 30 in Canada.

Rooted in three simple principles — eat a rainbow of colors,  eat leafy greens first and eat as close to nature as possible — Whole Kids Foundation offers a variety of resources for parents and children to make healthier choices at home ranging from book club suggestions and “Better Bites” lessons to hands-on art projects and a free app, Awesome Eats.

Since its inception in 2011, the foundation has invested $10 million into its programs, funding more than 3,400 salad bars and 2,110 school gardens, giving more than 3 million children access to healthier food.

State Garden launches 'Simple Beginnings' celery hearts line

State Garden Inc., a Northeast supplier of organic and conventional tender leaf greens, spinach and celery hearts, is expanding its "Simple Beginnings" conventional produce line with the addition of 10-ounce celery heart bags and 20-ounce celery heart trays.Simple-Beginnings-Celery-Gr

The new products are available to State Garden customers along the Eastern Seaboard, with expansion into additional markets expected throughout the fall.

“We are excited to announce this latest addition to the 'Simple Beginnings' brand,” Stephen Noll, vice president of sales and marketing at State Garden, said in a press release. “State Garden has been a family-run business for more than four generations and celery has been a staple in our company’s offerings since the very beginning.”

Simple Beginnings 10-ounce single celery heart bags and 20-ounce double celery heart trays will contain fresh, U.S.-grown washed and trimmed celery hearts that are produced and packaged according to State Garden’s strict food-safety standards.

State Garden launched "Simple Beginnings" in October 2013, a line of high-quality conventional produce, including triple-washed salads, cooking greens and cut squash with a focus on making fresh, wholesome eating accessible to all. State Garden previously offered conventional celery hearts under its former "Northeast Fresh" brand. In addition to its new Simple Beginnings celery program, State Garden produces organic celery hearts for its "Olivia’s Organics" brand along with multiple private label celery heart programs in the Northeast.

More information about carrying Simple Beginnings celery hearts is available at www.stategarden.com.