Project PROCOMPITE in Action
On Friday we had arranged for a visit with a business that had received government grants via PROCOMPITE. PROCOMPITE is a national government law/program of Peru that is designed to provide asset-based grants to local businesses in order to improve the competitiveness of the different value chains and eliminate bottlenecks. The government requires the submission of a business plan that includes, among other things, details of the assets they are currently seeking, in addition to how they imagine that these new improvements will affect their business. Our intentions were to talk with the managers and workers of the plant and see how the program has improved their output or increased the efficiency of their value chain. Some of the information we gathered to evaluate the effectiveness of the assets were:
•Daily production capacity of the plant before and after the assets were received
•Safety information regarding the handling of products and the injury rate. In this case, the number of injuries went down because the machine replaces some laborious and risky processes in the value chain
•Time required to carry out a specific process
•Financial outcome of the business, including prices of banana exported to market
Tour of an Organic Banana Packing Facility
We met Mario in his office on Friday morning and headed out for the tour of the banana packing facility. We briefly stopped at Mario’s home and were introduced to his wife before departing to the neighboring town. She was very sweet and we chatted over some light breakfast of coffee and fruit. Next we headed to the plantation, which was in the province of Sullana. The ride took about an hour and we passed through some interesting scenery. The outskirts of Piura were very desert-like, with lots of sand and minimal presence of any life. As soon as we got close to one of the main rivers of the region, the vegetation exploded. There were banana, coconut, corn, mango and rice fields everywhere, as far as the eye could see. Workers were out in their fields, attending to crops, and everyone seemed busy. We pulled off the main road and the entrance to our farm had a DOLE logo out front. Dole had obviously played a major presence between 2001 and 2011 at the farm that we were about to visit.
We arrived to the first packing facility that was a recent winner of PROCOMPITE just as the workers were loading the last of the boxes. The manager met with us and explained how the process worked and showed us around. A typical tree produces multiple bunches that contain 30 or more bananas on a thick stalk. The new infrastructure meant that the bananas could be attached to one of the many pulley systems and guided on a cable back to the facility for processing. The workers no longer had to carry the bananas from the point of harvest to the packaging facility on their backs. Once the bananas arrived at the facility, they could remain suspended on the pulley system and be hosed off with water and then further examined before packing into small cardboard boxes, loaded on trucks to be transported to the port, and then get shipped to international markets.
The manager informed us that there was another facility that was going to be busy so we decided to check it out and see the process. This facility was very bare bones and resembled what the first had looked like before the infrastructure upgrades. The bananas were brought in on worker’s backs, then were hung on ropes and washed in what looked like a trailer bed. Roughly 20 workers were busy working away and packaging bananas for sale to Chiquita. We were informed that they had recently signed a contract with Chiquita for all of 2015 for their Organic Bananas. The funds from PROCOMPITE, to establish the first facility that we toured, had allowed the first facility to increases its productivity by 1.5 times, from approximately 200 to 300 boxes of bananas per day while maintaining the same work force. The second facility remained at 200 boxes, and they hoped to upgrade it someday as well. They had become more efficient and are soon looking into hiring an additional 5 people to help with the increase in production. The government investment of S/95,000 (roughly $33,000) had successfully met its goal of having a positive impact on the people of Piura and increasing market competitiveness for export to international markets.
We then departed to the town of Sullana, stopping briefly for some hydration from a fresh coconut and to have some delicious ceviche (raw fish “cooked” in citrus acid of lemons) with Mario’s daughter. It was a great meal! Amongst the 5 of us we shared 2 plates of ceviche and a traditional plate that included green corn tamales and baby goat meat.