Selling exotic plants: Peru enters the market for biocommerce

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In 2009, Rolando Aliaga, Investment Manager of the company 2A, wanted to get UEBT validation for his work with maca. He had five years of experience in the field and was one of the winners of the national biotrade contest organized by the Ministry of Environment.

The agricultural engineer was sure that his excellent relationship with the eight farmers in the Bombon Plateau, Junín, that provide him with the cultivation and processing of maca would play in his favor. After several tests – including interviews with employees and suppliers as well as the presentation of a work plan for maca for the next five years – Aliaga met the requirements demanded by the UEBT. Now he must only wait for the confirmation of his admission to this select group and the delivery of an insignia for his products.

Green Customers
“If Peru has always sold its unique products, how does being part of biotrade benefit businessmen?” we asked Vanessa Ingar, coordinator for Biotrade at Prom Peru.

“Yes we have always marketed products of our biodiversity, but the biotrade approach is to do this well and therefore, receive more profits,” says Ingar. “So we work with a product hand in hand with the communities that live around it, respecting their ancient knowledge and the environment, in order not to exhaust the resource.”

In Peru, there are 100 companies working with such products, which only in 2009 exported US$100 million. Of these 100, only eight have accepted the rules of the UEBT.

According to Vanessa Ingar, the goal is to encourage more companies to accept these rules in order to preserve our biodiversity and capture the so-called green consumers or customers, who are not only pleased that they consume native and organic products, but also that behind this good there are farmers that are happy with the payment received for their product and good management of the environment in which it grows.

An Example to Follow
The company Peru Inka is part of the Partnership Business Group Cusco Andean Food (Alimentos Andinos is the Spanish name), which in 2009 also won the national biotrade contest. In addition to converting various Andean grains into energy bars, granola, powdered soups and creams, snacks and sweets, Peru Inka has based its business development in a cordial relationship with farmers in the region who are their suppliers.

Among them is the Delgado family, who lives on the outskirts of San Salvador, a small town in the province of Calca in the Sacred Valley of the Incas. Until four years ago, they harvested 1,700 kilos of amaranth and, if they had any luck, this production was sold at S/.2 per kilo. But in 2002, when Walker Delgado made contact with Peru Inka in a small agricultural fair, things started changing.

Carlos Benavides, manager of the company, proposed to buy all of their amaranth if they were able to double the production and use only natural fertilizers. An agricultural engineer would advise them all the while. Today, the Delgados deliver 3,000 kilos of amaranth and payment is made according to market price, which this season reaches S/.5 per kilo.

“[Being part of biotrade] is a gentleman’s commitment to the world that says we want to do things right,” says Rolando Aliaga to summarize his company’s soon to be admission to the UEBT. This experience could be replicated from the second half of this year, when a project in our country will begin, with the support of international cooperation, and will seek to encourage more companies to practice this kind of business with economic, social and environmental sustainability for the future.

Learn more about biocommerce in Peru

To learn more about how biotrade is developed in Peru visit biocomercioperu.org (Spanish-language). There you will find a directory of biocommerce companies. The eight companies who apply to be members of the Union for Ethical BioTrade are: Inversiones 2A, Hapssa, Villa Andina and Cecovasa. Four other companies comprise the group Cusco Alimentos Andinos.

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