Peru’s animal gold: the Alpaca

Tonight on radioprogram Amigos at Radio Capelle (105.3FM- Dutch radio) I spoke about Peru’s “animal gold”: the alpaca. Here below a short summary for those who missed it!

The alpaca is an animal of the family of South American camelids (like the llama and the vicuna). They spend the whole year at 3500 to 5000 meters in the Andes, and can be found in Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador, and Peru. The most important population of the alpaca resides in the Andes of Peru. Since the alpaca is lucrative business, other countries also started breeding alpacas in the 21st century, for example the US and Australia.

alpaca in peruaanse hoogland

Alpacas are used for the production of fibers, primarily to make high-quality clothing and other textiles. There are around 3 million alpacas in the world, especially because their wool is so valuable; more valuable than sheep wool or llama wool. The alpaca wool is finer, softer and of better quality, which is why there is a higher price-tag on it.  A product made with Alpaca fibers is really considered a luxury item, usually bought by people with a higher income.

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Peru is the most important exporter (exporting 90% of the Alpaca in the world) and the most important producer of alpaca fibers in the world. More than 60% of national production is destined for the external market. Arequipa is the region from which almost all shipments originate. The main importers are China, the United States, Italy, Norway and the United Kingdom.

The alpaca production and business makes a positive contribution to the family economy of the Andean population and to ecotourism. In the Andean highland cattle breeding is the most important source of income, and it generates jobs. The income provided by the alpaca industry also contributes to food security for farmers.

Some problems that threaten the production of the alpaca are among others population decline in the high Andes, export of genetic material with reduction of the national genetic pool, and the negative effects of climate change.

alpaca in cuzco

 

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Peru’s superfood Maca is booming business. But at what cost?

Tonight on the radioprogram AMIGOS of Radio Capelle 7-8pm Dutch time at 105.3FM I will be sharing about the Maca, its benefits, its origins, and ofcourse, some info related to its production, international trade and sustainability issues.

The MACA is a plant grown in the Andean region of South America, mainly in Peru. It grows in harsh conditions more than 4000 meters sea level. Although the maca was already an important food during the Inca empire, it is since 1990 that the maca became known outside the Andean region of Peru. This thanks to the work of the researcher Gloria Chacon who identified the maca and gave it its name. Nowadays, MACA is considered a superfood and it is rich in proteins, fibers, minerals and vitamins. It has become a very popular product due to many favorable health properties. Just to name some: it gives energy, it improves the feminine and masculine fertility, sexual desire and mental capacities like memory and concentration.

Maca

90% of the maca that is commercialized internationally originates from Peru. 91% of all maca is produced in the Peruvian province of Junin, and maca is also their most important source of income. Some figures: from 2013 to 2014 surface used for maca cultivation grew from 2,428 hectares to 4,051 hectares in the Junín, Pasco, Huancavelica, Puno and Ayacucho regions. Due to the increasing demand production has been extended to Tarma, Jauja, Huancayo, Pampas and Cuzco.

3 tipos de maca

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The last couple of years the exports have grown enormously, and the most important importers of Maca are the United States, Hong Kong, China and Japan, followed by some European countries like Germany and Belgium.

Expansion of the production of Maca due to a growing demand has not been unproblematic for Peru. The “boom of the maca” caused rapid conversion of high Andean grasslands into farmland, thus transforming the landscape, ecosystem, economy and society of the high Andean area of Junín. Junín is originally a region of cattle breeding, with camelids like llamas, alpacas and vicuñas, and the Maca-boom has led to displacing livestock to grazing, the main livelihood of rural families in the area.

Maca-production is not continuosly possible and it causes soil erosion. After about 3 years of Maca production the soil has to be at rest for about 10 years. This has caused the peasants to look for other lands at a higher altitude. So nowadays more areas of bare soil, lands in preparation and lands in recovery are observed. Increased maca production has disturbed not only wildlife but also the carbon reserves in the soils and the water retention and filtration capacity.

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Furthermore, there has been a serious threat to the maca business. A few years ago, Chinese companies began to illegally import the Maca plant. China is producing its own Maca now and has become a competitor in the maca-market. This has caused a fall in the maca prices, especially in 2015.

Finally, peasants who cultivate the maca generally have a low income and do not always work under favorable conditions. There are some companies and state programs who in cooperation with international organizations promote the organic and sustainable production of maca, including better working conditions for Maca producers.

NGO AMPA: connecting the Peruvian gastronomy with sustainable use of natural resources of the Amazon forests.

Last week I had the honor to interview the Peruvian Miguel Tang Tuesta, Director Green Economy of the foundation AMPA Peru, who was visiting the Netherlands. See below video in Spanish:

Just recently Miguel has been appointed as Amazon Embassador of the Province of Maynas for his great work in the area of biotrade, investigation and conservation of biodiversity of the Peruvian Amazon.

miguel tang tuesta - embajador amazónico
Miguel Tang Tuesta- Amazon Embassador of the Province of Maynas, Peru & Director Green Economy of the foundation AMPA PERU

The foundation AMPA Peru won the very prestigious Green Latinamerican Award in September 2017 with their project “Gastronomy and Conservation”. This award can be won for important projects in the area of protection of biodiversity.

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Miguel Tang Tuesta and Karina Pinasco of AMPA PERU receive the Green Latinamerican Award 2017

In the interview Miguel very passionately mentioned how in this project the excellent Peruvian top cuisine is connected to sustainably derived natural ingredients from tropical forests from the Peruvian Amazon region. This generates income and development for the indigenous communities who manage the tropical forest. AMPA PERU teaches and has taught the communities to make sustainable use of the natural resources of the forest, without causing any deforestation; thus conserving the forest and its natural resources. Examples of these natural resources are: the “aguaje”, coconuts, mushrooms, and many other resources.

Adding natural ingredients from the Amazon forest to menus of Peruvian topchefs also enables innovation in the Peruvian cuisine. So the project Gastronomy and Conservation promotes a sustainable cuisine.

You can also find the interview with subtitles on YouTube. Click in the following link: Interview with Miguel Tang Tuesta

KROONABLE VISITS INCOSMETICS 2018

January 2017 I founded my consultancy KROONABLE dedicated to sustainable business development and sustainable projects, especially between Europe and Latin America. I focus especially on the sustainable food, sustainable textiles and sustainable cosmetics sector.

Yesterday I visited the international cosmetics fair INCOSMETICS at Amsterdam RAI to meet some potential clients and explore sustainable business opportunities.

There was an entire “#Sustainability Corner” at INCOSMETICS with panel debates and some exemplary sustainable business cases. Apart from sustainable certifications for natural ingredients in cosmetics, cosmetic companies look at issues as water and energy usage, sound agricultural practices, sustainable packaging, fair working conditions etc.

Especially innovation is relevant in the cosmetics sector. Companies look at ways to meet the needs of consumers through innovation of their products, for example make creams smoother, to create make up from entirely natural ingredients or make makeup more effective and long lasting, and so on.

Here below a short videocompilation of my visit:

A naturally sustainable opportunity, the Peruvian Chestnut.

Every Wednesday on the Radioprogram AMIGOS (from 7 to 8pm Dutch time), I comment (in Spanish and in Dutch) on a topic related to sustainability and trade in/with Latin America. Ofcourse with a special attention for Peru. The program is broadcasted through Radio Capellehttp://www.radiocapelle.nl. You can also tune in to 105.3FM. After the program I publish my comments on this blog. So if you missed it last Wednesday you can read about it here below:

The chestnut, also known as the Brazil nut, the Amazon nut or the Almond grows within the “cocos” (nutshells) on a tree native to South America, “el Castaño”. This tree grows especially in the Amazon of Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Colombia and Guayana.

The chestnut is considered a superfood because it is a very nutritious and healthy dry fruit. It is rich in fibers, minerals, vitamins, carbohydrates, has high quality vegetable proteins, it contains all important amino acids, is gluten free, and has the omega 6 and 3 acids. It is not only applied for nutrition but also for beauty products. For example the oils of the chestnut are applied in cosmetics such as moisturizers.

In Latin America, Bolivia is the main producer and exporter of Brazil nuts, followed by Peru. Just for illustration: Bolivia exported almost 25,000 tons, which is more than half of the total exported by the world in 2016. Peru in that year was far behind with some 5500 tons. Among the main importers of shelled chestnuts are the USA, Germany, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands.

In Peru, most of the national production of Brazil nuts is concentrated in Madre de Dios, which is a big jungle region in Peru. 20% of the population of Madre de Dios is working in the chestnut sector, which equals about 20,000 people. 30% of the surface of Madre de Dios is covered with chestnut trees.

There is a sustainable use of the chestnut, especially since it is the only species in the nuts-market that comes from wild collection. So it is not something that needs to be cultivated, because it is a fruit that falls from the trees. It only needs to be harvested by the chestnut collectors (los castañeros).

The Peruvian government is the official owner of the chestnut trees, but it gives concessions for 40 renewable years to groups of families that traditionally work this resource. What does it mean to be a concession holder? This is important to explain because it implies both the right to harvest the chestnut as well as the obligation to defend the forests of loggers, illegal mining and the passage of drug trafficking. These are one of the biggest threats in the Peruvian jungle.

The “castañeros” are organized in associations and have generally managed to obtain the organic certification. There are also those that have achieved the fairtrade certification.

The chestnut is a relevant source of income for those who work in the chestnut sector in Madre de Dios, and therefore important for the economic development of this region. In 2009 Madre de Dios declared the chestnut as its flagship product.

The chestnut activity also helps to contribute to the protection of forests and nature. There have been made efforts to expand the chestnut through reforestation, not only in Madre de Dios, but also in other territories of the lower jungle of Peru. The National Institute of Agrarian Innovation (INIA) has managed to develop a technology that has introduced the chestnut in Iquitos and Pucallpa, in order to expand the business possibilities of small producers and recover extensive areas of degraded soils. In conclusion, the chestnut does not only provide healthy fruits and economic development, but it also has an enormous ecological and tourist potential derived from the care of the forests.

Second Business Roundtable Sustainable Food (2016)

In November 2016 I had the honor to lead the organization of the Second Edition of the Business Roundtable Sustainable Food from PERU in Amsterdam. The idea behind this event is to connect Dutch companies with Peruvian companies which sell sustainably produced foods. Peru is one of the greatest exportes in the world of several organic products such as organic bananas, organic coffee, cacao, and superfoods, and as such is able to position itself as a great exporter of sustainable food.

This event was a collaboration between the Trade Commission of Peru and the Center for the Promotion of Imports from Developing Countries (CBI). In the Seminar we had presentations by Ernst & Young, Wageningen Universtiy, CBI, and representatives of Peruvian companies (Miguel Tang Tuesta of AMPA -Amazónicos por la Amazonía, Candy Morales of CPX PERU) and Dutch companies (Crescendo Organics).

This Business Event Sustainable Food Peru was a great success! Around 12 Peruvian companies  (especially natural ingredients) came to the Netherlands to join the second edition of the Seminar and Business Roundtable. Around 12 Dutch companies participated to talk business with them.

In the link you can find a short video of the event: Business Event Sustainable Food 2016

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First Business Roundtable Sustainable Food from Peru

THE FIRST BUSINESS ROUNDTABLE ON SUSTAINABLE FOOD FROM PERU in THE NETHERLANDS WAS A SUCCESS

With the aim of promoting sustainable food trade between Peru and the Netherlands, I initiated and lead the organization of the first Business Roundtable in sustainable food on Friday the 27th of November 2015. I was able to do this in my position as Head of Trade Section at the Trade Commission of Perú. In the organization of the event, we had the support and collaboration of PromPeru, PLACIEX, Solidaridad Andes, the Chamber of Commerce in Lima, ADEX and the Centre for Promotion of Imports from Developing Countries in the Netherlands (CBI).

 

The event took place in Amsterdam with the participation of 12 Peruvian exporters and 20 Dutch companies of mostly sustainable products. The main traded products were natural ingredients such as maca powder, quinoa powder, camu camu powder, chia, amaranth, corn, tara and cocoa. Other products were coffee, spices, dried and fresh fruit.

After an intense morning of negotiations, a panel consisting of Dutch and Peruvian experts, such as Yvette Faber (Solidaridad Europe), Jose Cubero (Fairtrasa Netherlands), Gaston Vizcarra (Candela Peru) and Maria del Pilar Alarcón (PromPeru),  sustainability in the foodsectors of Peru and the Netherlands were discussed.

Among the Dutch importers were Fairtrasa Netherlands (winner of the Latin America Trade Award), Eosta, Nature’s Pride and Verstegen.

Given the rapid growth in demand for sustainable products in the Dutch market, the entrepreneurs attending the event qualified the Business Round as a great initiative. Also because of the need to facilitate the connection between Peruvian suppliers and Dutch importers. Furhtermore this initiative contributed to the image of Peru as a reliable supplier of such products.