Small beginnings germinate export farming business

14 January 2013
ITC News
Topara Farm was set up in Peru over 40 years ago by visionary farmer Klaus Bederski Lehmann. Located on formerly abandoned farmland in Topara Valley, 200 kilometres south of Lima, today it is a beautiful oasis in arid Peruvian desert land and a flourishing organic farming enterprise supported by an ingenuous irrigation system that collects, stores and distributes water from underground wells, river springs and seasonal river waters.

The farm has a leading position among growers of organic fruit and is the largest exporter of organic pecans in Peru. Achieving these positions has required years of dedication, daily involvement, constant creativity and tenacity to overcome the hurdles faced by many family businesses in developing countries. These hurdles include land reform, terrorism, corruption, theft and legal requirements, as well as earthquakes, mudslides and other climate-related natural disasters. While problems such as these have often been present as Topara Farm has developed, none have been able to break its dedication and commitment to survival and growth.

As the years have passed, the Bederski family has grown and, as the youngest son of the family, in 1992 I started Agro Export Topara, the commercial company within the family business. I have brought added value to the pecan business by setting up a processing facility adapted from those of companies in the United States of America that I visited during my college years. In 1994, we celebrated the exciting moment when the first export shipment of vacuum-packed pecans was made to New Mexico in the United States. In those days, the local Peruvian market was depressed, so exporting was the only way to commercialize pecan nuts. The success with pecans has allowed the company to expand through the production and export of other agricultural goods, such as aji chili peppers, purple corn, avocadoes and lucuma fruit.

In 2000, the company switched to organic production as part of a new strategy to add value to its goods. This has been the best business decision ever made by Agro Export Topara. Not only has it delivered the natural and environmental benefits of organic farming, it has also delivered financial benefits for the company. Throughout recent years, the Bederski family has shared its knowledge of organic farming with neighboring peasant farms, providing them with a new horizon for production and commercialization. These farms work directly with Agro Export Topara as suppliers of organic export goods produced under contract and at fair prices. The company has won the trust and confidence of international clients that want products other than those it produces, so working with neighboring farms means it can add items to the export product line and serve as a trader and repacker for products including Andean grains, dried fruits, gluten free flours and mesquite.

To meet the needs of ever more demanding and sophisticated international markets, Agro Export Topara is planning to comply with certifications and regulations, such as Good Agricultural Practices, Good Manufacturing Practices, Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points, sustainable farming and carbon credits. Working with a German client, the company is also committed to a fair trade programme that improves the working, safety, health and labour conditions of its employees. It keeps up to date with trade regulations and procedures relevant to its agricultural products by attending workshops and seminars, and it is also participating in the activities of the Peruvian Export and Sanitary Authorities to help ease and mitigate non-tariff measures and other trade barriers. With many goals still to achieve, Agro Export Topara represents the heart and life of the Bederski family and will be sustained for generations to come.