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New sales market for Peruvian dairy farm

Female entrepreneurship

With its snow-capped peak, the impressive, active volcano Misti (5,822 metres high) forms a stunning backdrop for the herd of the San Miguel dairy farm based in Arequipa, Peru. But what should you do if you are suddenly cut off from your sole market? Businesswoman Roxana Belon Pimentel sought a solution to this issue together with PUM.

Arequipa’s arid desert climate means that agriculture is only possible there using irrigation. The small plots of land that have been made suitable for this purpose are located on the outskirts of, or in some cases even in, the city centre. They are generally used to grow either vegetables or fodder such as corn, oats or alfalfa. Roxana Belon Pimentel, an enthusiastic entrepreneur with a love of her farm, her 15 employees and the welfare of her livestock, is the proud owner of some twelve hectares of land. Her father founded the business 42 years ago with nine cows acquired from a Dutch dairy farming project. She now has a herd of over 100.

Process optimisation 

Ten years ago, PUM expert Willem de Jong made several recommendations that would enable the farm to optimise its business processes, particularly in the field of nutrition, while also performing various activities more efficiently. All the recommendations made at the time have since been implemented and the company is now well organised and achieves excellent milk production. Everyone involved knows exactly what to do and the herd is also in good health. In fact, Roxana’s office is littered with awards that her cattle have won.

“I no longer want to be solely dependent on a single sales market“

Roxana: “My herd produces about 40 litres of milk a day. The entire capacity is purchased by La Gloria, Peru’s market leader in dairy products. But recently, we suffered an extended period of heavy rainfall in southern Peru. The roads became impassable due to landslides and rivers burst their banks. As a result, the lorries that normally transport my milk to La Gloria were unable to travel to Lima for quite some time. I never want to end up in such a predicament again. Given its monopoly position, La Gloria can dictate its own rules, both in terms of what it purchases and the prices it pays. I no longer want to be solely dependent on a single market and I am therefore keen to learn about the possibilities of making other products from the milk my cows produce.”

Dutch expertise

PUM expert Harm de Vries was therefore called in to assist. Harm: “We not only examined the products that could be made from the milk, but also the sale of cattle manure.” The latter is highly useful to Arequipa’s largely arable agricultural system and, in my opinion, the value of the manure that the herd produces is currently underestimated. This is particularly the case in the desert climate of Arequipa where the soil is hard and dry. Furthermore, given that fodder is rather expensive, we made a simple price comparison based on the feed value.

Milk processing 

In order to assess Roxana’s opportunities to process her cows’ milk into other products, Harm first acquainted himself with the local supermarkets and shopping centres: “While a variety of imported cheeses is available, they are nevertheless all quite expensive. I also noted that a lot of ice cream is being sold, as well as other dairy products with zero milkfat content and a high level of sugar. I therefore advised Roxana to concentrate on products she can make with cream, such as sweet desserts or a more fatty Greek yoghurt.”

“We also discussed the possibilities of opening a shop selling homemade ice cream and cream products. And as there is very little blue cheese and brie available on the market, these might also prove a profitable niche. There are presumably various opportunities for further local development of this market which would prove less complicated than producing cheese for export, as she initially intended to do. We even went so far as to make yoghurt in her kitchen.”

In the short to medium term, machinery is required with which to process homemade dairy products, while a PUM specialist will initially have to supervise the use of this equipment to enable Roxana to actually process her cows’ milk into products for the local and national markets.

“PUM experts provide valuable technologies, knowledge and experience which we can directly apply in practice.”

Roxana: “I am very grateful for the experience I gained during the two PUM missions. PUM experts provide valuable technologies, knowledge and experience that we can directly apply in practice. I now have a better idea of both the possibilities of making other products from my milk and the levels of investment required to do so.”
On completing his studies in livestock farming, Harm (64) worked in the field of development cooperation from 1983 to 1999. He currently works as a knowledge broker in the Dutch agricultural sector. Since 2012, he has carried out various consultancy assignments for PUM in Kenya (2x), Tanzania, Serbia, Bolivia (3x), Indonesia, Colombia and Peru.

Text, film and photography: Gabrielle ten Bokkel Huinink - Reichwein