Production of pomegranates increased by more than 25% in Peru last year, and the South American country’s production grew by more than 40% this year. But to date, Peruvian pomegranates aren’t allowed into the U.S. as whole fruit.
Companies like Ruby Fresh, Firebaugh, Calif., already are importing pomegranate seeds, or arils, from Peru for their packaged pomegranate products with plans to do more in the future.
“We have our own trees in Peru,” said David Anthony, salesman for Ruby Fresh. “We’re waiting for USDA to establish pomegranate protocol for Peru.”
Ruby Fresh has 1,200 acres of pomegranates in Peru. For now, the company uses the fruit’s arils in products bounds for U.S. markets and also exports whole fruit to Europe, Canada and Asia.
Anthony said it’s possible, but unlikely, that USDA might have phytosanitary protocols in place by 2015. He said “there is a good chance” the issue could be resolved in time for Peru’s 2016 season.
A Peruvian industry association, ProGranada, is working on opening U.S. and Asian markets. The addition of Peruvian fruit would give U.S. consumers nearly year-round supplies of pomegranates. California’s crop — which represents the vast majority of U.S. fruit — is harvested from September through November, and the product has a shelf life of up to 60 days. Peru’s harvest starts in February and runs into May. Chile, which already exports to the U.S., harvests in May and is available into August.
Anthony said Peru offers growing conditions similar to California.
“We’re really pleased with color coming out of Peru,” he said.