As the retail and food service demand for asparagus has returned to pre-pandemic levels, the fresh asparagus export market has seen very high levels of airfreight rates and has changed a lot over the years for the grower and exporter Virú Peru. According to the company’s CEO Yoselyn Malamud: “Regarding fresh asparagus, the business has changed in recent years since airfreight has risen to very high levels, which makes our prices lose competitiveness in various destinations. Europe and the UK still have preferences for Peruvian asparagus with sustained annual programs but the concentration of the volume goes to the US.”
Virú Peru, with its headquarters in La Libertad, Peru, are growers and exporters of fresh asparagus and are the country’s largest producer of processed white and green asparagus. They are also the largest producers of artichokes in the world. “We are the largest producer of canned and frozen fruits and vegetables, as a total, in Peru. Our main products are white and green asparagus, peppers, artichokes, mango, avocado, blueberries, strawberries, hearts of palm and asai."
Their fresh white asparagus is exported mainly to European countries like The Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland and Austria while Japan is also increasing its orders this year according to Malamud. Their fresh green asparagus sees 75% of the volume exported to the USA, Europe, UK, and Asia.
Malamud says while the current demand for processed asparagus is stable the Russian war in Ukraine caused increased input costs across their over 13 000 hectares of farms. “Currently our demand for the processed asparagus is stable, we serve both retail and foodservice. Retail is strong and food service has recovered to pre-pandemic volumes. Since the Russian war, our costs have been affected – fertilizer, sunflower oil, packaging, etc. – in the same way as almost all industries. We have been taking measures to safeguard the continuity of our operations. Canned White Asparagus is mainly destined Europe. Canned green asparagus is mainly destined Europe and US. Canned pinquillo peppers are mainly destined for Spain and the USA.”
Virú Peru has a distinct advantage to weather the current global challenges in different markets, due to the company's size, with seven locations worldwide. It help with sales in Europe, Spain, France, Italy etc. “It definitely helps, the fact of having operations in different countries, has allowed us to better face the logistics crisis we are going through, to respond quickly to the needs of our clients, as well as being physically close to our clients to be at the forefront of what they are looking for. We are also increasing our processing capabilities in Spain with prepared meals.”
Malamud credits the constant innovation at her company for the growth in international operations. “Innovation is one of the pillars in our corporate culture, we work very closely with our clients/partners, which allows us to learn about market trends and provide tailor-made solutions. We always launch new product and solutions in the processed and frozen sector. We are also growing our operations in Spain, we just bought a new facility and we are in the process of implementing it to increase our manufacturing capabilities there. In Peru, we are increasing our frozen capacity and are diversifying our fruits and vegetables offer.”
“All of our activities are certified by international rules of security, quality, food safety, social responsibility and sustainability. Virú has a strong commitment to the communities, workforce, and stakeholders: In 2021, we were recognized in the fifth place by Great Place to Work in the ranking “Great Place to Work Latin America 2021”, becoming one of the most well-known companies in the region. This current year, the company was recognized once more, by Great Place to work for the third consecutive year, in the First Place in the category “Great Place to Work Production & Operations Peru 2022”. This shows the solid commitment to all our workforce and stakeholders. We are very proud of this recognition” concluded Malamud.