Peru exports rise, but destinations up for grabs

06/02/2011 01:18:00 PM
Dan Gailbraith

Citrus exports from Peru are expected to be up this year, but the amount coming into the U.S. could actually drop thanks to exchange rates.

“Due to the weaker dollar, we are concentrating our main volume to Europe, the United Kingdom and Canada,” said Emilia Belaunde, spokeswoman for ProCitrus, a trade association of Peruvian producers.

“Obviously, the volume to the U.S. will be reduced if that trend continues.”

A record export amount of soft citrus — 60,000 tons — is forecast by the Southern Hemisphere Association of Fresh Fruit Exporters. That’s up 2.5% over last year, even though Peru’s overall crop is predicted to be down 6.1% to 854,000 tons.

Rough weather during fruit set caused a larger drop than normal for satsumas, Belaunde said. Picking started two weeks late, according to the fruit exporters association. But though volume is down, sizes are up in the medium to large range.

“We have bigger calibers and the external quality is very good, even better than last year,” Belaunde said.

The exporters association reported good overall quality.

Good sizes are also expected for minneolas and afourers, though as of mid-May Peruvian growers still had 45 days to wait before harvesting minneolas, and 70 for afourers.

“In minneola we will have regular sizes, probably calibers 1 or 1X,” Belaunde said.

Peruvian mandarins began arriving in the U.S. in mid-April and are expected to last into early September. Last year’s U.S. imports totaled 15,677 metric tons, 23% of Peru’s exports.

While exchange rates make exporters think twice, importers have their own concerns about minneolas in particular.

“Last year they sent an awful lot to the market and they got hurt with the pricing,” said Paul Marier, vice president of sales and marketing for Montreal, Canada-based Fisher Capespan.

“It was too much fruit for the market to bear. There’s some indication they want to manage that differently, but they’re independent shippers and they’ll go where they want. We may see them redirect some fruit to other areas to make sure fruit coming into the U.S. has more reasonable prices.”

Market niche is another issue for minneolas, said James Milne, citrus category director and business development director for Vancouver, British Columbia-based The Oppenheimer Group.

“The minneola tangelo is an item that’s in third or fourth position for an orange buyer,” Milne said.

“They’ve yet to find their true position. It’s a fabulous fruit, but it has yet to define itself. It’s generally known throughout the marketplace now, but it’s not generating the levels of return they need to be sustainable.”

David Mixon, senior vice president and chief marketing officer for Vero Beach, Fla.-based Seald Sweet International, said minneola quality will be strong — but hasn’t always been.

“We’re putting a premium label on our cartons to assure retailers that the maturity of minneolas we’re shipping into the U.S. will have above the allowed maturity standards,” Mixon said.

“They’ll exceed those standards on brix and acid ratio. There was a tremendous amount of minneolas shipped into the states that were very poor, the very minimum standards. They were well received in the trade but not by consumers. We’re trying to preserve a good flavor for consumers.”

First arrivals of minneolas in the U.S. are expected in late July, Mixon said.

Peru’s murcott tangerines begin shipping sooner than those out of Chile and South Africa, he said.

“The amount of production on murcotts is limited out of Peru but they will have some product available going into mid-July,” he said.

“They’ll be finished by the first week of August.”



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