Discovery Organics | PERU / ECUADOR – OCTOBER 2016
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PERU / ECUADOR – OCTOBER 2016

PERU / ECUADOR – OCTOBER 2016

It had been two years since the last visit to the banana and mango coops we partner with, 2 years! time flies.

It felt good to be back to Lima and to the region of Piura in Northen Peru where bananas and mangos grow. In Ecuador, we visited ASOGUABO for the first time since we starting working with them, almost a year ago. Familiar faces but also new ones, good people, lots of smiles and the pleasure to shake the hands of coop members who work very hard to send us high quality products!

APROMALPI mangos, Chulucanas, Piura, Peru

During our last visit at APROMALPI, they were gearing up for what is announced as a very good year for Peruvian mangos! The winter temperatures have been cool enough for the trees to bloom appropriately which will lead to much better yields than last year where winter temperatures were too mild.

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Segundo Valladolid has been a member of APROMALPI since 2011. He has 4 Ha of Kent mangos for the export market and 3 Ha of Honeyblush and Criollo for the national market. He has his own well and sells water to his neighbors at a preferential rate. He also grows a little bit of coconut, tamarind and limes

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Edward (a.k.a Honeyblush) mangos do not travel as well as the Kent or Keit mangos. They are mostly destined for the domestic market.

Last August, APROMALPI moved into a new office in Chulucanas. A former ceviche restaurant, it has a lot more space, with many meeting rooms to host workshops as well as a storage facility to store the organic fertilizers and other pieces of equipment for coop members. APROMALPI also owns a packing house and a processing facility where they dry and puree mangos.

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They are expecting to export approximately 70 containers this year. They only managed to do 35 last year. Poor yield and early rains (resulting in a high incidence of anthracnose for organic fruit) led them to dry and puree the remaining of their production.

Since its creation in 1998, APROMALPI has become a very successful organization. Back in 2014, it changed its status to become an official coop of 152 organic certified mango growers (a.k.a the Apromalpinos). Most coop members’ orchards comply with the definition of agroforestry, based on crop diversification. The main crop remains mangos but most growers also grow limes, passion fruits, cacao and avocados, mostly for the national market but sometimes for the export market as well. The average orchard size among APROMALPI’s coop members is 3Ha (7.5 acres).

All coop members have access to technical assistance to help them achieve good production while respecting good farming practices. Through the coop, they have access to organic fertilizers at a much better price as well as harvesting and packing crews coming to their orchard.

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APROMALPI members leaving the coop with a fresh supply of organic certified fertilizer for their orchard

Being part of a coop also ensures each grower a secured access to the export market, relying on long term relationships with Fairtrade certified traders like Etiquable in France, Agrofair in Holland or Discovery in Canada. Coop members have a contract with the coop specifying that they can’t sell their Kent mangos to anyone else but the coop they are part of. In years where volumes are low, it ensures the financial viability of the coop, and its members.

Irrigation

The area of Chulucanas is a very dry region where access to water can be a challenge. From January to June, growers have access to what they refer to as ‘gravity irrigation’ which costs 6 soles/hour (CA$2.40/hour). From June onwards, water has to come from wells. Growers who do not have any well on their property can purchase water from their neighbors through the municipality for 25 soles/hour (CA$10/hour). 4 times higher than the gravity irrigation, this cost accounts for the electricity needed to extract the water from 20 to 40 meter deep wells.

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Segundo Valladolid’s well and irrigation system

Labour force

APROMALPI hires 160 workers seasonally for harvesting and 70 workers for packing. Most harvesters are men and most packers are women, all coming from the area of Chulucanas. When asking how easy it is to find labour, we were told that it has become harder in the past 3 years, primarily because of multinationals growing thousands of hectares of grapes, requesting large harvesting and packing crews from August to December.

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Fairtrade premium use

Last year’s export sales of Fairtrade certified mangos generated US$21000 of premium. Discovery Organics was responsible for 80% of this premium amount.

After every coop members’ vote, the board of directors implements projects under the following categories:

>Healthcare

Visit of an optometrist for coop members and their families

Implementation of a funeral fund for coop members and their spouse of 3000 soles/person (CA$1200/person)

>Donations

-to an old people home to finance better meals

-to a centre for youth delinquency

-for rebuilding and repainting a church (Catholicism is still the predominant religion in Peru)

-to the communities of Carmelo bajo y alto to finance the access to potable water

>Water quality improvement through quality tests and purchasing of better water filters

>Packing house improvements through the purchasing of better pieces of equipment

>Reinforcement of technical assistance through workshops and quality control

“Lentos pero seguros” (slowly but surely)

Today APROMALPI stands out as an example of leadership in the region. They are getting awards from the Ministry of Agriculture, from the municipality. Their president Don Pedro wanted to reassess the role of the coop. The role of the board of directors is to ensure a good return for growers and lower the poverty level of their farming communities, to bring back dignity among farming communities through food security and education.

Don Pedro’s main concern is very clear: how to ensure the future of the younger generation, prevent rural exodus and maintain the livelihoods of the farming communities in the area

“Sin agricultores no hay nada. No hay comida” (Without farmers, there is no food, there is nothing)

Projects

APROMALPI recently got government approval for a grant of 2 million soles to start processing IQF mangos. IQF (Individually Quickly Frozen) mangos have a much better potential for export than dried or pureed fruits. They are expecting to have a capacity of 20 containers this year

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Don Pedro, the president of APROMALPI showed us their newest project. Inaugurated last August, the coop members and their board decided to build a storage facility in Chulucanas to improve their logistics and proximity to the port of PAITA.

For more info on APROMALPI, check out their grower profile

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BOS bananas, Salitral, Piura, Peru

BOS is now a group of 640 banananeros. The average plantation size per coop member is 4Ha.

The recent climatic changes have led to a decrease of the productivity from 15 containers/week to 8 containers/week. During the wet season (February to May/June), the lack of heat slows down the growth of the fruit and the production drops to 4 containers/week. Only 20% of their production is sold as fairtrade certified.

BOS is part of a pilot project to track and ultimately decrease carbon emissions related to the banana monoculture. Through photosynthesis, a banana plantation acts as a carbon sink. It is estimated that every kilogram of banana produced captures of 0.5 kilogram of CO2.

Each banana plant produces only one stalk of banana. The production cycle is between 10 and 12 weeks depending on the temperatures.

Labour Force

Harvest and packing crews work 5 days a week from 6.30am to 5.30pm and 6.30m to 3.30pm on their last day, with a one hour lunch break

Farm workers are generally family members, children and friends of the producer whose plantation is being harvested that day

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Mobile packing shed

FT premium use

BOS members’ preferred use of the FT premium is technical assistance and workshops to improve and maintain the best quality of the fruit they export. In the past couple years, most of the resources generated by the premium went to infrastructure to reinforce roads and prevent damages from the major storms related to el Nino.

APEC


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APEC stands for Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation. It is a free trade agreement established in 1989 between 21 countries of the Pacific Rim, including Peru, Australia, New Zealand, China, Canada, USA, Vietnam, etc., and perhaps India in the near future.

The last APEC summit was held in Lima in November 2016. “As a host of APEC 2016, Peru has chosen as its general theme “Quality Growth and Human Development”, proposing an strategy oriented to facilitate quality and equitable growth in the region, and the enhancement of the growth strategies that place social and individual progress as central to this effort.”

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more info here

A recent food system reform  consisted in maintaining its stance for promoting organic agriculture, instead of giving away to genetically modified crops. Peru, and the majority of the voting members of APEC decided to maintain its position in favour of organic farming, which was reassuring to BOS’ board of directors, and to us!

For more info on BOS, check out their grower profile

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ASOGUABO bananas, El Oro, Ecuador

Asociacion de Pequenos Productores de Banano El Guabo is composed of 125 bananeros, of which 30 small agroforesters located in the mountains who also grow cacao as an export crop.

ASOGUABO also has a community farm since 2009. It is a hired-labour operation owned by all coop members allowing them to experience new projects such as a trial on red bananas for example. This project was financed jointly with the Dutch government and the fairtrade premium.

 

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After many years in a tiny office, the ASOGUABO admin team moved to a brand new office with lots of space to host member meetings and workshops. This project was financed by the Fairtrade premium and a governement grant.

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Brand new loading docks where container loads are consolidated before going to port and being exported to Europe, North America, New Zealand or Korea

Visit of Doña Maria’s plantation

Doña  Maria has been a member of the coop since 2007 and farms a plantation of 6Ha. 12 years ago, Doña Maria and her family lived in the northern part of Ecuador and didn’t know anything about banana plantation. They started from scratch, benefited from the help of existing banana farmers and joining the coop provided her with other skills she couldn’t have had access to otherwise.

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Banana plantation on the right, cacao plantation on the left

Today, she leads a team of packers while her husband help coordinate the harvesting. Their daughter owns the adjacent cacao field. His son studied and now lives in Quito. Doan Maria explained to us that being part of a FT certified coop offered a year round financial stability, undoubtedly. Such stability allows to plan for the future, to establish long term plans, especially when it came to her children’s education and to choose another path than farming if they wish to.

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 Wrong shutter speed, this picture is out of focus. Excitement to meet her took over, sorry!

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Harvest of banana stalks

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Banana stalks get divided into “master-hands” for the first bath

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Transition from Cacao to Banana

In the past few years, the region of El Oro has seen a significant amount of farmers’ conversion from cacao to banana. Growing cacao can be lucrative but the harvest season is only 2 to 3 months per year whereas banana is a year round crop. On top of that, the Ecuadorian government maintains national minimum price for banana, not for cacao.

 

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“Ecuador is the world’s main exporter of high quality cocoa, also called Fine Flavour Cocoa (FFC). The country has its own Cocoa variety called ‘National’ or ‘Arriba’ which is highly prized among gourmet chocolate producers and consequently obtains high market prices. However, the ‘National’ variety more susceptible to diseases, so some farmers prefer to grow lower quality varieties, like CCN51, more productive and resistant. This affects the diversity of the region’s crops and could lead to the extinction of the native plant in the long term. Moreover, due to the low prices offered for common cocoa varieties, large production areas must be cultivated in order to be profitable, whereas the high quality cocoa is lucrative in small plots and thus ideal for small family farmers.” Source here

For more info on ASOGUABO, check out their grower profile

We are already looking forward to the next trip!

For more pictures, Check this out!

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