Peru is the world leader in exports of table grapes. Nobody beats him. Chile does not win, the US does not win, and China does not win. What’s more, it surpassed all three in 2021. However, that reality could probably change this year due to tons of shipments that could not be completed in January due to the road blocks and the stoppage of activities in various farms, especially in Ica.
In this region, popularly known for its wine-producing history, table grapes were preparing to repeat last year’s dish and consolidate the leadership achieved through harvesting and shipments, but the reality will be very different.
Although the data for January exports will only be available in the coming weeks, the Arequipa businessman and general manager of Uvica, Darío Núñez, announced that the situation is almost bleak for his company, which is dedicated to exporting grapes.
“Last year, in week 4 (January), we exported 2.9 million boxes to the whole world. This year in the same week we have made 126 thousand. It’s only 4% (…). In this farm we have pure table grapes. We are in full harvest. Not to mention all the damage that has been done to the country due to non-compliance with programs,” explained Núñez.
The impossibility of making shipments has prevented the grapes from reaching destinations in the US and Europe, including Mercadona (Spain), and this has generated a shadow of concern regarding customers changing suppliers. For this reason, he considered that “in any case” Peru would be losing its leadership as a world supplier of table grapes.
“This is a trustworthy, compliance business. If this year is the third time that we have not complied, the final buyer, who can be a supermarket chain anywhere in the world, will look at other countries. If I say to a US customer ‘look, sir or madam, I’m not going to be able to ship the shipment to you because I have this problem’, they’re going to say ‘it doesn’t matter to me, they eat grapes here every week and I need it,'” she said.
WORKERS AT RISK
The other problem that the sector suffers is the future of employment, since January is one of the most important months of the harvest.
“We were working with 1,700 people on the farm, but in general it is said that there could be between 100,000 and 110,000 workers dedicated to grapes,” explained Núñez. But not only that; the season also generates more income for the workers, an amount that they are not receiving and would affect them in the coming months, according to the businessman from Cerro Prieto, Alfonso Bustamante Canny.
“We are not talking about a deficit of one day, but a paralysis of the fields of more than 20 days. Farmers can’t come in, do the work. And this is the season of the year where they receive the best income. The workers of Ica, in addition, have developed good capacities in efficiency and productivity in the grape harvest that mean that at this time they can earn 150, 200 or even 250 soles a day. This is where they generate savings. In Ica alone there are some 80,000 people who today will not have the additional income they have for the rest of the year,” Bustamante said.
Keep in mind
-2022 grape shipments were projected to total US$1.4 billion, paving the way for a better 2023.
-Blueberries were also affected. “In December it had to be cut and production for January will be reduced,” Bustamante said.
-Bustamante explains that in the case of the north, the main disturbances have been at the Virú bridge, a strategic place through which all traffic to Callao passes, where Chavimochic farmers have their shipments scheduled.
“By not having shipped the fruit, they have not only lost the harvest, but also the costs of transforming the grape into an export product, which includes packaging,” Bustamante asserted.