By Adriana Michael with notes of Warren Beaumont
Peruvian organic growers and suppliers are developing a high profile for their products in world manufacturing, retail and consumer markets. The South American country is a major source of organically grown and certified ‘superfood’ products such as maca, quinoa, amaranth, sacha inchi seeds, camu camu and yacon. It enjoys recognition as a source of high quality, single-origin cacao beans and chocolate. Bolivia produces more organic quinoa that Peru. But Peru is being tipped to overtake Bolivia as the top exporter of quinoa, amid rising prices for certified organic quinoa that have jumped three-fold in recent years.
At BIOFACH 2015, Jorge Llosa, an officer with the Export Promotion Agency PROMPERU said the goal for Peru is to be the leading world producer of quinoa, which may be achievable in 1-2 years. “The main demand is in organic quinoa,” he said. “We had some supply issues last year and are now encouraging the producers to plant quinoa.”
A main concern in this high-speed race in Peru to become the leading producer and exporter of quinoa is the danger for this “Golden Grain” to lose its biodiversity. At the recent World Quinoa Congress celebrated in Argentina, participants pointed that the Peruvian quinoa most exported corresponds to just two varieties. And there are initiatives to develop engineered seeds that may offer higher yields under different growing conditions, but may result in grain not offering the original nutritional value known in quinoa. “We believe the farmers are growing better products and that there are more opportunities growing organic quinoa. But you have to consider price, margins, what the supermarkets and the final consumer wants and whether they are interested in organic,” Mr Llosa said.
Another product with major potential is sacha inchi due to its Omega-3, Omega-6 and Vitamin C & E content. French supplier Polaris recently gained Friends of the Earth certification, which recognises that its production does not have a negative impact on the ecosystem; implements social responsibility practices and integrates pest management.
In 2014, Peru faced a setback over price rises and supply shortages and fears of what is called ”bio-piracy” affecting the provenance and fair market prices for organic maca. On the subject of protecting the market for and provenance of Andean superfoods such as maca and quinoa, Mr Llosa said there is a legal framework in Peru and limitations on taking the seeds of the plants to grow in an offshore country.
“But even if these products grow offshore, they do not have the same nutritional content and the same provenance as if grown in Peru. The soil, weather conditions and altitude (are different),” he said. Buyers agree that maca from Peru shows extraordinary nutritional content, hard to replicate in other places like China.
Mr Llosa said there was a commitment to try and stop the illegal export of these products and to communicate the source. “The government is trying hard to step up customs and border protection and is looking at any suspicious activity,” Mr Llosa added. While sales of all the Peruvian superfoods are growing, another issue is with the prices being achieved.
A companion market for Peru is culinary tourism, as the country becomes better known for specific food and beverages that are contributing to the development of a diverse and rich Peruvian gastronomy. Lima is gaining strong recognition on the world food scene with several restaurants named in the world’s top 20.
The supplier reaction to the PROMPERU-backed pavilion at BIOFACH world organic fair in Nuremberg was positive. The exhibit stood out in Hall 2. “We’re being told that we’re winning the confidence of the buyers and that 2015 will be a stronger year for our exhibitors,” Mr Llosa said. “All at BIOFACH are happy with the business prospects being made.”
PROMPERU has a major presence lined up for the 2015 fairs, including pavilions at Natural Products Expo West in Anaheim, Sial Canada Toronto, Summer Fancy Foods in New York and Anuga in Cologne. The Export Promotion Agency also supports the efforts of the Peruvian Exporters Association ADEX, for the international food fair Expoalimentaria, to celebrate its 8th edition August 26-28 at the Jockey Club Convention Center in Lima. This event has positioned itself as the main platform in the region to showcase organic and sustainable products from Peru under the Peru Natura pavilion. Local and foreign buyers from all over the world may find additional Amazon and Andean super foods from neighbouring countries like Ecuador and Brazil. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation, the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Tourism, and the Ministry of Production also endorse Expoalimentaria. Show organizers expect over 30,000 attendees to meet with 600 national and international exhibitors.