PERU'S NATURAL VIAGRA®
OF UNUSUAL CROPS WITH POTENTIAL
NUTRITIOUS: Juan Mulder of Quimica Suiza, the Peruvian company marketing
maca tablets, with a maca juice maker.
worldwide Viagra craze has had an unexpected result in Peru, helping a
high-altitude plant in danger of extinction find new life.
a small, Andean root belonging to the radish family, was in danger of
disappearing in the early 1990's. With only 125 acres of the plant
growing in its natural habitat, more than 13,000feet above sea level in
the central Andes, maca was put on the endangered species list by the
International Board of Genetic Resources. Peruvians in the highland
departments of Pasco and Junin, however, never forgot about maca's
beneficial properties, Maca is best known for stimulating sexual
appetite, while famed for its high levels of proteins and vitamins. The
maca root is dried and ground, then used to make everything from soups
to alcoholic beverages. The leaves are brewed for tea.
companies in Peru became interested in maca several years ago because of
its vitamins, but the advent of Viagra has changed the plant's future
forever. From only a few acres in 1995, there are now about 1,500 acres
of maca growing on a highland plateau between Cerro de Pasco and Junin,
and the Agricultural Ministry expects an additional 5,000 acres to be
planted this year.
is the perfect crop, because we don't even have to promote it. Private
industry has moved right in and is doing the job for us," former
Agriculture Minister Rodolfo Munante said. "I expect that we'll
reach the maximum hectares possible, 50,000 [123,555 acres] , by early
in the next century."
replacement as head of the Agriculture Ministry, Belisario de las Casas,
has made it clear that he is a maca fan.
his first press conference after being sworn in last week, de las Casas
said that the Japanese government had approved the importation of maca
in its natural form, adding that the Peruvian root would give Viagra a
run for its money on the world market.
take maca and can attest to its invigorating powers," de las Casas
contains potassium, iron, zinc, vitamin C, riboflavin and other
Suiza, the Peruvian pharmaceutical company that markets processed maca
tablets, has jumped on the Viagra craze with creative advertising to
push its natural version of the male wonder pill, known as Maca Andina.
The ads show a picture of President Clinton, with a caption reading:
"Has he been taking his Maca Andina everyday?
Suiza's general director, Juan Mulder, says maca "is a spectacular
little plant. Besides its sexual-appetite component, it is high in
nutrition. What's more, there is also an important social component to
maca and our plans. Maca is the only crop that could become a cash crop
where it grows, which is a very poor region."
Suiza began studying the pharmaceutical uses of maca in 1994. Mulder
says the plant is a perfect dietary supplement, as well as a natural
energy source for athletes. The company has already spent more than $1
million research and has started exporting the product in pill form on a
small scale. This year, Quimica Suiza exported roughly $150,000 worth to
Japan and is looking into the U.S. and the European markets.
next big step, which Quimica Suiza is evaluating, is the construction of
a processing plant in the area where maca is grown. This would cut down
on transportation and processing costs in Lima, plus create jobs.
grows in a very isolated region. The only real source of work is in
mining. By opening a plant we will create an interesting work
opportunity for many, giving a traditional crop an added value,"
is only one of many native Peruvian products that are set to take on the
world market, Munante says.
one of the world's most ecologically diverse nations, is home to 86 of
the world's 103 identified ecological zones. While the coast, highlands
and jungle offer a myriad of agricultural opportunities, Munante says,
only 30 percent of the potential farmland is under production. The
agriculture sector has been growing an average of 8 percent a year,
accounting for roughly 12 percent of PeruÕs gross domestic product and
employing 26 percent of the work force.
nets the country nearly $800 million a year. Cotton, sugar and coffee
are the main crops, with coffee accounting for nearly one-third of all
export earnings in 1997, but nontraditional products are quickly gaining
ground, and new alternative crops are grabbing the attention of both
foreign and local investors.
is a potential big earner in both the jungle and coastal regions.
Pending U.S. approval, which is expected soon, Peru will begin exporting
citrus to the United States. Although the main exports will be oranges,
grapefruits and lemons, a fruit grown only in Peru, camu camu, could
make a splash on the international scene.
grenade-shaped fruit native to the jungle region, camu camu has about
600 times more vitamin C than oranges. It is the rage among fitness
buffs from Japan to France, and the two countries imported nearly all
4,000 tons produced in 1997.
the coast, the rising star is asparagus. From nearly nothing in 1990,
asparagus now brings the country more than $120 million in export
have 3,500 varieties of potatoes, high-protein grains and fruits that
have been cultivated here since before the Incas and it is time for us
to begin to take advantage of our resources,"Munante says.
"It's a shame that the world does not know our products."
January 11, 1999
Section: Business Monday
By LUCIEN O, CHAUVIN, Special to The Herald
Memo: INTERNATIONAL- REPORT FROM PERU
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