Artichokes command a good price and are a delicacy in the food world. Although they can be grown most anywhere they prefer cool, moist summers and mild winters and, almost a decade ago, in 2007, they began to be grown commercially in Cuzco’s extensive Pampa de Anta.
This ancient and important valley above the city of Cuzco not only was part of the foundation of the Inca Empire—its names still figure in legend and in the chronicles—it has been an area of rural conflict and growth with the expansions of haciendas and then a land reform.
Production began in Anta with Peruvian company, located in Arequipa but with strong ties to Cuzco, ALSUR Cusco, in conjunction with the government backed project Sierra Export whose goal was to promote nontraditional exports and develop rural life in Peru’s highlands. Working with Spanish importers they convinced campesinos, rural farmers, in the area of the Zurite experimental station, the famous lichen town of Huarocondo, and nearby communities, such as Ancahuasi. The first year their production was a success and they exported 120 tons of artichokes to Spain.
In the next two years the area cultivated grew by some 400%, as did the quality of the product and the technical ability of the growers.
This last week, a processing plant was opened in Anta, specifically in the campesino community of Markjo in order to give added value to the exports by processing them locally into not just fresh artichokes, but frozen and canned ones as well. It is expected the plant developed by ALSUR will generate some 1000 jobs and cost more than $12,000,000 US.
Peru is currently the third largest exporter of preserved artichokes in the world following China and France. It obtained $92,000,000 in revenue from this export in 2014 according to El Peruano. Some 80% of the product will travel to Spain and 20% to the United States.
Traditionally artichokes have been grown commercially on the Peruvian coast but the comparative advantage of Anta gives the Cusco region and ever greater share of the market and it increasingly is changing rural life on the Pampa de Anta, a region beset as well with urbanization due to its proximity to Cuzco and the new airport soon to be built in Chinchero.