One of the most biodiverse countries in the world, Peru’s role as a global food supplier has expanded significantly in recent years. Today it is a leading producer and exporter of asparagus, quinoa, maca and fish oils, and ranks among the top 10 exporters of avocados, artichokes, organic bananas, organic cacao, grapes, peppers and mangoes, according to the Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation (Ministerio de Agricultura y Riego, MINAGRI). With global demand for healthy foods on the rise, Peru is moving to carve out a niche for itself in the fast-expanding superfoods global market.
Because of its climate and geography, Peru is able to supply fresh produce year-round. The expansion of irrigated land along the coastal valleys enabled agri-business firms to diversify the country’s food offer, successfully introducing new products, while the adoption of advanced practices pushed productivity rates well above the national average. “In the case of blueberry, some fields reach productivity rates of 15 tonnes per ha, compared to a global average of 5 tonnes per ha, making the Peruvian coast a particularly high-productivity environment,” Marco Vinelli, former executive director of MINAGRI’s Programme for the Productive Development of Rural Agriculture, told OBG.
Peru’s rich biodiversity sets it apart as a supplier of superfoods, such as raw cacao and chia seeds, but also less-known native crops such as lucuma, a tropical fruit known as the “gold of the Incas”, sacha inchi, also known as the “Inca peanut”, camu camu, a potent source of vitamin C, and other Andean grains such as kiwicha and cañihua.
In its latest attempt to tap into the fast-growing superfoods global market, Peru launched the Superfoods Perú brand in February 2017 while participating in the Fruit Logistica trade show in Germany. A public-private initiative, Superfoods Perú is a comprehensive global campaign aimed at highlighting the quality, variety and benefits of the country’s unique food offer. The brand’s promotion strategy seeks to respond to growing demand for health and wellness foods, a market forecast to grow at a compound annual growth rate of nearly 6% between 2016 and 2020, according to research firm Research and Markets. Peruvian authorities expect the launch of Superfoods Perú to triple export volumes of superfoods to $15bn in the medium term, and increase annual growth in planted surface dedicated to superfoods by up to 15%.
Cultivated surface is also expanding. Blueberry is the most recent superfood to experience exponential growth, with planted surface increasing from 650 ha in 2013 to an estimated 3200 ha by the end of 2016. Blueberry production reached an estimated 20,000 tonnes in 2016, following a near 12-fold increase from 1688 tonnes in 2013, and this trend is set to continue in the coming years. The government aims to have total production surpass 25,000 tonnes by the end of 2018. Export revenues for blueberries increased by 148% year-on-year (y-o-y) in 2016, according to MINAGRI, reaching $237.1m. Meanwhile, production of avocado and grapes increased by 20% and 15%, respectively, in 2016. Grapes remained the top-earning fruit, with export revenues of $646.3m. With $420m in export revenues, asparagus remained the second-highest earner. At $4.9bn in 2016, non-traditional exports account for 85% of agricultural export revenues.
The fast growth of Peruvian agro-exports is likely to attract increased investor interest. After attending the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in November 2016, José Manuel Hernández Calderón, the minister of agriculture and irrigation, told local media that authorities expect to attract more than $2bn in foreign investment in the agro-exports sector in the next five to six years. This should support the country’s goals of becoming the second-highest exporter of blueberries and avocados, the third-highest exporter of grapes and mangoes, and the fifth-highest exporter of mandarins by 2023, according to the Agro-Exporters Guild Association. Changing market dynamics could nonetheless affect production trends over time. “Though exports are generally expected to continue to increase across the board, production of key export products is likely to move up and down, depending on international and domestic market conditions,” Henri Huamán, general manager at Agronegocios Génesis, told OBG. So far, this has been seen with quinoa production. After emerging as the leading exporter of quinoa in 2015 with export revenues of $143m, a downturn in international prices saw export revenues decrease to $103m in 2016. Though the export of fresh foods from the Andean and jungle regions continues to pose logistical challenges, ongoing transport infrastructure projects are expected to improve conditions. “These advances will enable sustainable development in the coming years so that products that are currently being exported frozen or canned may arrive fresh, since this is where demand is rising,” Huamán told OBG.
The most significant barrier to gaining entry into new export markets remains phytosanitary protocols for fresh food exports. According to the National Service of Agri-Food Health and Quality (Servicio Nacional de Sanidad Agraria, SENASA), since 2011 Peru has gained access to international markets for 50 plant products, and the agency is working to clear 164 products for entry. “ADEX is working in coordination with SENASA to gain access to new export markets, particularly in Asia and Latin America,” Paula Carrión Tello, agro-exports manager at ADEX, told OBG. With trade agreements with China, Japan, South Korea, Thailand, the US, Canada, Mexico and Chile, Peru continues to successfully position itself within APEC, where interest in superfoods is rising. According to the Commission for the Promotion of Peruvian Exports and Tourism, the potential to expand exports to APEC countries is high. “Within the Latin American region, demand for Peruvian agro-exports is also increasing, particularly in Colombia, Chile, Panama and Brazil,” Carrión said. In late 2016 Colombia and Peru reached an agreement that opened the Colombian market to five new Peruvian products, and in early 2017 an additional three fruit products gained entry to the Brazilian market. “Peru’s competitive advantage over other countries is that it has more free trade agreements signed, which decreased the exposure of the country’s agro sector to price fluctuations in a particular market,” Rubén Carrasco, general manager of Farmagro, told OBG.
The outlook for agro-exports remains promising. “Given the anticipated demand we have noticed at trade fairs, particularly for citric fruits, avocado, mango, pomegranate and blueberries, we expect exports of these products to continue to grow, in line with healthy consumption trends in key markets,” Carrión told OBG. Growth will also be supported by rises in planted surface. “Despite the effects of the coastal El Niño in early 2017, planted surface of fruits and vegetables is expected to increase in 2017, as projects that were put on hold in 2016 – for fears of El Niño effects – launch,” Huamán told OBG. MINAGRI forecasts that agro-exports will increase by 20-25% in 2017 to total $6bn.