What is your assessment of the agricultural sector's performance in 2015?
Last year was a challenging year for everybody, not just in our sector but for all industries. The most positive development for our sector was entering new markets for some of our products. We now have new dealings in the US, various countries in Asia, and more in Central and South America. We are going to export growing quantities of fruit and have also established a joint venture between the private and public sectors to better promote and support foreign market openings. We have been working together with the Peruvian ministries of Foreign Trade and Agriculture, and the National Service of Agrarian Health. We are always planning ahead.
What is the role of AGAP and how does it create synergies between the private and public sectors?
AGAP was formed by seven associations and 400 companies representing different fresh products, ranging from vegetables, such as asparagus, to citrus fruit, table grapes, mangoes, blueberries, avocados, and pomegranates. We also help companies navigate legal issues. Since new projects take at least 10 years to recoup their investment and pay back banks and shareholders, we help explain to our legislators the need to extend and possibly make permanent a law that provides for the payment of all social and labor benefits and recognizes the seasonality of agrarian activities. AGAP also presents the government with the results of our independent studies, demonstrating not only economic but also the social advances that have been made, such as the increase in formal labor, rural development, the reduction of poverty, and the empowerment of women through agricultural production
How is JJC Agrícola setting standards for the broader industry?
Productivity combined with quality is the recipe for our success: producing 20 tons per hectare is twice as good as producing 10. In terms of exports, our main products are table grapes and asparagus; in these we are the largest in the world. China, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, and other countries in Southeast Asia are very interesting markets for Peruvian exports.
How will the sector capitalize on the recently established FTA between China and Peru?
China is the biggest market and we are already involved there. The FTA helped us to develop our table grape exports to China, particularly the Red Globe grapes, and in August 2015 we started exporting Hass avocados there. Last year we opened the market for oversized mangos in the US. The first challenge in expanding is always phytosanitary regulations, which in some cases take between seven and 12 years to deal with. When we are in close collaboration with the public sector, this can be reduced to two or three years. We are also now concentrating on the Middle East, which is an excellent market, but presents some logistical and infrastructural issues to be dealt with.
Europe and the US are sophisticated markets. How is the “Made In Peru" label perceived in those places?
Entering these markets has pushed us to meet the highest international quality standards and to obtain the various required certifications, making good use of our corresponding investments in our farms and passing various audits and tests. However, this can cost between USD50,000-80,000, a burden for small producers that may not have the necessary infrastructure in place. Small producers need to obtain government assistance and technical training for these audits, which we are also advocating for.
What are your expectations for 2016?
Our main target is to maintain growth in Peru. Over the past 10 years, we have had average growth of over 20% per year. In the past year alone, which was a challenging one, we grew by 13%, which is still good. Our other goal is to boost and formalize the agricultural industry in general, which is the second strongest domestic industry after mining. Companies in AGAP provide nearly 300,000 formal jobs, and we want to continue to register as many as possible.