When you think of Peru, Machu Picchu and other archeological sites probably come to mind first. But the country is also well known for the incredible array and quality of its citrus fruits, considered some of the best in the world for their consistency, fragrance, flavor, and shelf life. And citrus producers want to grow that reputation even further.
Though climate issues caused a disorder in the fruit that lowered supply throughout 2018, farmers still saw an increase in international exports of about 8% over 2017. Last year saw good performance for early tangerines, tangelos, and, to the surprise of many, lemons and limes. In fact, between January and October 2018, Peruvian exports of two varieties of limes — Sutil and Tahiti — totaled an astounding 9,290 tons, which is a 40% increase over the previous year. Key customers include Chile, the United Kingdom, Panama, the Netherlands, and the United States.
This year, experts are expecting late tangerines to lead the growth, which is predicted to be 10%. Limes are also expected to remain strong, as Tahiti limes are consumed worldwide. Producers have also seen growing demand for grapefruit, a crop that is traditionally grown in Florida but was recently planted in Peru.
So why the demand for Peruvian citrus fruits? One explanation could be their availability and good quality. Peru offers the earliest easy-peelers (like minneola oranges) in the southern hemisphere, and often provides late-season early-peelers before the rest of the Latin American countries do. This helps fill gaps in the markets, particularly in places like the U.S. and Europe. The quality is regarded as excellent, and producers adjust seasonally to meet the nuances in their various markets.
But it could also be due to the growing popularity of Peruvian cuisine around the world. The country is renowned for its exceptional gastronomy, which finally seems to be getting the international recognition it deserves. In addition to being named one of the top trending world cuisines of 2018 by the National Restaurant Association’s trend report, various restaurants in Lima have been on top 10 lists of the best restaurants in the world.
Citrus plays a significant role in so many Peruvian dishes, including ceviche, where it’s truly the star. The dish consists of raw fish that is cooked by the acid in the citrus fruit — namely lime and orange. Every Latin country has its own take on ceviche, but the Peruvian version includes sliced onions, peppers, and cilantro, and it’s topped with corn nuts, sweet potato, chifles (fried plantain chips), and lime slices.
All of this is not to say that citrus will be Peru’s main export. The country remains strong in other areas, including asparagus, avocado, onions, and even pineapples. But between it’s easy availability, unbeatable quality, and widespread use in a cuisine that is continuing to grow in popularity on an international scale, it’s not hard to see why the demand for Peruvian citrus won’t quit anytime soon.