The balance in 2020 wasn't positive for Peruvian asparagus. According to the Executive Director of the Peruvian Asparagus and Vegetable Institute (IPEH), Carlos Zamorano Macchiavello, exports of this vegetable decreased by 8.8% in volume and 8.4% in value, totaling 158,317,000 kilos and $488,618,000.
In 2020, exports were led by shipments of fresh asparagus with 119,022,000 kilos of fresh asparagus (-9.63% over 2019) for 359,800,000 dollars (-8.61%). They were followed by canned asparagus, with 31,419,000 kilos (-2.18%) for 94,296,000 dollars (-3.17%), and frozen asparagus, with 7,800,000 kilos (-22.77%) for 34,400,000 dollars (-18.37%); the presentation that registered the greatest contraction.
According to Zamorano, the problems that asparagus faced in 2020 were circumstantial and due to COVID-19. The pandemic prevented carrying out commercial negotiations, generated restrictions in the field, caused the closure of the horeca channel in the destination markets, reduced commercial flights, and consequently increased air freight costs.
In addition, many farmers, especially in Ica, had to close their farms and were unable to harvest vegetables in the middle of the campaign because of the agricultural workers' strike to repeal the Agrarian Promotion Law. "That is the reality of asparagus. We'll see how it makes a comeback this year and how it resists the effects of the new agrarian law."
In addition to the aforementioned issues, there is a growing presence of Mexican asparagus, which competes with the Peruvian supply in its main market, the United States. Mexico has the advantage of being closer to the United States, so its offer can arrive by truck in a short time and with lower freight costs, Zamorano said.
"Peru is not going to have a rebound in the US market as long as we do not improve the conditions of entry of our asparagus to that destination. Currently, the US requires that the vegetable be fumigated. That decreases its profitability, not only because it increases costs, but also because it affects the product's shelf life and prevents producers from offering presentations that have added value, reducing our competitiveness," he said. The phytosanitary authorities of both countries - APHIS (from the United States) and Senasa (from Peru) - have been working to eliminate the requirement of fumigation of Peruvian asparagus, he stated.
Regarding new markets for Peruvian asparagus, the IPEH representative indicated that the country was looking to reopen the Australian market.