T&G Global is preparing to export its first ever harvest of Peruvian-grown table grapes, marking a new milestone in its strategy to become a vertically integrated grower, marketer and exporter.
The company acquired 340ha in Piura in 2014 and has subsequentely expanded its acreage by around 100ha of mainly seedless varieties, its target being to have 200ha planted by the end of 2017. CEO Alastair Hulbert said it is looking at expanding this further and possibly trialling other crops in the future.
The grapes will be shipped to key markets and not just Asia which has been the main focus of T&G’s trading business so far.
“We have good relationships in place in North America, UK and Europe and these customers are looking forward to being able to receive fruit from T&G owned farms in Peru,” said Hulbert.
“We will also of course be supplying some of our long-term customers in Asia with the right quality grapes for their respective markets, as well as the Middle East and Latin America which are emerging as strong markets for Peruvian produce. Naturally we will also ship some volume to New Zealand where there is strong demand for imported grapes in the Peruvian production window.”
T&G sells close to 2m cartons (15,000 tonnes) of table grapes each year with the largest volume coming from Peru and Australia, followed by the US and Chile.
In recent years, the company has diversified its Peruvian offer with the addition of avocados, mangoes and – most recently – blueberries on the back of production growth and access to new markets.
“Five to six years ago grapes and asparagus made up around 90 per cent of our Peruvian business but now it’s less than 60 per cent,” Nick Fitzpatrick, general manager for the Americas and grape category told Fruitnet.
However, plans to develop its own citrus production in Peru have progressed somewhat slower than expected.
“Peru has had some production issues over the past couple of seasons, and many of the varieties grown are still not suited to the Asian market where we believe we can add most value for the time being,” Fitzpatrick said.
“We have developed some citrus business to our China office which we hope to increase this coming winter season with W Murcott. The large majority of Peruvian citrus is still sent to the US, Canada and Europe where many of the programmes are well established.”
Hulbert said he has found Peru to be a relatively easy place to operate in given the country’s good investment environment and its support of businesses that grow their economy.
“We now employ 15 full-time local staff in Lima, 40 full time staff in Piura and up to 150 seasonal workers on our Piura farms, a number that will continue to grow as the operation scales up.
“Building the operation has not been without its challenges, especially water supply, but our team has done a fantastic job. We’re currently building a second reservoir on our land to better ensure consistent water supply and I know our team are very excited to be at the stage of harvesting our first T&G grown fruit next month.”
The company is also working with consultants to look at the environmental footprint of the project including water and chemical usage minimization. Initial analysis on renewable energy has shown strong potential given the high number of sunshine hours, plus the relatively high costs of energy.
T&G is actively involved in upskilling local staff and supporting training initiatives in line with CSR best practice and sustainability pillars which are central to T&G’s mission and purpose.
New Zealand’s Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy recently visited T&G’s grape operation in Peru while in the country for APEC meetings. Joining him on the visit was New Zealand Ambassador to Peru and Chile, Jacqui Caine and Tony Nowell, director of the NZ Food Innovation Centre Auckland and other embassy and Ministry of Primary Industries representatives.