In its fourth year of U.S. importation, Peruvian citrus exporters and U.S. importers expect excellent quality fruit to arrive in a timely manner and with plenty of volume.
As opposed to last year, when the Peruvian deal started two to three weeks late, exporters are optimistic that the weather is cooperating and the fruit should arrive just in time, although in less quantities.
âLast year, Peruvian citrus production and exports were late mainly because of the very cold 2007 winter,â Estuardo Masias, general manager at Lima-based Prolan, said in an e-mail.
âFor 2009, the harvest is on its normal track again but the yields are low in most of the varieties,â he said.
For most importers, weather in Peru this year has helped produce high-quality fruit.
âThe weather has been good,â said Roger Griess, global vice president for business development at Sun World International LLC, Bakersfield, Calif.
âThere are better weather patterns this year than in the 2008 production year. This is why we are seeing better quality,â he said.
Minneolas, Peruâs leading citrus export, should hit U.S. markets just in time for Fourth of July celebrations.
âWe will start picking minneolas around June 10 and packing and shipping them by the 16,â Griess said. âThey should be arriving in the U.S. the first three days of July.â
As far as quality is concerned, Peruvian growers are getting better at producing higher quality each season.
Courtesy La Calera Agricultural
Workers pack citrus for La Calera Agricultural, Chincha, approximately 125 miles south of Lima along Peruâs Pacific coast. Look for The Packerâs Peruvian Citrus special section in the June 15 print edition.
Jeff Miller, president of Westlake Miller, Los Angeles, said Peru grows a very good Minneola, and every year Peruvian growers learn more about what U.S. customerâs expectations are.
âPeruvian minneolas are very clean and have a very nice color and are very compatible with our California crop,â he said.
Griess said the quality of minneolas is similar to the 2007 crop.
âLast year, we had a weak piece of fruit, and this year we have not seen much scaring,â he said.
This year, however, satsuma volume should drop significantly.
âDue to bad weather and an overproduction of satsumas last year, this year our satsuma production is down nearly 40%,â said Sergio del Castillo, general manager at Lima-based Procitrus.
âWhen you have a year when there is too much production, the following year tends to be down, because overproduction generates much stress on the trees.â
Clementines have arrived in U.S. markets and their sizing and quality stand out.
âClementines from Peru will start to arrive in mid-June,â said Marc Greenberg, senior vice president and chief operating officer for Fisher Capespan Inc., St. Laurent, Quebec.
Greenberg said Peru produces a very good quality piece of fruit (clementine) that will compete with neighboring Chile and South Africa.
David Mixon, senior vice president and chief marketing officer for Seald Sweet LLC, Vero Beach, Fla., said this seasonâs clementines are coming in strong with good color and maturity, with peak sizes of 24, 28, 32 and 36.
âDue to a decrease in export volume this year, that means we will have a larger sizing fruit,â Fernando Bustamante, general manager for Coexa SA, Lima, said in an e-mail.
Bustamante said Peruvian citrus is not generally of a lesser size, but sizing does vary from year to year.
âLast year our fruit was bigger than other countries and we expect this year it will be again,â he said.
And when it comes to sizing, U.S. consumers generally prefer their citrus on the bigger side.
âNorth America tends to demand larger sizes and Peruvian shippers are very good at supplying customers with the right calibers and sizing,â Greenberg said. âThey are very good at segmenting the markets.â
Peruvian navels, especially this year, face tough competition from its Southern Hemisphere rivals.
Chilean navels, for the first time, have entered U.S. markets in May, and Australia has increased significantly its export volumes.
âThere are just too many navels out on the market,â Miller said. âAs far as volume, South Africa will stay the same, but Iâm hearing that Australia will increase their navel exports to the U.S. by 200,000 or 300,000 cartons over last year, and Chile plans to export between 500,000 and 600,000 cartons to the U.S. this summer. Itâs going to be very competitive.â
Despite lesser export volume this season, and tougher competition from other Southern Hemisphere countries, Peru is exceeding and making a name for itself.
âOverall Peru has a very high-quality product and growers are doing an exceptional job of growing, packing and shipping,â Griess said.
âThey produce an excellent piece of fruit and they deserve a spot in the market,â he said.