Environmental footprint of critical agro-export products in the Peruvian hyper-arid coast: A case study for green asparagus and avocado

Autor(es): Diana Ita Nagy, Eduardo Parodi Gonzales Prada, Ian Vázquez Rowe y Xavier Esteve-Llorens, Sara González-García, María Teresa Moreira, Gumersindo Feijoo

Peru has become one of the world's main agricultural hubs for a wide range of fruits and vegetables. Two of these products, avocado and green asparagus, have raised attention in recent years in the international scene from an environmental perspective due to the high amounts of water they require, as well as the long air and marine freighting distances to export these products to Europe, Asia or the US. Consequently, the aim of the current study was to perform an environmental assessment of these two products using two life-cycle methods: carbon and water footprint. For the latter, water scarcity, acidification, eco-toxicity and eutrophication impact categories have been selected for assessment. Inventory data were gathered from six different companies located in different regions of the hyper-arid Peruvian coast. The results report that the products are not carbon intensive and are in line with other similar plant-based products. Conversely, the hyper-arid conditions of the cultivation sites require a large volume of groundwater to fulfill the needs of the crops. Interestingly, even though this may lead to overexploitation of groundwater resources in the absence of appropriate management policies, the low mobility of pollutants, namely pesticides, constitutes a natural barrier to protect the degradation of natural water bodies. Similarly, highly technified irrigation systems have allowed minimizing the amounts of water used per hectare. In conclusion, results from this study may be useful in more concise environmental assessment studies on food products and diets, considering the consumption of these Peruvian products in many countries in the world. Furthermore, results are also important at regional level since they depict the carbon and water performance of these products and can also be accompanied by cross-cutting certification schemes, including Product Environmental Footprint Category Rules Guidance.

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