Peru loses crown as world’s top asparagus exporter

Peru lost its spot as the world’s top asparagus exporter because of phytosanitary requirements, but it has a plan to climb back.

Carlos Zamorano, executive director of the Peruvian Institute of Asparagus and Vegetables (IPEH), explained to Agraria, an agricultural news agency in Peru, that asparagus had not gone through a process of certification of its fields or processing plants such as other commodities like mangoes, tables grapes, Hass avocados, citrus, blueberries, and others had.

Zamorano explains that a possible reason for that being that the two biggest markets, USA and Europe (in that order) had never established any phytosanitary requirements for exporters until the appearance of pests resulted in the requirement of fumigation for shipments traveling from Peru to North America.

“It was mistakenly thought that this was the solution, and many thought that there was nothing to do in the fields here because they were going to fumigate at destination”, Zamorano said.

The outcome resulting from this change has been serious, as Peru has consequently lost the grip of leading exporter of asparagus to the United States (now occupied by Mexico) and worldwide. This is coupled with huge costs of the fumigation process for Peruvian exporters which has cost them $84 million dollars since the measure was put into place.

In addition, in order to perform the fumigation, the cold chain has to be broken, which takes 30% of the product’s shelf life. Because of these conditions, Peru is left at a disadvantage to Mexico, which does not require fumigation.

On November 2, however, there was an opportunity to revise this as Directorial Resolution No. 0002-2019-Minagri-Senasa-DSV, which establishes the phytosanitary requirements to export asparagus into the US and Europe, was entered into force.

The main takeaways from this resolution being the certification of production places, primary facilities such as packers, shipments, and the analysis of pesticide and heavy metal residues.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation is leading a campaign to which they have already certified 9,000 of the nearly 26,000 hectares devoted to the production of asparagus, guaranteeing that receivers of that asparagus have a low chance of pests.

The idea, Zamorano said, is that with these new conditions in place, it will allow the opportunity to negotiate the elimination of fumigation with the US within the first 3-4 months of next year. Reaching this goal would reflect as an enormous positive affect on the markets to which Peruvian asparagus is exported.

Marco Campos is Media Coordinator, Latin America for Blue Book Services