Peruvian citrus suppliers say each year the country is getting more competitive and closing quality and timing gaps that exist with its Southern Hemisphere competitors.
“They have been around for a few years — this isn’t their second year. They are getting better and better at it,” said Paul Marier, vice president of sales and marketing for Cape Town, South Africa-based Fisher Capespan.
“The more the shippers become accustomed to market, the better they are at logistics. We get feedback on quality of product, packaging, and they continue to improve.”
Marier said that, with rare exception, customers do not refuse Peruvian product. He also said the only real quality problem has come from growers trying to get their fruit to market too early before full internal maturation.
David Mixon, senior vice president and chief marketing officer for Seald Sweet International, Vero Beach, Fla., said the key to success for the Peruvian deal is hitting the window between the end of California and the start of Chile.
“Without a doubt, each year it has grown considerably,” Mixon said of the deal. “Last year alone the imports into the U.S. were substantially increased from previous years.”
Data analysts Inform@ccion in Lima, Peru, reported that exports of Peruvian citrus to the U.S. have increased from 6% of total exports in 2006 to 25% in 2009.
“It comes down to timing and value proposition,” explained Mark Greenberg, vice president of procurement for Fisher Capespan.
“When we have satsumas, their benefit is they’re early. When there are no other easy peelers around, satsumas are a good alternative in the market until the more preferable clementines are around.”
Greenberg said navels also provide a good value proposition for clients.
“You try to give them a price or a package that allows them to achieve a retail price that moves fruit, that moves volumes,” he said.
Marier said logistical challenges prohibit Peruvian citrus from reaching the U.S. in a timelier manner, putting the product on par with South Africa’s sea voyage.
“A lot of the Peruvian containers have to be trans-shipped,” he said. “It’s maybe a little bit trickier from a planning perspective when product leaves Peru. You can’t always plan exactly when it will arrive.”
Marier said a stopover in Panama, required to fulfill cold treatment, does not affect the product’s shelf life.
“Citrus is pretty strong merchandise,” he said.
“Our experience is that the quality has been first rate,” agreed Mark Greenberg, also of Fisher Capespan.