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A Report by the Agricultural Health and Food Safety Program of the

Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA)

Improving competitiveness and market access for


agricultural exports through the development and
application of food safety and quality standards

The example of Peruvian asparagus

Tim M. O’Brien Alejandra Díaz Rodríguez


Inter -American Institute for Comisión para la Promoción
Cooperation on Agriculture - IICA de Exportaciones – PROMPEX
Coronado, Costa Rica Lima, Peru

July, 2004
CONTENTS

Acknowledgements 2

Summary 3

I. Description of the asparagus production chain 4

1.1 Peru’s agricultural exports 4


1.2 Asparagus production in Peru 4
1.3 Socioeconomic importance 7
1.4 Main problems addressed in the asparagus production chain 9

II. Elements of change in the asparagus production chain 10

2.1 Export promotion policy 10


2.2 Associative Efforts 11
2.3 Commitment to the safety and quality of the asparagus produced 13
2.4 Establishment of quality standards 13

III. The role of Codex Alimentarius in the asparagus production chain 14

3.1 Participation of Peru’s government and private sector in the process of 14


drafting Codex standard on fresh asparagus
3.2 Implementation of the standards in Peru and the level of participation 16
3.3 Quality costs 20

IV. Conclusions and recommendations for future projects 22

Bibliography 23

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ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

The authors wish to thank the leaders of the various public and private institutions that have made the
development of asparagus production possible in Peru, and especially the representatives of the
institutions and companies visited, for their valuabl e support for the preparation of this document, and
the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) for its institutional support:

Foreign Agriculture Service (FAS) - United States Department of Agriculture

Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA)


Kevin Walker, Director, Agricultural Health and Food Safety Program
Freddy Rojas, Representative in Peru

Export Promotion Commission (PROMPEX)


Bernardo Muñoz, Agro and Agro-industry Manager
Fausto Robles, Adviser

Peruvian Asparagus and Vegetable Institute (IPEH)


Jorge Pablo Fernandini, President
Beatriz Tubino, General Manager

Frío Aéreo Asociación Civil


Jorge Checa, President
Alvaro Salas, General Manager

AGROPARACAS S.A.
Antonia Lujan, Head of Quality Assurance
Carlos Salas, Plant Engineer

APEISA
Ramon Aparcana, General Manager

ATHOS S.A.
Jose Castilla, Operations Manager
Carlos Arana, Head of Plant
Melissa Ganosa, Head of Quality Control

Complejo Agroindustrial Beta


Lionel Arce, General Manager
Juan Gallegos, Head of Quality

IQF DEL PERU


Francis Watson, Quality Control Manager
Joaquin Balarezo, Technical Manager

PROAGRO
Carmen Rosa Garcia, Head of Exports
Carlos Tellez, Head of Operations

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AN EXAMPLE OF SUCCESSFUL USE OF CODEX ALIMENTARIUS:
ASPARAGUS IN PERU
SUMMARY

Peru is currently the world’s leading asparagus exporter, having overtaken other important producers
such as China and the United States, and has gained worldwide recognition for the quality of its
product.

This prompts a number of questions. How has this industry been so successful in an increasingly
demanding and competitive global market? What factors of change have made it possible to establish
a sustained industry that has had a major impact on Peru’s economy, creating jobs and generating
foreign exchange?

Since asparagus was first grown in Peru in the early 1950s, the industry has blossomed despite
having to contend with various climatic events , non-tariff trade barriers that affect access to certain
markets, domestic macroeconomic measures that do little to help agriculture, the poor organization of
producers and public institutions, and little capital investment or investment in technology. Although
some of these weaknesses have yet to be tackled, in 2003 asparagus exports were worth US$206.69
million. Asparag us accounted for 24.41% of Peru’s total agricultural exports and provided jobs for over
50,000 people along the coast of the country.

The Government and private enterprise encouraged the industry to address the problems that existed
in the asparagus production chain by establishing cooperation mechanisms. Two organizations were
created that are now the most important in the asparagus sector: the Peruvian Asparagus Institute and
Frío Aéreo Asociación Civil. These organizations enable producers and exporters to pool resources
with public institutions. With the State’s assistance, they engage in research, technology transfer,
market studies and export drives, sanitary activities and quality promotion.

Another factor of change that has contributed to the success of asparagus in Peru is the sector’s
commitment to food safety and quality, with “competitiveness through quality” being incorporated into
strategic business plans. The asparagus industry has made great strides in implementing good
production practices and food safety and quality management systems. The HACCP system clearly
having served as a springboard for implementing other management systems designed to ensure
overall quality.

Standard-setting for asparagus has also played a big part in making companies more competitive as
well as more efficient and transparent in the market place. A special committee is responsible for
establishing Peruvian Technical Standards for Asparagus. The fact that the process is transparent and
all the stakeholders in the ch ain are involved maximizes the acceptance and voluntary implementation
of new standards. In this context, the Codex Alimentarius standards play an important role, since they
are explicitly accepted as the international benchmark for food standards. In the case of the Codex
standard for Asaparagus, Peru took part in international standard-setting at the meetings of the Codex
Committee on Fresh Fruits and Vegetables (Mexico) and the Twenty-fourth Session of the Codex
Alimentarius Commission (Geneva), where its delegates presented the country’s position and
safeguarded national interests. This organizational outline for establishing national standards is
planned to be adopted for use with other agricultural exports.

All the factors of change that are associated with the success of Peru’s asparagus industry have
promoted public/private alliances, the creation of private sector associations, capital investments and
the introduction of modern technology and quality assurance, all sustained by strong leadership in
both the private and public sectors. The leadership role assumed by various agricultural entrepreneurs
and public officials was critical to establishing consensus-building mechanisms among producers,
processors, exporters and the Government. The function of these mechanisms is to ensure
productivity, quality and profitability, and to pinpoint and solve the chief problems affecting asparagus
exports. These mechanisms support an export-promotion policy that encourages and supports
producer associations, stimulates competitiveness through quality enhancement that promotes
continuous improvements within the firms involved , thus enabling them to better respond to the
dynamic changes in the international market.

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I. DESCRIPTION OF THE ASPARAGUS PRODUCTION CHAIN
1.1 PERU’S AGRICULTURAL EXPORTS
Agricultural exports are worth over US$800 million to the country each year , a sparagus being one of
the m ost important products having experienced strong growth over the years (Figure 1).

In 2003, asparagus replaced coffee as Peru’s biggest agricultural export earner. Figure 2 shows the
percentage breakdown of Peru’s agricultural exports in 2003, with asparagus and coffee accounting
for nearly half of the total.

FIGURE 1. EVOLUTION OF AGRICULTURAL AND FIGURE 2. PERCENTAGE BREAKDOWN OF PERU’S


ASPARAGUS EXPORTS AGRICULTURAL EXPORTS

900.00 250.00 Evaporated


800.00
Sugar Milk
Vegetables 2%
700.00 200.00 2%
3% Avocado
US$ x million

US$ x million
600.00 Peppers Others
150.00 2%
500.00 Grape 3% 36%
400.00 3%
100.00
300.00 Mango
4%
200.00 50.00
100.00 Coffee
0.00 0.00 21%
1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 Asparagus
24%
Agricultural Exports Asparagus

Source: Peru Customs Service: Prepared by – PROMPEX Source: Peru Customs Service: Prepared by - PROMPEX

1.2 ASPARAGUS PRODUCTION IN PERU


ASPARAGUS IN PERU
Asparagus growing in Peru dates from the early 1950s. The first crops were planted in the Viru valley,
as part of a small family project to export canned white asparagus to Denm ark. Growth was slow,
limited to the department of La Libertad and fragmented after 1972 following agrarian reform.

Asparagus production began to take off in earnest from 1985 onwards. The Ica Farmers’ Association
was keen to replace traditional crops with export crops, and, with funding from the U.S. Agency for
International Development (USAID), explored the opportunities in the southern United States. Based
on its observations, the Association evaluated a number of promising crops at its San Camilo
Expe rimental Station (melons, paprika, green beans and asparagus). Asparagus was the most
interesting, given the prices that could be obtained when the product was not in season in North
America. The farmers were then invited to take part in an associative project involving the cultivation
of 500 ha of green asparagus. The Association would oversee the project, build and operate the
1
packing plant, and export all the production .

USAID paid the fees of experts who provided advice. The first step was a visit by a specialist from the
University of California, Davis, who had recently created the UC-157 variety. He confirmed the viability
of the project and provided information about how to manage the crop. This was followed by a visit
from a vegetable crop expert who helped the technical staff of the Association’s experimental station
set up the seedbeds and gave the producers advice about crop management, packing and exporting.

At the same time, the Association made the necessary contacts for the design and management of a
packing plant. Seeds of the new UC-157 hybrid variety, in F1, were imported from California
Asparagus Seed and Transplants, Inc., and the seedlings were planted in a 1.8 ha field at the San
Camilo Experimental Station. For the first time in Peru, seeds were planted in high beds irrigated by
micro-sprinklers, to obtain seedlings. The results were excellent; a very high percentage of the seeds
germinated and the seedlings were very homogeneous. The seedbed was the biggest of its kind ever
2
seen in the world .
1
Robles 1997.
2
Robles 1997.

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The quality standards set were based on those of California but even more demanding, to ensure
acceptance. When harvesting began in mid-November 1986, 70% of the production was exported as
planned and excellent prices were obtained in the North American market.

Following the optimal results obtained by green asparagus producers in Ica, producers in other valleys
became interested in replicating the experience. Crops were planted in the Chincha, Nasca, Cañete
and Huaura valleys, and other valleys and irrigated savannah along the coast. A real boom in exports
ensued. Packing plants were set up and the asparagus that was not exported as fresh produce began
to be frozen and canned, also for export.

In the Chincha and Cañete valleys, a Spanish canning company installed a processing plant and
signed contracts with farmers for the production of canned white asparagus for the European market,
especially Spain. The acreage planted with white asparagus in the department of La Libertad
increased considerably, where the new Chavimochic irrigation project developed important areas.
Desert pampas in this region are now used for agriculture.

The yields obtained for both green and white asparagus were very high from the outset, thanks to the
excellent climatic conditions and loose soils of the Peruvian coast, which is the world’s largest natural
greenhouse. Two harvests per ye ar are possible in some valleys and three harvests in two years in
others. Production of up to 20,000 kg pe r hectare per year has been achieved.

As the acreage increased, Peru rapidly overtook rival exporting countries, including traditional
producers such as Mexico, Spain, the United States and China. Furthermore, Peru overtook these
countries with less than half their acreage, because it had the highest yields in the world - an average
of over 9000 kg per hectare.
3
The total asparagus acreage in Peru is now roughly 20,000 hectares divided equally between white
and green asparagus. Over 95% of national production is concentrated in Ica, Lima and La Libertad
(Figure 3).

There are now various private sector asparagus groups in Peru. Included are the Peruvian Asparagus
and Vegetable Institute (IPEH), which represents the industry, and Frío Aéreo Asociación Civil, which
has a center for perishable produce with modern cold storage facilities at Jorge Chavez international
airport, which handles 80% of fresh asparagus exports. Peru also has the world’s largest asparagus
freezing company and packing plant, and the en tire industry is owned by national capital.

The industry applies sets of national standards that make it possible to provide products of satisfactory
quality, as demonstrated by the permanent international demand. The asparagus is processed in
plants with adequate infrastructure, and products of the highest quality are exported to the world’s
most demanding markets. With assistance from the State, every effort is made to ensure the products’
safety and quality, with the goal to establish the HACCP system t hroughout the national food industry.

To meet HACCP requirements, the asparagus firms are implementing good agricultural practices and
other management systems to guarantee safety and quality from farm -to-table and exercise social
responsibility throughout the chain. They have demonstrated a great capacity to bring the asparagus
industry into line with the various standards and regulations required by international trade.
FIGURE 3. ASPARAGUS-GROWING AREAS

LA LIBERTAD
Trujillo
ANCASH
Huarmey
Huaur
a
LIMA
Cañete
Chincha
Pisco
ICA

(Photo: F. Robles)
3
Ministry of Agriculture.

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PRESENCE IN INTERNATIONAL MARKET S
Peru is currently the world’s leading asparagus exporter, having overtaken other major producers such
as China and the United States. Figure 4 shows the strong growth of Peruvian asparagus exports
compared with those of China. Peru’s exceptional climatic conditions and geographic location make it
possible to achieve the highest yields in the world. Peru produces practically the same amount as
China, on less than half the acreage.

FIGURE 4. EVOLUTION OF ASPARAGUS EXPORTS: CHINA AND PERU

250.00

200.00

150.00
US$ x million

100.00

50.00

0.00
1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003

China Peru Linear (Peru) Linear (China)

Source: China Customs Prepared by: Agricultural Sector - PROMPEX

ASPARAGUS EXPORTS
In 2003, Peru’s agricultural exports were worth US$846.6 million (FOB). The asparagus industry
accounted for US$206.69 million, or 24.41% of the total. Asparagus is marketed in three presentations
(canned, fresh and frozen). In monetary terms, the first two account for around 90% of the asparagus
exported (Figure 5).

FIGURE 5. EXPORTS OF PERUVIAN ASPARAGUS (2003)

Fresh
52% Canned
40%

Frozen
8%

Source: Peru Customs Service: Prepared by - PROMPEX

Exports of fresh green asparagus have grown steadily in recent years (Figure 6), unlike exports of
canned asparagus (Figure 8). The United States continues to be by far the most important market,
currently purchasing 73.6% of exports (Figure 7). Although the U.S. continues to import more of the
product year after year, its importance as a market has been declining slowly due to the gradual
growth of other markets. This is a positive situation reflecting a sensible exporting policy implemented
by national packing companies. The main market for canned asparagus is Europe, particularly Spain
(Figure 9), with most frozen asparagus finding its way to the United States and Spain.

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FIGURE 7. PERCENTAGE BREAKDOWN OF FRESH
FIGURE 6. EXPORTS OF FRESH ASPARAGUS ASPARAGUS MARKETS IN 2003 (US$ x million FOB)

US $ FOB Vol. Kg. United


Spain France
120.0 Kingdom
8.1% 0.5% Germany
Netherlands 6.6% 0.5% Italy
100.0
8.9% 0.4%
80.0
Million

Others
60.0 1.5%
s

40.0

20.0
United States
0.0 73.6%
1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003

Source: Peru CustomsService: Prepared by - PROMPEX Source: Peru Customs Service: Prepared by - PROMPEX

FIGURE 9. PERCENTAGE BREAKDOWN OF CANNED


FIGURE 8. EXPORTS OF CANNED ASPARAGUS ASPARAGUS MARKETS IN 2003 (US$ x million FOB)

US $ FOB Vol. Kg. United Germany


States Australia 3%
France 8% 4%
100
90 19% Netherlands
80
3%
70
Millions

60 Others
50
7%
40
30
20
10 Spain
0 56%
1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003

Source: Peru Customs Service: Prepared by - PROMPEX Source: Peru Customs Service: Prepared by - PROMPEX

1.3 SOCIOECONOMIC IMPORTANCE

In recent years, the growth of Peru’s primary industries (mining and inputs for agroindustry) has
slowed, while the agricultural sector has shown strong growth. In this process, agroindustrial exports
have grown and created new jobs by raising the productivity of the regions involved and,
consequently, achieving better levels of development.

Development in the areas where asparagus is produced is mainly due to exports of this vegetable,
which have energized local economies. In socioeconomic terms, the departments of Ica and La
Libertad have one of the highest levels of development growth in the country, based on factors such
as economic development and job opportunities, setting them apart from other areas.

As far as employment opportunities are concerned, asparagus production is much more important
than that of traditional crops in the areas concerned, such as cotton, corn and rice. Including the off-
farm jobs created, the asparagus industry provides work for an estimated 50,000 people along the
coast of Peru, 60% of who are women. This is important in terms of the efforts to provide equal job
opportunities, as men account for over half of the country’s Economically Active Population (56%).

Efforts are now being made to replicate the success of the asparagus industry with other products like
artichoke and red pepper, taking advantage of the industries installed infrastructure . In 2003 alone, the
growth of these products created more than 2400 new jobs in the countryside. The Peruvian
Asparagus and Vegetable Institute (IPEH) predicts that in 2004 they will generate roughly 10,000
more new jobs.

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More stable employment (photo T. O’Brien). More employment for women (photo T. O’Brien).

By implementing improved food safety standards and quality management systems, the asparagus
companies have also generated additional social benefits . The implementation of good agricultural
practices and social responsibility programs are also making a positive contribution to the economic
and social development of the regions involved.

Incorporating the concept of social responsibility into the business strategies of asparag us companies
has proved to be an important way of adding social value while helping to shield the industry from
emerging barriers to trade. This aspect contributes to the industries further development, the
generation of better incomes and contributes to the general well-being of society.

These efforts consist mainly of internal company policies concerning the adoption of environmental
standards and improvements in working conditions and the well -being of the labor force. The results of
implementing good agricultural practices have been remarkable. These practices include integrated
pest management, dune forestry, biodiversity conservation practices, the safe use and management
of agrochemicals, proper waste disposal and the implementation of septic tanks and appropriate
latrines, all with a view to reducing the negative environmental impact on water, soil and air. These
practices are being implemented very creatively, optimizing the use of resources so that safety and
quality are not exclusively the domain of large companies (see photo on page 9) .

Workers receive training in standards, mainly regarding asparagus quality, hygiene, health, safety and
labor well-being. This is another important element in developing local capabilities, since it helps
reduce losses and minimizes the exposure of workers to agrochemicals and other health risks. This
has resulted in increasing the efficiency of workers. The training also helps improve the quality of their
work, an important factor for increasing productivity and, therefore, the firms’ chances of making
bigger profits.

If workers are familiar with the standards, they understand why it is necessary to work in a different
way and how the changes implemented are going to improve the overall production system. When
th ey are well trained, workers also understand that they are part of an integrated system and that the
performance of one sector affects the performance of another. Furthermore, when people work for
different companies that use the same standards, it is easier for them to do a good job and be
efficient, because they are already familiar with the systems of work. Better working conditions in
terms of hygiene, quality, the minimizing of risks from agrochemicals and environmental conservation
benefit not only the asparagus business but also the workers and their communities. Obviously,
educating workers helps to improve their quality of life and that of their families and in turn the region’s
general population.

Actual results show that the asparagus industry has developed a greater capacity to adapt to the
various standards required in trade . This is sustained through the preventive approaches of the
HACCP system and good agricultural and manufacturing practices, which provide the basis for the
minimum requirements established in the current technical standards and regulations.

These characteristics of the asparagus industry provide an efficient framework for its sustainable
development, i.e., development that is economically viable, respectful of the environment and socially
equitable.

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Practices for conserving biodiversity: Forested dunes The creative implementation of good agricultural practices:
Photo: T. O’Brien) hand-built charcoal-insulated cold storage room (Photo: IPEH)

1.4 MAIN PROBLEMS ADDRESSED IN THE ASPARAGUS PRODUCTION CHAIN


In Peru, the production chains of asparagus and other agricultural exports have had to contend with a
series of problems stemming from the trading system, which is geared to foreign markets. This
complex system includes supply, product flows from the production areas to the different processing
and consumption centers, and the infrastructure - the road network, transportation and processing and
marketing facilities (collection centers, processing plants, the cold chain, ports and airports).

This system is operated by various individuals and public and private institutions (farmers,
associations, collectors, manufacturers, exporters, the customs service, civil servants involved in the
agricultural sector, health and safety, transportation, taxation, etc.), all of which are bound by various
national and international standards.

The operation of this trading system depends basically on macroeconomic and sectoral policies
related to the prices of inputs, subsidies, tariffs, investments, exchange rates, interest rates, fiscal
policy, and a factor that cannot be controlled - the weather.

No single company, sector or ministry can solve the problems related to agricultural exports; rather, a
joint effort is required from all those with a stake in the system. All it takes to halt exports or make
products uncompetitive is one grave mistake or a failure on the part of only one of the parties involved
in the export chain.

The following are some of the difficulties that had to be overcome in the asparagus production chain.
Prompt action on these matters was key to making the chain more competitive.

a. Lack of organization and business skills. This limited the ability to solve problems at
different points in the chain adopting a business approach.

b. Lack of mechanisms for building consensus between producers and manufacturers and
exporters. There was a good deal of mutual mistrust and the collaboration required for export
products was non-existent.

c. No mechanisms for building consensus between producers and the Government, due to the
absence of clear policies and the fact that producers had no one to speak on their behalf.

d. Technology research and transfer was limited and no agency or institution was responsible.

e. Little was being done to improve the plant health status of fresh asparagus exports affected by
the pest Copitarsia incommoda.

f. Few efforts were made to promote safety and quality assurance systems, limiting the
capacity to demonstrate to consumers that the products were safe and of the required quality.

g. Lack of national norms and standards designed to ensure safety and quality with an integrated
approach throughout the whole chain, from field-to-table, harmonized with international
standar ds and meeting the most stringent demands of the consuming countries.

h. Problems with the cold-storage facilities for perishable produce.


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The Government and private enterprise encouraged the industry to address the problems that existed
in the asparagus production chain by establishing cooperation mechanisms. Two organizations were
4
created that are now the most important in the asparagus sector: the Peruvian Asparagus Institute
(IPEH) and Frío Aéreo Asociación Civil.

These organizations enable producers and exporters to pool resources with public institutions and
contribute to the negotiations among the associations and the Government agencies. With the State’s
assistance, they engage in research, technology transfer, market studies, export drives, sanitary
activities and quality promotion.

II. ELEMENTS OF CHANGE IN THE ASPARAGUS PRODUCTION CHAIN

2.1 EXPORT PROMOTION POLICY


The Export Promotion Commission (PROMPEX), a state body under the wing of the Ministry of
Foreign Trade and Tourism, was created by means of Legislative Decree No. 805, of 3 April 1996. Its
mission is to help develop Peru’s exports through concerted action with the country’s private sector
and the different public institutions responsible for foreign trade.

PROMPEX’s specific objective in the case of ag ricultural exports is to make both agricultural and
agroindustrial products more competitive in international markets. The Commission focuses on
activities aimed at organizing producers and exporters, raising productivity and improving quality, as
these factors are considered the chief constraints to exports. Its strategy is to strive for
competitiveness based on quality rather than price and focus on the special characteristics of the
country’s products, or how to export them with more value added.

One of PROMPEX’s main activities in the agricultural sector has been to encourage and support the
creation and operation of product -specific associations or institutes. In most cases, the key has been
participatory strategic planning, with agreement being reached on the implementation of activities of
common interest identified and approved by consensus.

The Commission was responsible for promoting the creation of the two most important associations in
Peru’s asparagus industry: the Peruvian Asparagus Institute and Frío Aéreo Asociación Civil.

As already mentioned, quality is another of the key aspects of the export promotion policy. PROMPEX
carries out a series of activities aimed at improving the quality of food products and of the
management systems of export firms. For example, the Commission:

- promotes standard -setting and the harmonization of regulations, guidelines and


recommendations related to food quality and safety with international norms, particularly those
of the Codex Alimentarius, and

- supports the adoption by the export firms of good agricultural and manufacturing practices,
safety and quality management systems, and the principles of social responsibility.

These efforts are designed to make the companies competitive and ensure that they continually seek
to improve their safety and quality standards and achieve maximum efficiency and effectiveness. This
equips them to respond better to changes in international markets and recognize emerging issues that
could pose a threat or offer opportunities as far as food safety and quality are concerned.

As a result of these strategies, technical standards committees have been set up for asparagus and
other important agroindustrial exports, and technical assistance and training programs have been
instituted to help agricultural exporters implement good production practices , safety and quality
management systems (HACCP, ISO 9000) and the principles of social responsibility.

As well as developing business expertise and the supply of export products, PROMPEX endeavors to
penetrate markets. With the IPEH, it promotes asparagus in the most important international fairs,
underlining its quality. Its efforts to help consolidate and diversify markets include studies on
competitiveness in China.

4
In August 2003, in view of the success of the business model implemented by the asparagus industry, the coverage of the Peruvian Asparagus
Institute was recently expanded to include other vegetables.
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2.2. ASSOCIATIVE EFFORTS
The Peruvian Asparagus and Vegetable Institute (IPEH)
Created in 1998 with support from PROMPEX, the IPEH is a
nonprofit association of companies that produce and export
canned, fresh and frozen asparagus. Prompted by the success
of the asparagus industry’s business model, in August last year the Institute broadened the scope of
its work to include other vegetables, especially artichoke and Spanish red pepper, to which the model
is also being applied. The IPEH’s members account for 80% of asparagus exports.

The IPEH has become the communication channel that local and foreign government agencies prefer
to use to deal with crosscutting issues that will benefit and further the progress of the asparagus
industry. It is the only organization of agricultural exporters to have created an Association of Fresh
Asparagus Importers in the United States, the main market for fresh asparagus. This has enabled it to
establish direct contact with the American authorities and resolve problems that affect exports.

It played a key role, with the Government, in the international negotiations for the renewal and
expansion of the Andean Trade Promotion and Drug Eradication Act (ATPDEA).

The IPEH also conducts a range of priority research projects on plant health and related topics, to
ensure the safety and quality of primary production. These projects include:

- Study of alternatives to the quarantine treatment of fumigating with methyl bromide, which is
currently required for Peruvian fresh asparagus entering the United States;

- Techniques for eradicating pests on the farm, using integrated pest management (IPM); and,

- Genetic improvement, agronomic management, plant physiology and post-harvest


management, with the National Agrarian Research Institute (INIA).

The IPEH recently received special recognition for its important contribution to research for agricultural
exports.

The IPEH has an agreement with the National Agricultural Health Service (SENASA) for the joint
development of IPM in pilot areas of the main valleys where asparagus is grown. The project, entitled
“Integrated pest management of asparagus with emphasis on Copitarsia incommoda in the main
valleys where Peru’s agricultural exports are grown,” will be implemented on 600 ha of land.

The objective of this project is to improve the plant health status and commercial quality of fresh
asparagus for export affected by the pest Copitarsia incommoda. The organization of asparagus
producers will also be improved by setting up committees on the use of IPM, training in and the
dissemination of IPM techniques, and the implementation of a computerized information system for
processing and integrating data.

Another of the IPEH’s commitments with respect to quality is standard-setting for asparagus. It plays
an active part in the drafting and dissemination of the Peruvian Technical Standards for Asparagus
adopted by the special committee created for that purpose.

It is also promoting the application of good agricultural practices through the project “Adoption of Good
Agricultural Practices and Strengthening of the Asparagus Production Chain”, with support from the
Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). This project aims to improve the quality of Peruvian
asparagus by fostering the adoption of good agricultural practices on 54 asparagus farms and a total
of 3800 ha of land, training specialized trainers.

Other IPEH activities include statistical information, the dissemination of information via bulletins,
active participation in the dissemination of U.S. regulations to combat bioterrorism, and the promotion
of Peruvian asparagus at the most important international fairs. At the local level, it organizes two
annual events: the Symposium on Asparagus and Vegetables and Asparagus Day.

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Frío Aéreo Asociación Civil
Frío Aéreo Asociación Civil, created in 1998 with assistance from PROMPEX, is an association of
exporters of perishable produce (mainly fruits, vegetables and flowers). To ensure that produce for
export receives proper post- harvest handling prior to shipment, it set up a modern Perishable Goods
Center at Jorge Chavez Airport and a logistical system that provides optimal conditions for the
handling and conservation of produce.

This cold storage facility, the largest and most modern in Latin America, has met a real need as far as
overseas shipments are concerned. Previously, produce was received and loaded onto the ramps of
planes in the open air, with a very real risk that the cold chain would be interrupted and the produce’s
shelf life reduced. The facility has a large room where produce is received, weighed and inspected by
National Agricultural Health Service (SENASA), customs and the officials from the National Agency
Against Terrorism (DIRCOTE ).

Some 29 firms are currently partners in Frío Aéreo and 85% of all air-freighted perishable exports pass
through its facilities. It is therefore playing an important role in the development of the asparagus
industry.

The asparagus industry has had to completely build a professional community to compete in
international markets, promoting quality in every area. Nearly 80% of green asparagus exports are air-
freighted, mostly to the United States. Peru is at a disadvantage because of its distance from the
American market. Transportation costs (airfreight) are equivalent to up to 46% of the value of the
product. Frío Aéreo has enabled the asparagus industry to achieve progress in a number of areas. It
can now control all stages of the cold chain and product quality, and has an information system and a
joint program for purchases. There is also greater access to airlines, making it easier for exporters to
find space on flights and obtain competitive rates.

By controlling the cold chain, the industry can control the temperature from the packing plant to the
plane. Frío Aéreo even issues a ranking of the temperatures achieved by the different exporters and
airlines . The length of time that airlines leave the produce outdoors while it is being loaded is also
controlled. The use of thermal blankets for the pre-shipment stage ensures a correct cold chain, with a
variation in temperature of no more than 1°C from the cold rooms to the plane.

Furthermore, Frío Aéreo plays an important role in standard-setting for asparagus by participating
actively in the drafting of Peruvian Technical Standards for Asparagus (harmonized with the Codex
Alimentarius standard), in quality control by adhering to the Peruvian Technical Standards for
Sampling and Fresh Asparagus, and in the daily information on quality controls at the export terminals.

In order to develop a new export culture, which is very important for competing in the international
market and achieving recognition of Peruvian asparagus as a high-quality product, Frío Aéreo is
endeavoring to consolidate the application of Peruvian Technical Standard NTP 011.101:2001
ASPARAGUS. Fresh asparagus r equirements.

All lots entering Frío Aéreo are inspected for quality based on the standard, as an additional control
measure. The information is then disseminated among its clients through the Quality Standard for
Peruvian Exports of Fresh Green Asparagus. It is used as a benchmark by exporters, and is also an
important instrument for protecting consumers and exporters alike.

This quality inspection has led to a sizable increase in exports of top -quality asparagus, according to
the classification established in the standard (Figure 10) .

Frío Aéreo uses the information system to give the industry a daily report of the produce exported by
each exporter to the five main destinations. With input from all the producers, it also prepares a
general projection of exports for the entire crop year, on a week-by-week basis. This makes it possible
to program the hiring of aircraft and supplies of the various inputs. This information is shared with the
recipients (clients) so they can better manage sales (see tables 1 & 2) .

The program for standard-setting and joint purchases run by Frío Aéreo has made it possible to
standardize packaging inputs, thereby making supplying inputs more efficient and to better organize
and negotiate purchases.

Page 12 of 23
Temperature control using thermal blankets (Photo: Frío Aéreo) Storage in transit ( Photo: Frío Aéreo)

2.3 COMMITMENT TO THE SAFETY AND QUALITY OF THE ASPARAGUS PRODUCED


Safety is the most important, perhaps even the decisive, element in the quality of asparagus or any
food product. However, food safety alone is not enou gh. It must be accompanied by other elements of
quality demanded by consumers that go beyond the requirements of the health authorities. Quality, in
the broad sense of the term, is vital to compete in the global marketplace.

This is one of the key concerns of Peru’s export promotion policy and its success depends on the
safety and quality of the food products produced. It establishes the framework for the support
programs provided by PROMPEX to the agricultural export sector, through which standard-setting is
promoted and exporters are helped to apply good agricultural and manufacturing practices, HACCP
systems and ISO 9000 and the principles of social responsibility.

Other important elements in the asparagus chain are the actions undertaken by the Minis try of
Agriculture with regard to plant health and agricultural practices, and by the Ministry of Health, with
respect to the surveillance and control of production in packing and processing plants.

These elements complement the commitment of the productive sector, which is directly responsible for
food safety and is constructing a relatively successful global system to ensure the safety and quality of
its asparagus.

This global approach ensures the safety and quality of Peruvian asparagus throughout the chain: on
the farm, with the implementation of good agricultural practices; in the processing stage, through the
HACCP system; and in storage and shipping, through the control of the cold chain in the case of fresh
asparagus.

The asparagus industry also applies other quality systems that are compatible with the HACCP
system, which clients are demanding to ensure quality but also that environmental management and
principles of social responsibility are implemented. Other systems have also been set up to guarantee
the security of the logistical chain.

2.4 ESTABLISHMENT OF QUALITY STANDARDS


PROMPEX realized how important standard -setting was to make and keep companies competitive
and achieve greater efficiency and transparency in the market. The food control system also needed
to be modernized as quickly as pos sible. The Commission therefore supported the creation of the
Asparagus Standards Technical Committee, requested by the productive sector, so that companies
could ensure minimum quality standards for asparagus.

All the sectors involved in standard -setting take part in the Asparagus Standards Technical
Committee, set up under the aegis of the National Institute for the Defense of Competition and the
5 rd
Protection of Intellectual Property (INDECOPI ) on November 3 , 1998. The members are: the
Peruvian Asparag us and Vegetable Institute, Frío Aéreo Asociación Civil, representatives of
Agriculture, the General Environmental Health Directorate (DIGESA) of the Ministry of Health, the

5
INDECOPI, through the Commission on Technical and Trade Regulations (CRT), is the national standard- setting body and is responsible for
approving the Peruvian Technical Norms (NTP) for all sectors, whose application is voluntary. The NTP are prepared by the Standards
Committees that make up INDECOPI, with support from public and private institutions. Also, the CRT of INDECOPI is the national accreditation
body and is responsible for determining the technical competence of the pu blic and private entities invol ved in testing, calibrating and certifying the
uniformity of products and quality systems.
Page 13 of 23
Ministry of Production, the Crop Protection Committee of Lima’s Chamber of Commerce (PROTEC),
and certification laboratories. PROMPEX operates the Committee’s Technical Secretariat.

The Committee’s mission is to establish quality specifications for asparagus based on international
standards. Applied in the different stages of production, these specifications ensure the quality and
competitiveness of Peruvian asparagus, so that products can be marketed at home and abroad.

The Committee drafts the “Peruvian Technical Standards for Fresh, Frozen and Canned Asparagus”;
lays the groundwork for the voluntary application of technical standards; and strengthens the
integration of the sectors involved in improving asparagus quality. Its main strategies are the
exhaustive study of national and international standards, particularly those of Codex Alimentarius, so
as to harmonize with them, and the drafting of standards by consensus and based on all the scientific
and technical information available.

This Committee has been responsible for harmonizing the Peruvian Technical Standards for
Asparagus with those of Codex Alimentarius. In the case of the requirements standard, it took part in
international standard-setting at the meetings of the Codex Committee on Fresh Fruits and Vegetables
(Mexico) and the Twenty-fourth Session of the Codex Alimentarius Commission (Geneva), where its
delegates presented the country’s position and worked to safeguarded national interests. This
organizational model for establishing national standards is set to be adopted for other agricultural
exports.

The Committee’s standard-setting efforts are based on the requirements of the productive sector,
which has the most guidelines and recommendations for the application of good agricultural practices
and methods for evaluating the biological stability of canned asparagus and other testing methods. As
Codex Alimentarius possesses only a limited amount of information, the Committee also references
other technical background data, according to the procedures established for good standard-setting
practices.

So far, the following Peruvian Technical Standards for Asparagus have been established:
NTP 209.403:2003 ASPARAGUS. Control of the stability of canned vegetables. Routine method.
Establishes a routine method for evaluating the biological stability of units taken from a lot that do not
have defects that could influence the results.
NTP 209.404:2003 CANNED ASPARAGUS. Determining fibrousness. This standard establishes a
method for determining the fibrousness of canned asparagus.
NTP 209.402:2003 ASPARAGUS. Good agricultural practices . Establishes good agricultural
practices for asparagus production that will ensure a safe and healthy product, free from pollutants
that could harm consumers and from sanitary problems (presence of and/or damage caused by
pests). Good agricultural practices combine a series of technologies and techniques that emphasize
integrated pest management, natural resource and environmental conservation, an d the minimizing of
hazards to human health.
NTP 011.109:2 001 ASPARAGUS. Fresh asparagus requirements. It establishes the minimum
requirements (size, tolerances, presentation, marking and labeling, pollutants and hygiene) that fresh
asparagus must meet to be marketed.
NTP 209.401:2001 ASPARAGUS. Hygiene practices for processing fresh asparagus . Establishes
hygiene practices for handling (cultivation and collection of the crop, washing, cutting, selection,
packaging, refrigeration, storage, transportation, distribution and sale) of fresh asparagus for human
consumption, to guarantee a safe and healthy product. The standard deals with the processing of
asparagus for marketing as fresh produce.

III. ROLE OF CODEX ALIMENTARIUS IN ASPARAGUS PRODUCTION CHAIN


3.1 PARTICIPATION OF PERU’S GOVERNMENT AND PRIVATE SECTOR IN THE PROCESS OF
DRAFTING CODEX STANDARDS ON FRESH ASPARAGUS
As already mentioned, the Asparagus Standards Technical Committee, set up under the aegis of
INDECOPI, drafts the Peruvian Technical Standards for Asparagus. The Committee comprises
representatives of all the sectors involved in setting standards for asparagus (i.e., the production,
consumption and technical sub -sectors ), to ensure that decisions are reached by consensus and the

Page 14 of 23
standard-setting process is transparent. The state -run body PROMPEX serves as the Committee’s
Technical Secretariat.

Various government agencies provide an enabling environment for the drafting of the technical
standards. They facilitate and promote joint efforts by the organizations involved; provide international,
regional and national technical background information; play an active part in the drafting of standar ds;
and help disseminate the standards, to ensure that the productive sector implements them. An
interesting feature of the Asparagus Standards Technical Committee is that it holds decentralized
sessions in the areas where the vegetable is grown, to encourage the productive sector to take part.

The main responsibility for asparagus safety and quality rests with the productive sector. It contributes
valuable information based on the experience it has gained in producing and exporting the vegetable,
provides technical and scientific assistance, shares its experiences and the quality requirements for
specific markets, and implements the guidelines contained in the Peruvian Technical Standards.
Others stakeholders involved in the standard-setting process also provide technical and scientific
assistance, and give analytical support through the certification laboratories represented on the
Committee. Since implementation of the Peruvian Technical Standards is largely a voluntary matter, it
is important that all th e stakeholders in the chain be involved in drafting them. If the process is
transparent and standards are adopted by consensus, industry is more likely to implement them.

The standards of the Codex Alimentarius play an important role, since they are recog nized
internationally as the benchmark for the drafting of food standards. Accordingly, the Peruvian
Technical Standards for Asparagus are harmonized with those of Codex Alimentarius. In particular,
the Peruvian Technical Standard NTP 011.109:2001 ASPARAGUS. Fresh asparagus requirements,
reflects the Committee’s contribution to the international standard-setting process of Codex
Alimentarius. The usual harmonization process was largely unnecessary, as Peru’s standard
incorporated international standards tha t had already been approved.

The Peruvian standard drew on the draft Codex standards for asparagus prepared by the Codex
Committee on Fresh Fruits and Vegetables, including important aspects related to the quality of
Peruvian asparagus. The country’s position regarding the draft standards was stated at various
meetings of Codex Alimentarius.

Naturally enough, the productive sector was especially interested in this process because, thanks to
Peru’s large share of the asparagus market, it was able to parti cipate directly in the drafting of an
international Codex standard. Peru sent a delegation to the Ninth Session of the Codex Committee on
Fresh Fruits and Vegetables, held 9-13 October 2000 in Mexico,
comprising representatives of the productive sector (Frío Aéreo) and
the public sector (PROMPEX). Only a representative of the public
sector had taken part in the previous session.

At that time, the process of drafting the Codex Standard had


reached Step 6, when countries are asked to review the text prior to
its adoption. Peru’s position, established by the Asparagus
Standards Technical Committee, was set out in Working Document
11 circulated during the session. Thanks to its participation, the
country was able to secure the inclusion in the Codex Standard for
Asparagus of important quality-related concerns, such as the
6
minimum diameter of shoots and the size of green asparagus .

With this new point of reference, in February 2001 the Asparagus


Standards Technical Committee established Peruvian Technical
Stan dard NTP 011.109:2001 ASPARAGUS. Fresh asparagus
requirements7. Using a new innovative format, this standard
contains illustrations of all the classes of asparagus, to ensure
uniform interpretation of quality requirements and thus facilitate
quality inspe ctions of asparagus.

By way of the normal Codex Alimentarius process, the draft Codex Standard for Asparagus had
reached Step 8 and was due to be approved at the Twenty-fourth Session of the Codex Alimentarius
Commission, held 2-7 July 2001 in Geneva, Switzerland.

6
A request was made that the grade of green asparagus be measured 2.5 cm from the base of the stem rather than at the mid- point, basing same
on the quality of Peruvian asparagus, which, thanks to climatic c onditions, are usually thicker and conical in shape.
7
The National Technical norms of Peru are developed by T echnical Standards Committees and presented for public comment for a time defined
by the regulation before it is approved by INDECOPI.

Page 15 of 23
Having taken part in meetings of the Codex Committee on Fresh Fruits and Vegetables, Peru knew
that some draft standards are not always adopted by the Codex Alimentarius Commission, or that
many are modified substantially before being approved. Situations where it was important for the
countries interested in the standards in question to have played an active part in the meeting by
sending a delegation. The stakeholders therefore felt it advisable that Peru participate in the July 2001
session, to support the adoption of the final draft as a Codex Alimentarius standard.

The Peruvian delegation to the Twenty-fourth Session of the Codex Alimentarius Commission
comprised representatives of PROMPEX, General Environmental Health Directorate (DIGESA) and
the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. At that meeting, the Codex Alimentarius Commission adopted the draft
Codex Standard for Asparagus 8.

The main results the country achieved by taking part in the drafting of Codex standards are:
- Approval of the Codex Standard for Asparagus, which includes the quality and safety criteria
that the country proposed
- Drafting of the Peruvian Technical Standard for Fresh Asparagus, harmonized with Codex
Alimentarius
- Participation of all the stakeholders in the chain, ensuring technical consistency and that the
country’s interests were represented

3.2 IMPLEMENTATION OF STANDARDS IN PERU AND LEVEL OF PARTICIPATION


APPLICATION OF THE HACCP SYSTEM IN THE ASPARAGUS INDUSTRY
In Peru, the HACCP system is the benchmark for sanitary surveillan ce. The country’s regulations on
sanitary surveillance and the control of foods and beverages are contained in D. S. N° 007-98-SA.
They establish sanitary quality and safety controls for all food and beverage factories, based on the
HACCP system. Official sanitary certificates for exports are issued only in exceptional cases and at
the exporter’s request. It is not a pre-shipment document nor is it required by customs to ship
products.

The regulations call for the establishment of complementary sanitary standards to support the
implementation of the HACCP system. These standards and guidelines have not yet been
established, nor have deadlines been set for implementing the HACCP system in the food industry.
Provisions have been introduced specifically for canned asparagus and hydrobiological products,
because they are such important exports. These sectors must have sanitary clearance (an official
export certificate) in order to export their products, and this can only be granted if the HACCP system
is applied.

• Canned asparagus

Major efforts are being made to consolidate the safety of asparagus in the canned food industry,
reflecting the responsible attitude of the firms involved. The objective is to establish the HACCP
system throughout the sector, to ensure safety and prevent problems in overseas markets like the
ones that occurred in Spain in 1997. The reaction to an alleged case of botulism was understandably
strong and certain adjustments and improvements had to be made, especially as regards heat
treatment, one of the critical points in the process.

The sanitary standards met by the canned asparagus sector include the provisions contained in the
regulations on sanitary surveillance and the control of foods and beverages, which adhere to the
General Principles of Food Hygiene of the Codex Alimentarius and the Code of Hygiene Practices for
the production of canned asparagus. Only DIGESA-authorized plants are allowed to export. Many of
the firms concerned have opted for HACCP certification through international certifying institutions.

• Fresh asparagus

In January 1998, a Commission on the HACCP system for fresh asparagus was set up with the
participation of the Peruvian Asparagus Institute and PROMPEX. This was in answer to the fresh
asparagus sectors concerns over the Ministry of Health proposing to mandate that the industry adopt
the HACCP system for exports, or comply with other equivalent procedures if they did not
8
The Commission adopted the Codex Draft Norm for Asparagus, with the following amendments:
- Section 2. Minimum requirements. Amended to read as follows: "free from damage caused by improper washing or soaking."
- Section 3.2 Determination of grade on the basis of diameter. Amended to make reference to a single point for measuring the
diameter of the asparagus, stating th at "The diameter of the shoots is to be measured 2.5 cm from the base of the cutting"

Page 16 of 23
implement the HACCP system. The Commission did lots of ground work and an excellent job of
promotion that stimulate d the implementation of the HACCP system in the fresh asparagus sector.

As well as conducting a sanitary evaluation of the packing plants, the Commission carried out a survey
to determine the situation in the sector regarding the implementation of the HACCP system (how well
firms understood it, how willing they were to implement it and how much progress they had made so
far). The companies concerned said they considered the HACCP system either very important or
extremely important. In their view, the main obstacles to the implementation of the system were the
ambiguity of the regulations, the lack of uniformity and approaches for applying them, the lack of
adequate technical advice and the amount of time required.

Accordingly, the Commission decided to initiate a process ot ensure the safe production of fresh
asparagus, even when it was not required by the target markets. The sector thus pre-empted any
requirements that might be established by importing countries. The analysis also took into account the
U.S. Food Safety Initiative, given the special interest in minimizing microbial risk in fresh fruits and
vegetables.

The Commission drafted the Code of Hygiene Practices for the Processing of Fresh Asparagus,
geared to the application of the HACCP system in the sector and based on the standards of the Codex
Alimentarius. This document gave rise to Technical Standard NTP 209.401:2001 ASPARAGUS.
Hygiene practices for the processing of fresh asparagus.

Having drafted the standard, the members of the Commission began implementi ng the HACCP
system. This activity was funded by the European Union-PROMPEX Agreement on Exports.
Implemented by the firms as a group, the project invol ved a professional from each firm who was to
help implement the system , while PROMPEX monitored and supe rvised the companies’ progress in
implementing it. These same companies are now satisfactorily conducting the quality audits required
by their clients and some have opted to obtain HACCP certification through international certifiers.

The project to insti tute the HACCP system also paved the way for the implementation of the Export
Quality Program - PROMPEX. This program has developed important management tools for
monitoring and supervising the firms’ progress in implementing quality systems. The instruments
available include quality profiles of every firm that make it possible to evaluate and determine the
progress of the project in a systematic and objective way. This profile can also be used to pinpoint
elements that require urgent action to ensure product safety and quality, and to reorient the activities
during the project. Thanks to the excellent organization and work of this program, the European
Union-PROMPEX9 Agreement on Exports secured ISO 9000 certification.

Implementation of the HACCP system in the Control of shelf life of fresh asparagus
fresh asparagus sector (Photo: F. Robles) (Photo: T. O’Brien)

9
Diaz 1999.

Page 17 of 23
IMPLEMENTATION OF OTHER QUALITY SYSTEMS
When the companies decided to implement the HACCP system, they realized the importance of
applying the system starting on the farm, keeping exact records of pesticide application and using
integrated pest management to minimize the use of chemical products, controlling pathogens at the
fertilization stage and adopting other agricultural practices at the primary production level.

Based on the requirements of the HACCP system, the companies applied good agricultural practices
in a systematized way. To satisfy the requirements of the main supermarkets in Europe, they recently
opted for the EUREPGAP certification developed by EUREP (Euro Retailer Group), an association of
large European supermarkets that dominate the food sector.

The companies have also opted for other certifications to promote product safety and quality even
more, such as the SQF 2000. This allows them to label their products “SQF 2000 Quality Certified,”
demonstrating to their clients their commitment and ability to produce safe food under the HACCP
system and in a manner compatible with ISO 9000, verified by an independent agency.

Because of the importance of the UK market, some companies also have British Retail Consortium
(BRC) certification. This standard requires the adoption and implementation of the HACCP system, an
effective and documented quality management system and control of environmental standards in the
plant, products, processes and personnel.

Another standard being implemented fairly quickly is Business Anti-Smuggling Coalition (BASC)
Certification, which upholds the security and protection standards of international trade. This
certification helps companies meet U.S. standards for combating bioterrorism, adding security control
management in the logistical chain to their safety and quality systems.

Thus, the application of the HACCP system in the asparagus industry has served as a springboard for
the implementation of other management systems to guarantee all aspects of safety and quality, and
respect for the principles of social responsibility.

Therefore when the need arises to apply new harmonized standards that are internationally
recognized to reduce certification costs , the asparagus industry has shown a remarkable capacity to
adapt to the various standards required for trade and good practices in primary production, as they are
based on the HACCP system .

In a survey of clients of Peru’s asparagus industry, 100% of the respondents highlighted the
importance of safety and quality, and of the certification of the systems implemented. Exporters also
said that certifications did not necessarily signify a boost in profits but as many as 83% of the
respondents confirmed that their customers preferred certified products.

IMPLEMENTATION OF PERUVIAN TECHNICAL STANDARD NTP 011.101 ASPARAGUS. FRESH


ASPARAGUS REQUIREMENTS
This standard is implemented mostly by Frío Aéreo.

Since the 2001 farming year, Frío Aéreo has implemented quality control for fresh asparagus based
on NTP 011.101, passing this valuable information on to all its clients through the Peruvian Quality
Standard for Fresh Green Asparagus Exports, which is now the main instrument for protecting
consumers and exporters.

The Sampling Plan for Quality Inspections of Fresh Green Asparagus was established based on NTP
011.101 and the Peruvian technical standard for sampling to inspect the quality of produce.

All lots of fresh green asparagus that enter Frío Aéreo are inspected for quality. This control measure
is in addition to temperature control and the recording of information about the general conditions of all
incoming shipments. As a result of this inspection, every two weeks exporters are ranked according to
the quality of their products and how much of each class of asparagus they exported. Each firm
receives details of their own rankings but not those of its competitors. The object is to make each
company aware of its overall position in the industry, as a sort of benchmarking exercise.

As a result of this initiative, which began in 2001, there has been a notable increase in exports of top-
quality asparagus (based on the classes established in the standard). Asparagus of “Less than Class
II” was all but eliminated in the last farming year. Roughly 70% of asparagus exports now fall into the
“Extra” and “Class I” categories (Figure 10).

Page 18 of 23
FIGURE 10. EXPORTS OF FRESH GREEN ASPARAGUS BY CLASS
Extra + Class I
Introduction of Standards Class I
80 Class II
70

Millions of Kg.
60

50

40

30

20
2000 2001 2002 2003
Years

Source: Frío Aéreo.

Frío Aéreo realized the importance of differentiating between the target markets according to their
different quality requirements. Since 2003, it has ranked asparagus exports by quality and target
market. The United States and Europe are Peru’s main markets (see tables 1 and 2 ).

Fig ura 3
Table 1
FRIO AEREO
Quality Ranking - USA Asociación Civil

From : Jan/01/2003 00:00 to : Dec/31/2003 23:59

Pto Exporter E I II <II E+I


1 0.0% 91.8% 8.2% 0.0% 91.8%
2 0.0% 89.7% 10.3% 0.0% 89.7%
3 0.6% 89.1% 10.4% 0.0% 89.6%
4 1.0% 87.0% 12.0% 0.0% 88.0%
5 0.0% 87.8% 12.2% 0.0% 87.8%
6 0.8% 80.1% 19.1% 0.0% 80.9%
7 0.0% 77.0% 23.0% 0.0% 77.0%
8 0.3% 71.3% 28.4% 0.0% 71.6%
9 0.1% 69.0% 30.9% 0.0% 69.1%
10 0.0% 64.5% 35.5% 0.0% 64.5%
11 0.4% 60.3% 39.3% 0.0% 60.7%
12 0.4% 59.8% 39.7% 0.0% 60.3%
13 0.0% 58.8% 41.2% 0.0% 58.8%
14 0.2% 56.9% 42.9% 0.0% 57.1%
15 0.0% 49.6% 50.4% 0.0% 49.6%
16 0.0% 47.7% 52.3% 0.0% 47.7%
17 0.0% 41.9% 58.1% 0.0% 41.9%

FRIO AEREO 0.2% 62.5% 37.3% 0.0% 62.7%


* The percentages have been calculated by weight
* Only exporters who shipped over 500 tons during the period in question are included

A similar system is used for the cold chain. Frío Aéreo issues a ranking of temperatures for the entire
industry, listing the average temperature of the produce of all the exporters at the moment it is
received. This prompts exporters to try to improve their cold chain.

In its continuing desire to do everything possible to support the development of exports, Frío Aéreo will
soon be implementing a “quality seal program”. INDECOPI will certify and approve the process. The
quality seal will be a great boon to exporters, as clients will be able to request a quality certificate for
the product at the point of origin, thus enabling exporters to obtain a higher price. Frío Aéreo’s three
main processes (quality, operations and information) have ISO 9001:2000 certification, which
guarantees that they are managed to a high standard.

Page 19 of 23
Table 2
FRIO AEREO
QualitydeRanking
Ranking Calidad - EUROPA Asociación Civil

From: Jan/01/2003 00:00 to: Dec/31/003 23:59


Del : 01/Ene/2003 00:00 Hasta : 31/Dic/2003 23:59

Pto Exportador
Exporter E I II <II E+I
1 4.1% 95.0% 0.9% 0.0% 99.1%
2 6.6% 92.0% 1.3% 0.0% 98.7%
3 0.6% 96.4% 3.0% 0.0% 97.0%
4 10.8% 86.1% 3.1% 0.0% 96.9%
5 2.7% 94.1% 3.1% 0.0% 96.9%
6 9.4% 86.9% 3.7% 0.0% 96.3%
7 23.0% 72.3% 4.7% 0.0% 95.3%
8 2.2% 91.1% 6.7% 0.0% 93.3%
9 3.1% 85.4% 11.4% 0.0% 88.6%
10 1.7% 86.8% 11.5% 0.0% 88.5%
11 0.2% 75.6% 24.2% 0.0% 75.8%
12 0.0% 74.5% 25.5% 0.0% 74.5%
13 7.9% 61.3% 30.8% 0.0% 69.2%
14 0.5% 66.8% 32.7% 0.0% 67.3%
FRIO AEREO 6.5% 83.9% 9.6% 0.0% 90.4%

* *Los
The porcentajes
percentages have been calculados
han sido calculated byenweight
función al Peso.
* *Aparecen
Only exporters who shipped con
los exportadores over el500 tons during
volumen the period
mínimo de 100inTn
question
para elare included
periodo indicado.

Without a doubt, these measures have helped boost exports, consolidate Peruvian asparagus as a
product of the highest quality, strengthened the industry, and enabled it to achieve sustained growth
(see Figure 11).

FIGURE 11. SHIPMENTS OF FRESH ASPARAGUS BETWEEN 2000 AND 2003


700000

600000

500000
Boxes

400000 2003
2002
2001
300000 2000

200000

100000

0
1 3 5 7 9 11 13 15 17 19 21 23 25 27 29 31 33 35 37 39 41 43 45 47 49 51

Weeks

3.3 COSTS OF QUALITY


The asparagus -producing companies have attached great importance to quality, realizing that it is a
key to successful operations. Accordingly, they have set up and maintained safety and quality
management systems, and implemented good agricultural and production practices in order to
improve their performance on an ongoing basis. Under current conditions, clients may change their
quality requirements at any time, so the firms are geared up for constant change. For some time
companies have been making competitiveness through quality part of their strategic plans. An
essential element of this is defined through their policies, in which they usually declare their intention
to satisfy the needs of their clients’, as well as mentioning competitiveness through quality and
continuous improvement.

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10
In this improvement process, it is very important to know the costs of quality that firms can incur,
which may be greater than the benefits , and a factor that may determine whether a company stays in
or withdraws from the market. Studies conducted in sectors and companies with stable quality
systems suggest that the impact of quality costs on the solvency of firms is significant, although they
vary a great deal from sector to sector and according to the quality system’s level of development and
11
the method of data collection . Generally speaking, firms have traditional costing systems that do not
take the effects of non-conformance into account. As a result, they are unable to evaluate
comprehensively the improvements they introduce.

In Peru, research was carried out on the design and testing of a system for measuring non-quality
costs and their impact on the viability of small and medium enterprises (S MEs), with a view to
developing and validating a tool to support the firms’ quality management and the latter’s impact on
the viability of SMEs that export or have export potential. A test was conducted among SMEs in two
productive sectors (agroindustry and manufacturing) to evaluate the impact of quality costs12 on the
companies’ viability and develop a proposal for applying the results of the cost measurement system
as part of short- and medium-term improvement processes.

The research suggests that Peruvian businesses urgently need to implement quality management
systems and make improvements to reduce the impact of non -quality costs, which in the cases
covered by the research have reached over 20% (internal and external failures ).

The research also confirmed trends and pinpointed the factors that most affect companies’
performance, depending on how far they have gotten in implementing a quality management system 13.
Thus, for companies in the agroindustrial sector that have “no formal system” (i.e., the system is at a
very early stage in its development), the costs of external failures increase. Those same costs tend to
fall as the development of the quality management system progresses, notably so when companies
arrive at an “approximation of the formal system.”

The research also suggests that the costs of conformance (prevention and appraisal) increase at the
start of the process of implementing a quality system, as do internal errors, because that is when all
occurrences begin to be recorded. Said costs decrease with the introduction of corrective and
preventive measures (depending on the discipline involved and the level of training of the personnel)
aimed at moving toward the implementation of a formal quality system and as the system matures. In
reactive quality management systems, the prevention costs are bigger than the appraisal costs, when
all the system’s records and documents are beginning to be implemented. Prevention costs stabilize
when quality management systems approximate a formal system.

For all the reasons described above, the strategic planning of quality is essential if companies are to
remain in the market. The reduction of quality costs and the continuous improvement of quality have a
direct correlation with the market.

10
Quality costs are a measurement of the costs directly related to ensuring the quality of the product or service - including all the requirements of
the project or services as established by the company and the contracts with customers and society (Campanella 1992).
11
Ichikawa y Díaz 2002.
12 13
Ichikawa y Díaz 2002: Costs of Quality: Prevention costs, evaluation costs, costs of internal and external errors, and hidden costs. Ichikawa
and Diaz 2002: Levels of maturity of performance: "No formal system exists:" There is no apparent systematic estimation without results, poor
results or unpredictable results. "Reactive estimation" Systematic estimation based on the problem or on prevention; few data available on the
results of improvement. "Formal estimation of stable system:" Partial systematization. "Formal stablesystem:" Systematic approach. "Continuous
improvement approach:" Improvement process in use; good results and trend toward improvement continues.

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IV. CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS FOR FUTURE PROJECTS

1. Peru is the world’s leading exporter of asparagus. This is due, among other reasons, to the
industry’s dedication to maintaining the highest standards of quality and safety.

2. “Competitiveness through quality” is an important part of strategic business plans in the asparagus
sector, and is essential if firms are to maintain their presence in the market. The reduction of quality
costs and the continuous improvement of quality have a direct correlation with the market.

3. Countries can advance rapidly toward quality assurance and, accordingly, the modernization of their
food control systems, if they endeavor to harmonize national sanitary standards and regulations with
those of th e Codex Alimentarius. This lays the groundwork for agreements recognizing the
equivalence of inspection and certification systems that promote and increase exports. An efficient
control system guarantees the signing of such agreements on equivalence.

4. The countries need to participate actively in the work of the committees of the Codex Alimentarius,
whose important role at the international level is widely recognized. Peru’s participation in the drafting
of Codex standards led to a Codex standard for asparagus that reflects the quality and safety criteria
that the country proposed.

5. The drafting and implementation of standards harmonized with those of Codex Alimentarius, which
are recognized internationally, will help the asparagus industry develop a broad capacity to adapt to
the various quality requirements for international commerce.

6. The efforts to address the problems of the asparagus production chain focused on the
establishment of cooperation mechanisms, encouraged by the Government through its export
promotion policy, and private enterprise.

7. All the factors of change that have contributed to the success of Peru’s asparagus industry fostered
a public/private alliance, associative undertakings, capital investments, the introduction of modern
technology and quality assurance, spearheaded by both the private and public sectors.

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BIBLIOGRAPHY

1. Campanella, J. 1992. Principios de los costes de la calidad. Diaz de Santos, Madrid.

2. Codex Alimentarius Commission. 1999. Report of the Eighth Session of the Codex Committee on
Fresh Fruits and Vegetables of the Joint FAO/WHO Programme, 1-5 March 1999. Mexico.

3. Codex Alimentarius Commission. 2000. Report of the Ninth Session of the Codex Committee on
Fresh Fruits and Vegetables, 9-13 October 2000. Mexico.

4. Codex Alimentarius Commission. 2001. Report of the Twenty-fourth Meeting of the Codex
Alimentarius Commission of the Joint FAO/WHO Programme, 2-7 July 2001. Geneva, Switzerland.

5. Comité Técnico de Normalización de Espárragos. 2004. Plan de Negocios 2004. Lima, Peru.

6. Comité Técnico de Normalización de Espárragos del INDECOPI. 2001. Norma Técnica Peruana
NTP 011.101:2001 ESPÁRRAGOS. Espárragos frescos. Requisitos. Peru.

7. Comité Técnico de Normalización de Espárragos del INDECOPI. 2001. Norma Técnica Peruana
NTP 209.401:2001 ESPÁRRAGOS. Prácticas de higiene para el procesamiento de espárrago fresco.
Peru.

8. Comité Técnico de Normalización de Espárragos del INDECOPI. 2003. Norma Técnica Peruana
NTP 209.402:2003 ESPÁRRAGOS. Buenas prácticas agrícolas. Peru.

9. Díaz, A. 1999. La Calidad en el Comercio Internacional de Alimentos. PROMPEX, European Union-


PROMPEX Export Agreement.

10. Frío Aéreo Asociación Civil. 2003. Casos exitosos de exportación: Asociatividad. Presentation at
PERU XPORT 2003.

11. Ichikawa, T.; Díaz, A. 2002. Diseño y Ensayo de un Sistema de Medición de los Costes de No
Calidad y su Impacto en la Viabilidad de las Pymes. PROMPEX, CONCYTEC.

12. IPEH (Instituto Peruano del Espárrago y Hortalizas). 2003. Asociatividad. Clave para el Desarrollo
de la Competitividad del Agro. Creatividad Empresarial.

13. Ministerio de Trabajo y Promoción del Empleo. 2001. El Empleo en las Regiones del Perú.

14. Paz, L. 1998. La Agricultura, la Agroindustria y la Agroexportación del Perú en el Siglo XXI.
PROMPEX.

15. PROMPEX 2004. Informe sobre aplicación de la NTP 011.101 ESPÁRRAGOS. Espárragos
frescos. Requisitos.

16. PROMPEX. 2004. El Espárrago en el Perú.

17. Robles, F. 1997. Diagnóstico de la Actividad Esparraguera Nacional. Boletín FONAGRO Chincha
N° 34. Chincha, Peru.

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