Magazine article Americas (English Edition)

Peru Scores Success with Asparagus Exports

Magazine article Americas (English Edition)

Peru Scores Success with Asparagus Exports

Article excerpt

TEN YEARS AGO, almost no one associated Peru with asparagus. Today, the Peruvians are quickly becoming world-class exporters of the fancy vegetable, with $60 million in 1993 sales alone.

Exports will no doubt continue surging, thanks to the pro-business policies of President Alberto Fujimori and the use of Israeli drip-irrigation techniques, which are transforming large stretches of Peruvian desert into high-tech vegetable production centers.

Peru's biggest customers for fresh asparagus are Western Europe--Holland, Spain, France, Germany, Denmark, and Italy--and the United States.

"Our asparagus has a window of opportunity," says Roque Otarola Penaranda, an adviser to Peru's Ministry of Agriculture. "In the United States, asparagus is produced from January to June, and in Mexico from July to October. Our season is October to January, though we can produce asparagus year-round."

The asparagus grown in Peru is originally from the eastern Mediterranean and Asia Minor. The main production zones are in Trujillo, where the vegetables are generally canned, and in Ica, south of Lima, where green asparagus is produced and exported fresh to the United States.

Otarola says Peru--South America's third-largest country in size, with 84 of the world's 103 recognized ecological zones--resembles a natural greenhouse, with the perfect combination of soil, temperature, and hours of sunshine.

"We have extraordinary physical and climatic conditions," he says, "but weak management, old technology, and bad marketing."

After becoming president, Fujimori, a pragmatist, immediately began to dismantle Peru's protectionist policies in favor of export promotion.

Foreign investors are also encouraged by the availability of cheap land. With Fujimori's deregulation of property ownership, farmland is now going for $1,500 per hectare (about two-and-a-half acres) in some regions. …

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