The caprices of the global economy and politics can affect the flow of onions out of Peru, grower-shippers and importers say.
Peruvian growers are well-versed on economic trends and watch markets closely, said Karl Bonhomme, president of Bonhomme International Trading Corp., Miami.
“They look at your newspaper, they watch the USDA marketing reports every day,” Bonhomme said.
They also track political developments, which can affect economic circumstances, Bonhomme said.
“When Venezuela, for example, decided to shut its border and not let any onions go through into Venezuela, that has an impact in Peru, and you can see that Peruvian growers (are) paying attention to what’s going on politically in Venezuela, because they know it has an impact,” he said.
Venezuela is a particularly unpredictable market, often due to politics, Bonhomme said.
Political as well as economic realities often force diversions in product flows, Bonhomme said.
“Most of the time, people would come and pay in cash for the medium and ship it to Colombia, but usually that product does not stay in Colombia. It ends up in the market in Venezuela,” he said. “They pay cash because nobody gives credit to the people in Colombia.”
But it works for suppliers in Peru, Bonhomme said.
“It is a very good outlet, a very good thing for the growers in Peru, because that way they have a place to get rid of the medium onions and they don’t have to be U.S. importers to pick the onions sometime on consignment and sometimes it does not go too well,” he said.
The U.S. likes the larger onions, but 10% of what it buys is medium-sized product, Bonhomme said.
If there are problems, whether economic or political, they are negligible, said Delbert Bland, owner of Vidalia, Ga.-based grower-shipper Bland Farms LLC, which participates in the Peru deal.
“The only time we see any effect is if the volume of traffic in the store is affected by some type of holdup or a storm,” Bland said.
Sweet onions seem to have a cache that helps the product through economic lows and highs, Bland said.
From an economic standpoint, Peru is a good place to be growing onions, said Mauro Suazo, business development manager for Customized Brokers Inc., a Medley, Fla-based importer.
“I believe Peru is the fastest-growing economy in South America, and there is money to be spent in products,” he said.
“If you’re a grower, there’s money available for agricultural budgets. That’s not the same in Argentina or neighboring countries,” Suazo said.
Currency exchanges have the potential to adversely affect growers over time, said John Shuman, president of Vidalia-based Shuman Produce Inc.
“As far as global economic circumstances are concerned, it’s important to keep in mind that the majority of Peruvian sweet onions are grown for U.S. consumption,” he said.