Marcelino Muñoz and his son Celso are avocado growers who own a 1.4-hectare land parcel in Vilcahuaura (Lima Region) in Peru. They are members of the Avocado Producers Association who were swindled by a short-term opportunistic buying company in the 2007-2008 agricultural season, an action that left a trace of mistrust toward new avocado exporting companies.
Having identified a great opportunity in the growing demand for certified organic avocado in international markets, the USAID’s Poverty Reduction and Alleviation project came in to articulate the value chain and restore confidence by bringing in not only technical assistance but also a purchasing company that growers could rely on: Eurofresh Perú, a subsidiary of Eurofresh Vegetales y Frutas, a Spanish trader that operates in the European market.
The project providing technical assistance for the organic certification of 100 hectares of avocados in Huaura in Lima Region, and Casma and Santa in Ancash Region. In addition, the project incorporates new producers and a new production area (180 more hectares) and provides technical assistance to increase productivity. Working with small producers, Eurofresh Perú provides organic certification and supplies financial support to buy manure. In 1999, the first year of this project, 34 avocado growers have been trained on biological controllers and design and implementation of Global GAP (good agricultural practices) strategies. Global GAP standards aim to build consumers’ trust of the way agricultural production is done, minimizing negative effects on the environment, reducing the use of chemical inputs, and ensuring responsible behavior to preserve laborers’ good health and physical security.
Celso Muñoz has embraced the challenge of organic certification. He is using compost instead of chemical fertilizers and natural biocides instead of conventional synthetic products. From the weeds he removes, he prepares mulch for the soil. He and other growers have installed signs on the roads and on working areas. His production’s yield has increased to 17 tons/hectare in the 2008-2009 season, well above the national average of 10 tons/hectare.
The application of Global GAP standards requires that toilet facilities and warehouses are set up in the fields. Growers have replicated this requirement at their dwellings, improving their toilet premises and properly separating production inputs in spaces apart from the rooms of the households.
The first results of this initiative from November 2009-September 2010 are encouraging: $526,504 in exports, 57 new jobs, and a new investment of $192,235 in the Eurofresh Perú processing plant located in Huacho, Lima region.