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    Across Three Continents, A Journey from Bananas to Chips


    International Trade Forum - Issue 2/2007, © International Trade Centre

    © Industrias Agrícolas SRL Ricardo Augusto Quimper and other Peruvian entrepreneurs play a business simulation game. This was part of a training programme, designed and delivered by Peruvian management consultants, who themselves were trained and certified by ITC.

    A Peruvian entrepreneur, far from the capital, turns plantain bananas, a low-return commodity, into chips, a high-value export. Finding a training partner in management skills proved the key to moving this Peruvian exporter up the value chain.

    Until 1993 Luis Augusto Pajuelo, a farmer in Piura, north-western Peru, was selling bananas at a very low price. Then he hit on the idea of marketing a traditional, locally based snack - thinly sliced banana chips, deep-fried in 100% vegetable oil and lightly salted, with chili peppers added to create a spicy food, using a secret home-grown recipe.

    His business Industrias Agrícolas SRL still prepares the product in a traditional manner. But today Chifles can be found, as a salty, sweet or spicy snack, in supermarkets, major stores and specialty shops, not just in Peru, but in Canada and Spain. Sold under the family's Cricket's brand, annual sales are $1 million, with a full-time team of 12. Offices, facilities and the main warehouse are still located in Piura, the first colonial city in Peru and a gastronomic centre.

    Cricket's has now branched out to sweet potato chips, peanuts, broad beans, honey from local hives, carob syrup (a regional product) and custard, though Chifles account for 76% of its exports.

    Business training to reach new markets

    Fourteen years on, Luis Augusto's son Ricardo Augusto Quimper, CEO and owner of Industrias Agrícolas, is still growing the business, learning how to participate in international trade fairs, putting in electronic financial controls and developing a business plan focused on exports.

    Throughout his career, Augusto has been aware of the need for training and developing management skills - for himself and his staff - in order to succeed. The first international market he tried was California in 2004. The good results - "it helped us to be aware that our products were well accepted in other markets" - led the company to try further exports. He began selling to California, Chile and Canada. Now Cricket's is sold in Spain: a first shipment went to Barcelona in November 2006 and another in February 2007. "We had experience working with the product but we needed training. We were growing but growing in a chaotic fashion," he explains. "In 2005 Industrias Agrícolas accepted a joint invitation by ITC and the Binational Fund for Peace and Developement (Peru-Ecuador), with the support of the University of Piura and the Chamber of Commerce and Production of Piura, to take part in the training programme for entrepreneurs focused on exports. ITC provided access to publications and training programmes to help Peruvian firms define and focus their businesses. International consultants facilitated contacts outside Peru and helped firms find more attractive and profitable markets for their products."

    Production first involved small kitchens that were low yield, not efficient and led to high costs. Early packaging was simple plastic with stickers. Now the snacks have protection that gives them longer shelf life. All the firm's products have the required health permits and meet the HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point) standards essential for sales to developed country markets. "The introduction of sophisticated kitchens as a result of the consultants' advice has reduced costs significantly," Augusto notes.

    © Industrias Agrícolas SRL

    New jobs in rural areas

    This is one of ITC's practical ways to contribute to reducing poverty through trade. ITC looks for local partners who can reach firms which have a potential to upgrade products, to find new markets and to employ people who may not have been traditional targets for export growth. In this case, the key was helping a firm in rural Peru. Most companies in Peru base themselves in the capital, Lima, nearly 1,000 km away, where technology, training, capital and designers are more easily found.

    What does exporting mean to Ricardo Augusto Quimper? Numbers of staff double when preparing export orders. The company does not need to rely on a saturated local market and has opened contacts with neighbouring countries. "Mainly we are giving more work to many more families," he observes. "We are adapting to globalization."

    Industrias Agrícolas
    Binational Fund