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From Farm to Table : productive alliances as a pathway to inclusive development in Peru

De la granja a la mesa: Las alianzas productivas como senda al desarrollo inclusivo en Perú
Heidrun Kollenda


Peru’s gastronomic ascent has been a source of national pride and a motor for the local economy: providing new sources of employment and a pathway to inclusive development. At the heart of the gastronomic discourse are productive alliances, farm-to-table schemes that aim to revalue the role of farmers by (re)connecting excluded farmers with the urban gastronomy sector. This paper examines how the normative principles of productive alliances manifest at gastronomy festivals and are implemented in the day-to-day sourcing practices in Limenian restaurants and at farmer markets. Data from field research in Lima shows that the discourse on productive alliances and strong public and private support has led to a higher awareness of social and environmental concerns within the local food system. Yet, direct sourcing relationships remain the exception and are hindered by infrastructure problems, lack of information and quality concerns. To substantially contribute to inclusive development, the gastronomy discourse requires a stronger emphasis on structural factors and spatial exclusion.

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  • 1 The Fujimori regime was an oppressive authoritarian response to leftist armed movements in the 1980 (...)

1Peru’s steady gastronomic ascent has been a source of national pride and a motor for the local economy: providing new sources of employment, tourism and possible pathways to inclusive development. The sharp increase of the Peruvian gastronomic sector and the related boom in popularity of Peruvian food products and dishes is commonly named the Peruvian gastronomy boom. A country that until the 1990s was still known for leftist guerrilla movements, the oppressive Fujimori regime1 and high levels of poverty, has developed into a gastronomic nation and regional hot spot for fine dining. Within little more than a decade, Peru has gained international recognition for its innovative cuisine, high food biodiversity and world-class chefs. This did not only change the perception of gastronomy as a respectable career but led to a strong nexus between national identity and Peruvian food.

2In the past decade, many researchers have investigated the relationship between Peruvian national identity and Peruvian food (Cánepa 2011; Matta 2012; García 2013; Perret Bermúdez 2014; Imilan 2015). Authors agree in viewing the international success of Peruvian food as a source of national pride and a new image of Peru as highly innovative, entrepreneurial and full of opportunities. Yet, while much research has been done regarding the nationalistic gastronomic discourse, very little research has been conducted on another important aspect of the gastronomic boom: the strong articulation of social and environmental justice within the food system and the boom’s possible contribution to inclusive development. Inclusive development describes a process which includes marginalized people and sectors in social, political and economic progress for human well-being and environmental sustainability (Gupta, Pouw and Ros-Tonen 2015).

  • 2 Translation: (productive) alliances between chef and farmer.

3At the heart of the (recent) gastronomic discourse are the so-called “alianzas (productivas entre) cocinero-campesino”,2 to which I refer as productive alliances in the remainder of this article. Such productive alliances are farm-to-table schemes that aim to revalue the role and importance of the farmer (and other producers) within the food system, by (re-)connecting them directly to the restaurant and the consumer. The discourse of productive alliances is closely related to principles of local food systems that form a critical response to the global resource-intensive food production system (Allen 2008). It assumes that reducing the distance between producer and consumer, both geographically and in the number of intermediaries, will foster local development and knowledge creation and contribute to the landscape and biodiversity conservation at the farm level.

4While authors like Matta (2012, 2014a, 2014b) and others (Fan 2013; García 2013, 2014) have questioned the inclusiveness of the gastronomic boom, little research has been done on whether and how such productive alliances are practiced. Based on four months of field research in Lima, Peru, this paper examines how the principles of productive alliances manifest in the public sphere and how Limenian restaurants implement them through their sourcing practices. Accordingly, it aims to shed light on discourses of inclusive development in Peru by questioning the promise of social and environmental justice highlighted by gastronomic practitioners and representatives of the food sector.

5I begin by presenting the methods used in this study, the research design and the nature of the data collected. Next, I offer historical and social context of the phenomenon before presenting my analytical framework, which elaborates on the culinary ethics and the moral basis underlining the principles of productive alliances. I then analyze productive alliances in the context of the gastronomic festival Mistura and Limenian restaurants. I conclude with a discussion of possible pathways for inclusive development in Peru.

Fieldwork, data and methods

6This article draws on empirical field research conducted from August to December 2016 in Lima, the capital of Peru. Lima is the country’s most populated city with approximately 8,4 million inhabitants (World Bank 2016). A vibrant and fast-growing metropolis, Lima is the gastronomic capital of Peru: it is home of the annual gastronomic festival Mistura and of the country’s most acclaimed Peruvian (and non-Peruvian) restaurants. Yet, Lima is not just the center of the gastronomic phenomenon but also the central commercial, political and administrative hub of Peru.

Figure 1

Figure 1

Research Location Lima, Peru.

Source: Google Maps, TripAdvisor

7This research is based on a sequential mixed-method research design with a strong focus on qualitative methods (Creswell 2003; Mackenzie and Knipe 2006; Cresswell and Plano Clark 2010). During the period of four months, I conducted more than 30 in-depth interviews and a restaurant survey on sourcing practices among 91 restaurants. Furthermore, I conducted participant observation at local farmers markets, gastronomy festivals (including several visits to Mistura), cooking classes, educational gastronomic institutions and public debates on the topic (see Figure 1 for exact research locations).

  • 3 APEGA is the Peruvian Gastronomy Society which was founded in 2007.

8Following other scholars, I see the food system as a complex and multidisciplinary system (Cleveland et al. 2014). Accordingly, I have conducted interviews with a diverse set of actors: chefs, restauranteurs, food producers, the members of the gastronomic society APEGA3, civil society actors like Slow Food or Food not Bombs, fellows of farmer organizations like the Ecological Agricultural Network (RAE) and National Association of Organic Farmers (ANPE), gastronomy teachers, researchers and journalists. The interviews were systematically coded and triangulated with the participant observations and the results of the restaurants sourcing survey (see Denzin 2012). The surveyed locations have on average 42 tables (median 25) with 10% of restaurants serving more than 100 tables. All restaurants have been founded between 1972 and 2016, with 26% being recently opened (2015/2016) and 50% being older than 2010. Almost 70% indicated that they are serving Peruvian food, with a remaining 15,91 % serving international food and 13,64% other (among most mentioned vegetarian or European food). The average price of a menu was 28,80 Soles (about 8 euros) and prices are relatively evenly distributed. It can be argued that this sample is representative of the wider restaurant population in surveyed areas, yet too small to make far-reaching generalizations.

The historical context

9At the turn of the 21st century, many Peruvians had lived through two decades of terror, insecurity and high levels of poverty and inequality caused by the political conflict between left guerrilla movements and an authoritarian state (Degregori 2012). The legacy of racial discrimination, economic divisions and general distrust had left a strong mark and a low national self-esteem. Yet, how could it be that in a country tainted by conflict and poverty, gastronomy – the art and practice of fine dining – became a central element of the public discourse and national agenda?

10As Lauer and Lauer (2006) show in the compilation of essays about Peru’s ‘gastronomic revolution’, the increased political and economic stabilization of Peru had created many windows of opportunities. In the late 1990s, Peru experienced an increased influx of tourists interested in visiting cultural sites like Machu Picchu, and of investors seeking the emerging business opportunities of the new neo-liberal economic environment (Farrell 2014; World Bank 2016). The new stability of the country did not only accelerate the economic development and exportation of primary resources, but also created conditions for local businesses and tourism to develop and re-emerge. One important sector was the services and hospitality industry, which catered to international tourists and foreigners and prompted new business opportunities for Peruvians inside the country.

11Among many of the Peruvians that took advantage of the economic stability of those years was Gastón Acurio, a Peruvian entrepreneur, chef and son of an influential Peruvian lawyer and politician. Following his family’s desires, Acurio arrived in Europe to follow the path of his father by studying law in Madrid. However, soon after he dropped university and enrolled in formal culinary training in Paris (García 2013; Herrero 2014). Upon his return to Peru, he and his wife opened their first restaurant Astrid & Gastón, which ultimately became an internationally acclaimed spot for Peruvian fine dining. After an initial period of serving French food, Acurio progressively changed the restaurants’ concept by accommodating recipes seen as from the national to international gastronomic standards (Valderrama 2009; Matta 2012). His entrepreneurial success and the charismatic appearances on TV cooking shows soon made him an important public figure who significantly shaped the public discourse on the Peruvian gastronomy sector as a driver for social change.

12Central to this public discourse was a strong focus on Peruvian food as an expression of national identity and unity. Inspired by the rich ethnic heritage and biodiversity of the country, Acurio shaped the image of Peruvian food as an essentialist representation of the multicultural history of the country. While this issue has been repeatedly investigated and critiqued, another important dimension of the discourse has been neglected: that of claims about social and environmental justice within the food system. Together with the gastronomic society APEGA, Acurio proposed a set of culinary ethics. These ethics were aimed at addressing long-standing problems of racial discrimination and social (and spatial) exclusion of smallholder farmers and traditional fishermen but also issues of biodiversity and land degradation (Ginocchio 2012). Smallholder farming and traditional fishing are both professions that mostly take place in remote areas of the country. In Peru, many remote areas are structurally disadvantaged with poor and insufficient infrastructure such as roads, schools, electricity, which makes them less accessible than well-connected urban areas. According to my field consultants, rural areas and the associated traditional ways of living commonly evoke ideas of backwardness and primitive lifestyles. Furthermore, the increased use of industrial farming puts strong pressure on the natural environment and habitat of many smallholder farmers. According to a member of ANPE, the resulting environmental degradation and biodiversity loss jeopardizes traditional forms of production. The productive alliances aim at addressing these misconceptions and problems through the deployment of a culinary ethics. The moral stance provides guiding principles to address social and environmental injustices with good and sustainable gastronomic practices. Arguably, this would foster rural development and form a possible path for inclusive development.

Culinary ethics: the moral basis of productive alliances

13Culinary ethics define sustainable gastronomic practices, which translate into the imperative of productive alliances: to appreciate the role and cultural relevance of farmers in the food system, and to connect them with restaurants in order to foster socially and environmentally responsible procurement practices. Based on a systematic discourse analysis of previous research and literature on the Peruvian gastronomy boom and interviews with key actors, I have identified four core value dimensions that form the moral basis of productive alliances: symbolic, cultural, economic and environmental. These dimensions are in line with wider debates and discourses on food justice and sustainability in the food sector (Alkon & Agyeman 2011) and inspired by the discourse surrounding the Slow Food movement (Petrini 2015).

14First and at the core, productive alliances are motivated by the assumption that the international success of Peruvian gastronomy should not solely be attributed to renowned chefs but is only possible due to the hard labour of Peruvian producers (see Acurio 2016: 60). Thus, in order to recognize the contribution of the producer to the booming food sector, productive alliances aim at making visible the figure of the farmer.

  • 4 Anticuchos are marinated meat skewers most often made of beef heart and served with boiled potato. (...)

15The second value dimension focuses on the appreciation of Peruvian food culture and related traditions. It stems from the rationale that Peruvian food, and thus its success, is due to the country’s rich cultural and natural diversity. The range of unique forms of preparations like ceviche (fresh fish cocktail) or anticuchos4 combined with local produce like ají amarillo (yellow chilli) or camote (sweet potatoes) and the vast variety of native potatoes makes the taste of Peruvian cuisine special and distinguishable. This dimension asserts that productive alliances should strengthen local sourcing practices and encourage direct farm-to-table relationships. According to my field consultants, the valuation of traditions and regional culture further instigate the development of quality standards such as denominations of origin and regional trademarks.

16The third value dimension focuses on biodiversity and environmental protection. It stems from the assumption that in contrast to industrial forms of farming, family-farming and organic production are the safeguards for Peruvian biodiversity. These practices include low or no use of agrochemicals (e.g. fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides), implementation of crop-rotation, natural pest and soil management (e.g. compost) and crop and lifestyle diversification (Altieri 1995; Gliessman 2014; Willer & Lernoud 2016). Furthermore, organic agriculture is credited with several environmental benefits like better resource management (Pimentel et al. 2005), biodiversity protection (Gabriel et al. 2013), climate risk resilience (Halberg et al. 2006) and socio-economic benefits like employment and health benefits for both the farmer and the consumer (Reganold & Wachter 2016). This value asserts that restaurants that consider themselves as part of the gastronomic boom should source organic ingredients.

17The last value dimension focuses on the economic valuation of the farmer in the food system and thus indirectly aims at redistributing the economic benefits of gastronomic success. Especially smallholder farmers, peasants and traditional fishermen are highly dependent on the market mechanisms of competitive pricing and often receive only a small fraction of the actual price of their products. Most products come from remote areas of Peru, which requires long distribution networks of intermediaries to access the urban and international markets. Sourcing or purchasing products directly from the producer could create more value locally, by reducing the number of intermediaries or by offering producers premium prices. Therefore, the imperatives underlining this value dimension can be distinguished as demand and supply-driven. On the one hand, it encourages premium price schemes and fixed contracts with the aim to increase wages and improve the working conditions of farmers by creating strong local markets that make smallholder farmers less dependent on global market mechanisms. On the other hand, the imperative encourages direct procurement that would reduce the lengths of the supply chain and with it the costs of distribution. This is in line with ideas on food miles and local food systems (Alkon 2013).

Mistura – the space of symbolic representation of productive alliances

  • 5 See, about Mistura []. Accessed 18 May 2019
  • 6 Huariques are simple, inexpensive and mostly small family-run restaurants where traditional food is (...)
  • 7 Pisco is a local spirit made of grapes.

18A central part of the international success of Peruvian food is the international food festival Mistura (Figure 2), which annually takes place in Lima. Since its inauguration in 2008, it has grown to be the biggest food festival in the region with almost half a million visitors annually.5 During a period of ten days, visitors are invited to taste different dishes in the thematic areas ranging from regional cuisines, traditional street food like anticucherías to popular huariques6 and pisco7 tastings. Besides the many food stalls, seating arrangements and thematic areas, several stage areas invite visitors to watch front-cooking shows, concerts and award ceremonies. Furthermore, visitors have the possibility to directly get in touch with producers and learn about exotic and typical food products at the Gran Mercado, the farmer’s exhibition space. Over the years, the festival has developed into a popular attraction for people of all ages, locals and tourists alike.

Figure 2

Figure 2

Overview of the Venue of Mistura.

APEGA. (2017). Images by APEGA. Retrieved May 20, 2017, from​photos/​apegaperu/​Arrellano

  • 8 Convención Nacional del Agro Peruano (translation: National Convetion for agriculture Peru)
  • 9 Alianzas cocinero-campesino (translation: productive alliances between farmers and chefs)

19Yet, besides being a popular food festival, Mistura is also the most prominent space of representation of the symbolic value dimension of productive alliances. In fact, the festival relies on the principles of productive alliances. In 2009, after a first successful edition as ‘Perú, mucho gusto’, the festival was renamed Mistura (beautiful mixture). During the (back-then) four-day festival, the gastronomic society APEGA, ANPE and ConveAgro (Convención Nacional del Agro Peruano8) signed the formal agreement of ‘las alianzas cocinero-campesino9. The core message of the agreement, which formalized the moral standing of the productive alliances, was to create a joint vision for a development process which is fostered by Peruvian gastronomy (Ginocchio, 2012). As I detail below, the symbolic and cultural value dimensions of the productive alliances are most present in the award ceremony rocoto de oro (golden rocoto), aiming at valuing small producers’ contribution to the gastronomic sector and the Gran Mercado (the big market), in which organic farmers display “emblematic products”.

  • 10 APEGA, 2016. About Mistura. Accessed 18 May 2019: []

20The first and most striking symbolic representation of the productive alliances is the award ceremony of the rocoto de oro (Figure 3). The prize is a small goblet representing a rocoto pepper, a red, sweet-hot chili pepper with apple shape, core of the popular dish rocoto relleno (stuffed pepper). Each year Mistura allocates rocotos de oro to individuals, groups and organizations that have best adhered to good practices in the gastronomic field. Such practices include innovative (and organic) forms of farming or processing, the distribution of a product, successful capacity-building initiatives, journalistic excellence in the gastronomic field and many more.10

Figure 3

Figure 3

Celebration rocoto de oro.

Source: APEGA, 2016.

21The award ceremony takes places on the main stage of Mistura, thus granting it particular importance. Using a rocoto as a symbol of this award exemplifies the moral imperative behind this value dimension: the visibility and recognition of food producers, who have traditionally been taken for granted, as something special and worth celebrating. Inviting farmers and farmer organizations from the countryside to the central stage of the most important gastronomy festival in Latin America symbolically shifts their marginal position to the centre of attention. Framing good practices as distinctive and of immense importance to the sector, the image of conventional food products improves, while farming becomes a meaningful profession. The act of celebrating addresses the fundamental desire of people to be accepted, recognized and acknowledged by someone else and makes good agricultural practices and positive contributions to the sector meaningful for the society at large (Jaffe 2005). Furthermore, the celebration of auxiliary actors, much less visible than internationally renowned chefs, further reinforced the idea of gastronomic success as the result of unified effort of all the actors in the food system. Thus, the award ceremony of the rocoto de oro is a symbolic attempt to share the international fame of popular figures like Gastón Acurio or Virgilio Martínez, who are the most visible faces of the gastronomic boom both at the national and international levels.

22The Gran Mercado is the second most visible symbolic manifestation of productive alliances and the central exhibition space in Mistura. This large organic food market differs from markets where visitors could buy large quantities of food. The Gran Mercado serves, above all, a symbolic, educational and networking purpose. Visitors engage with unconventional, innovative and exotic Peruvian products, dishes and food preparation techniques. During different moments or acts of the festival, visitors are able to learn about different products, gastronomic techniques and the combination of both, for instance during front cooking shows starring native products and ingredients.

23Of special importance are the so-called productos estrella, which loosely translates as (super) star products. Each year, the Gran Mercado highlights specific emblematic products or crops (native potatoes in 2010, Peruvian fruits in 2011, Andean grains in 2012, bread in 2014, for instance) and a specific thematic focus (see Table 1 for an overview of the main themes). When walking through the different food and market stands, farmers encourage visitors to learn about those emblematic products, read about their nutritional and historical characteristics and take home informative brochures. Organisations like ANPE or ConveAgro have a separate stand where members of the associations exhibit their products and explain the methods of production and possible ways of preparations.

Table 1

Table 1
  • 11 Author’s tabulation based on APEGA. 2010a. Memoria Mistura 2009. Accessed 2 November 2016 : [http:/ (...)

Evolution of Mistura. 11

24Yet, the campaign of the productos estrellas has not only a symbolic and educational purpose. It also addresses the economic value dimension of productive alliances. The marketing campaign to rebrand traditional and ‘forgotten’ crops as ‘premium’ products visualizes the demand-driven imperative that underlines productive alliances. Using the term ‘superstar’ product already indicates a reference to something superior or exceptional. By setting a conventional product in the spotlight, a common, basic or even unknown agricultural product like legumes turns into a desirable product. This celebration and portrayal of a common agricultural product as something special attaches a notion of discovery to a seemingly new or undiscovered product. Thus, by creating a new image of traditional food products as superior artificially creates a new demand that justifies premium prices. In theory, this increased demand should make producers of traditional products less dependent on global market mechanisms. Furthermore, premium prices for traditional products should create economic incentives to maintain traditional farming practices and thus protect the agricultural biodiversity of the country.

25Besides the symbolic, economic and environmental aspects of the Gran Mercado, the market also creates a physical space of great importance. It is centrally located, at the entry of the food festival, and is a space frequented not only by visitors, but also by restaurant owners, food critics and chefs. For the producers who exhibit at the Gran Mercado, this provides a unique opportunity to connect directly with their prospective customers. During many interviews, restaurant owners and chefs have referred to it as a unique opportunity to get to know producers and establish business relationships. Several of these respondents asserted that they have developed direct sourcing relationships thanks to the Gran Mercado. One restaurant owner told me: “For me at Mistura, I get the chance to speak to fishermen and farmers alike. During the cooking contest you learn how the producers themselves are preparing their own food. It is an excellent way to learn about new techniques and get directly in contact with the producers to source their products.”

26The award ceremony of the rocoto de oro and the Gran Mercado strongly manifest the importance of producers as part of gastronomic success and show APEGA’s commitment to redistributing Peruvian food’s success among all actors in the food system. Both aspects foster the actual creation of farm-to-table schemes and sustainable procurement practices. In order to assess the contribution to inclusive development in Peru, it is important to check whether the principles of productive alliances integrate into the day-to-day practices of the food system actors. The following section illustrates this by analysing the procurement practices of Limenian restaurants.

Sustainable procurement: making productive alliances work

  • 12 Procurement practices describe the process of finding, evaluating and engaging with suppliers for a (...)

27A recurrent statement in the context of sustainable restaurant practices claimed that a restaurant could only be as sustainable as its ingredients. It is, therefore, not surprising that three main imperatives of the productive alliances concern restaurants’ procurement practices and, more specifically, direct sourcing from local and organic producers.12 Based on the results of the restaurant survey and interviews, I assessed how these procurement practices unfold in the surveyed locations. A surprising finding was that my field consultants directly connected their sourcing practices to the widespread discourse on Peruvian gastronomy as an agent of social change. In many interviews, they referred to the “responsibility” chefs carry in dealing with social and environmental issues and the centrality to that purpose of taking into account the realities of local ingredients and producers. It was interesting to me to notice such a strong awareness and resonance with the moral compass that guides productive alliances. However, the focus on actual practices presents a more nuanced picture.

Organic procurement as a means for biodiversity protection

28Behind the imperative of sourcing of organic products lies the value dimension of biodiversity and environmental protection. Yet, when I asked about the motivations for sourcing organically, most chefs stressed their concerns about the health qualities of conventional food products. According to a member of the Network of Agricultural Producers (RAE – Red de Agricultura Ecológica) health is one of the strongest reasons for Peruvians to consume organic products. Some field consultants related that previous scandals about contaminated could have led to the understanding that genetically-modified products and the unregulated use of agro-chemicals does not only harm people’s health but contributes to the loss in biodiversity. In addition, they saw biodiversity not only as crucial for the environment but also for the tourism sector. However, the data did not reflect the sourcing of organic produce as an important aspect of productive alliances. While many owners of restaurants (65%) indicate the use of organic products, most restaurants indicate that they only source a small percentage of their total products organically, due to higher prices and lower availability. Some restaurant owners and local tradesmen claimed that it is very difficult to find steady sources of high-quality organic products that can deliver consistent qualities over a long period. Limited availability and knowledge about certification schemes (and the differences in production) also result in lower trust and consequently lower demand for organic products. Restaurateurs and chefs often asserted that is not clear whether the higher premium price of organic products actually reflects improved quality and more sustainable agricultural practices. Furthermore, organic products inflate the cost of production and price of dishes, a disadvantage and risk which restaurants are apparently unwilling to take when demand for restaurant consumption is highly fluctuating.

  • 13 See, “Javier Wong: Restaurantes que no respeten las vedas no participarán en Mistura”, El Comercio. (...)

29Thus, this analysis shows that the procurement of organic products is strongly interlinked with wider discourses on that related to topics of food safety and food security. Clearly, there are not sufficient incentives for restaurants to source large fraction of their ingredients organic. Furthermore, as a respondent said there are also few ways to enforce organic procurement as a ‘good practice’ like for example in the shaming of off-season consumption of fish. This was done in 2012 when any restaurant that would offer a dish with shrimp would be publicly banned from Mistura.13 Therefore, in order to increase organic procurement practices, rigid certification standards are necessary and need to be communicated in a clear manner to gain consumers trust.

Local and direct procurement: an act of social responsibility

30In contrast to organic procurement practices, the sourcing of (non-organic) local products directly from the producer was much more prevalent. The sourcing of local products was especially often mentioned as an important aspect of the restaurant offers. Especially restaurants that would only offer traditional Peruvian food considered the use of local products as an act of patriotic nationalism. The data of the restaurant survey also reflects this trend. According to the data collected, more than two-thirds of surveyed restaurants predominately source local Peruvian products, in contrast to imported products. This is mainly attributed to the rich and diverse product offers of the different climate zones. Furthermore, as it can be seen in the boxplot (Figure 4), the use of local products is significantly stronger than the use of organic products. On average restaurants indicated to source more than 80% of their products locally, while the median of organic product is at 25%.

Figure 4

Figure 4

Spread of Restaurant Sourcing Behaviour.

Source: Authors calculation based on interview data.

  • 14 Providers are intermediaries that collect orders (also in small quantities) from different restaura (...)

31However, when asked about the procurement channels about how products are sourced, only 21% indicate that they source products directly from the producer while most products are sourced using providers14 (45%) and wholesalers (36%). A possible explanation that I was offered was that logistical and operational barriers often hinder direct procurement practices. However, I have met several chefs who found an individual solution on how to reduce the length of the supply chain and directly engage with the producers themselves. As a young chef and restaurant owner states:

“In order for me to purchase directly from the producer I have to do double work. Once a week, I am going to the local bus terminal to collect their products. Normally you would have a provider who would deliver the products directly to the restaurant. However, most of my producers I have met on organic markets and we make the arrangements using the public transport system. So, the distributional logistics are a bit more complex but if you believe in fair trade, like I do, it’s worth the effort.”

32This case shows how the moral imperatives of productive alliances can motivate the extra effort to engage in direct farm-to-table relationships. However, the respondent also confirmed that this extra effort is only possible because of the small size of the restaurant (200 plates/day) and the flexibility of the menu to accommodate fluctuations in the supply of products. Generally, among the main barriers for direct sourcing that have been mentioned are unstable supply, in terms of both quantity and quality of products, bad transportation infrastructure and little knowledge on how to connect directly with producers or restaurants. Especially in larger restaurants, handling many different inputs on a daily basis is a core task and crucial necessity for the success of the restaurant. The complexity of the procurement process makes it often challenging to engage directly with producers due to the additional risk of unstable supplies, which directly affect the workflow of the restaurant and the availability of different dishes. Furthermore, restaurants may have rigorous product quality requirements that require uniform sizes and forms of food items to minimize the variance in serving size. Yet, such conformity is often only possible when using costly agro-technologies to which many smallholder farmers do not have access. Another reason that hinders such direct farm-to-table schemes is the poor quality or even lack of a reliable cooling infrastructure. The cold chains are a temperature-controlled supply chain, which includes the refrigerated production, storage and distribution activities and requires the associated cooling equipment (Shafiur Rahman 2007). Especially when working with fresh produce (e.g. fish, meat, dairy), temperature-controlled supply chains are indispensable to meet food quality and hygiene standards. Yet, the establishment of a working cold-chain is very costly and often not feasible when engaging with several small producers directly.

  • 15 In order to obtain organic certification, Fairtrade producers and farmer organizations working unde (...)

33An alternative approach that aims to address infrastructural problems is the provision of premium prices for a fixed period as an indirect investment in farm-to-table practices. One such example is the organization CorPapa, a congregation of more than 2.000 potato farmers who exclusively produce traditional and ancient potatoes for around 85 luxury restaurants and hotels within Peru. CorPapa started in 2009 as one of the first campaigns of emblematic products at Mistura and developed into the biggest success story of productive alliances. At the time of the research, one kilo of native potatoes would be sold at 2 US$ (±6Soles) in comparison to the market price of around 1 sol. After the distracting costs of distribution, packaging and marketing, farmers received a fixed price of 2 soles/kilo equalling to an increase in more than 300%/kilo of their produce. These fixed prices provide space for capacity training for both the farmers and the chefs. Yearly, members of APEGA are invited on a study trip to the fields of production, to learn about the production and harvest conditions and best ways of preparations. Furthermore, the fixed premium prices provide the space to pass through rigid international organic certification procedures15 and pave the paths to make the native products ready for the international market.

Productive alliances as a pathway to inclusive development?

34As seen in the analysis above, the moral imperatives of productive alliances are central to Mistura and partly implemented in the sourcing practices of Limenian restaurants. However, can the productive alliances contribute to a process of inclusive development in Peru?

35According to Gupta et al. (2015) inclusive development is defined as “development that includes marginalized people, sectors, and countries in social, political and economic processes for increased human well-being, social and environmental sustainability and empowerment. It is an adaptive learning process which responds to change and new risks of exclusion and marginalization (Gupta et al. 2015: 546)

36In contrast to other development paradigms like sustainable development (see Brundlandt report), inclusive development is understood as a process that especially focuses on socially excluded or marginalized groups and addresses environmental protection as a core concern (see Figure 5 by Gupta and Vegelin 2016).

Figure 4

Figure 4

Conceptualization Inclusive Development.

Source: Gupta and Vegelin (2016).

  • 16 The “thinking beyond the pan” conference (original title: Yuntémonos: Vamos a pensar fuera de la ol (...)

37The first aspect of social inclusion is clearly on a conceptual level. The principles of productive alliances strongly emphasize the inclusion and (re-)valuation of producers as crucial to the gastronomy boom and to the Peruvian food sector. Thus, formally excluded groups like smallholder farmers are given a new role within the Peruvian food system by visualizing their presence at Mistura, among other spaces. However, as seen in the analysis above. The visualisation and symbolic recognition of the farmers do not necessarily translate into direct procurement practices but shift the perceptions and ideas about those groups. Celebrating and recognizing farmers and other producers as an important aspect of Peruvian gastronomic success, creates a new awareness for farmers, which previously were often socially excluded. Symbolically, farmers enter the centre stage of the national gastronomic discourse, however can still question whether this actually contributes to measurable empowerment and translates into improved livelihoods. Nonetheless, a shift in mindset is clearly visible, when recognizing the fact that surveyed chefs perceive a moral responsibility to think about the producer and the origin of their products as an essential part of their business. Such shifts in mindsets are the first, but most important, step that is necessary to achieve new, more socially and environmentally responsible standards in the sector. In contrast to this shift in mindset, I have shown that these well-meant principles are difficult to implement on a day-to-day basis, when observing the actual farm-to-table practices of Limenian restaurants. Complex logistical procurement processes and a lack of basic infrastructure make the implementation of direct farm-to-table relationships difficult and often not viable. While there is a high awareness and willingness to incorporate principles of the productive alliances into the business, for most restaurants the price and quality of a product come before principle-based sourcing behaviour as proposed by the productive alliances. It has been seen that especially better situated restaurant and producers are able to engage in such practices, as they often have higher sourcing margins, better access to a temperature-controlled distribution system and better agro-technologies. In order to truly benefit smallholder farmer and traditional fishermen, heavy investment in better infrastructures and transport systems is needed. Yet, at the end of my field research, I was able to participate in a sector-wide conference called “thinking beyond the pan”16, where policy-makers, politicians, chefs, producers and researchers came together to discuss the development implications of the gastronomic boom and the necessary political reactions. Such sector-wide events and the clear willingness of many actors to make the extra effort to implement productive alliances show the strong resonance of the concept within the sector and its potential to lead towards more social inclusion and inclusive development.

38The second aspect, which is crucial for a process of inclusive development, is the strong focus on environmental sustainability. Throughout the paper, I have pointed out the importance of biodiversity and environmental protection, with its imperative of the procurement of organic products. However, as noted above, the actual use of, and demand for, organic products is still very low. This was mainly attributed to the connected uncertainty about organic certification schemes, their considerably higher prices and perceived unstable supplies. Furthermore, the discussion on organic produce is seen as more connected to wider debates on food security and standards in Peru rather than the gastronomy boom. Even though the Gran Mercado at Mistura with its emblematic products aims to contribute to an increased demand for traditional products (and their production) this does not necessarily contribute to a process of inclusive development. The rationale underlying the campaign on emblematic products is that once a market is created for formerly unpopular native products, economic incentives are created for farmers to continue engaging in their production. This would then contribute to the protection of Peru’s biodiversity. However, from an inclusive development perspective, as proposed by Gupta and Vegelin (2016), this needs to be considered carefully. The commercialization of traditional products in order to protect the environment is a strong green economy approach that makes nature and its protection a commodity. By doing so, the protection of the environment becomes dependent on markets mechanisms, which are subject to change and uncertainty. Therefore, it is highly questionable whether this improvement is viable in the long term if the economic incentives become misaligned. In order to be truly inclusive, there is a need to detach the environmental protection from aggressive market mechanisms by actively seeking for sustainable, locally and rural-oriented alternatives.

Concluding thoughts

39In sum, productive alliances are a moral complex pursuing to establish good relationships between gastronomy and the agricultural sector, by introducing a nationwide responsibility scheme. This has never been seen before in the gastronomic sector in Peru. However, so far it is still mainly a set of ideas based on moral imperatives rather than actions. In order to achieve truly a process of inclusive development, more regulations, government support and infrastructure investment are necessary to assist in the implementation of the values underlying the productive alliances. Further research is needed to understand if productive alliances will actually lead to improvements in socio-economic outcomes and human well-being.

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1 The Fujimori regime was an oppressive authoritarian response to leftist armed movements in the 1980s and 90s. From 1980 to 2000, at least 70.000 individuals died.

2 Translation: (productive) alliances between chef and farmer.

3 APEGA is the Peruvian Gastronomy Society which was founded in 2007.

4 Anticuchos are marinated meat skewers most often made of beef heart and served with boiled potato. It is probably the most popular street food in Peru.

5 See, about Mistura []. Accessed 18 May 2019

6 Huariques are simple, inexpensive and mostly small family-run restaurants where traditional food is served.

7 Pisco is a local spirit made of grapes.

8 Convención Nacional del Agro Peruano (translation: National Convetion for agriculture Peru)

9 Alianzas cocinero-campesino (translation: productive alliances between farmers and chefs)

10 APEGA, 2016. About Mistura. Accessed 18 May 2019: []

11 Author’s tabulation based on APEGA. 2010a. Memoria Mistura 2009. Accessed 2 November 2016 : []

APEGA. 2010b. Memoria „Peru mucho gusto“ 2008. Accessed 2 November 2016 : []

APEGA. 2014a. Memoria Mistura 2011. Accessed 2 November 2016 : []

APEGA. 2014b. Memoria Mistura 2012. Accessed 2 November 2016 : []

APEGA. 2015a. Memoria Mistura 2014. Accessed 2 November 2016 : []

12 Procurement practices describe the process of finding, evaluating and engaging with suppliers for acquiring certain inputs good or services (Sloan et al. 2015).

13 See, “Javier Wong: Restaurantes que no respeten las vedas no participarán en Mistura”, El Comercio. Accessed on May 19, 2019 : []

14 Providers are intermediaries that collect orders (also in small quantities) from different restaurant and directly deliver them. Wholesalers only sale large quantities and often do not offer a delivery service.

15 In order to obtain organic certification, Fairtrade producers and farmer organizations working under similar standards undergo assessment by independent third-party auditors. Farmers often follow already practices that are in line with global standards (e.g. organic farming practices) but cannot be audited due to the high costs and administrative burden involved.

16 The “thinking beyond the pan” conference (original title: Yuntémonos: Vamos a pensar fuera de la olla) was organized by the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Perú (PUCP) on November 26, 2016.

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List of illustrations

Title Figure 1
Caption Research Location Lima, Peru.
Credits Source: Google Maps, TripAdvisor
File image/png, 1.0M
Title Figure 2
Caption Overview of the Venue of Mistura.
Credits APEGA. (2017). Images by APEGA. Retrieved May 20, 2017, from​photos/​apegaperu/​Arrellano
File image/png, 1.9M
Title Figure 3
Caption Celebration rocoto de oro.
Credits Source: APEGA, 2016.
File image/jpeg, 116k
Title Table 1
Caption Evolution of Mistura. 11
File image/jpeg, 120k
Title Figure 4
Caption Spread of Restaurant Sourcing Behaviour.
Credits Source: Authors calculation based on interview data.
File image/png, 120k
Title Figure 4
Caption Conceptualization Inclusive Development.
Credits Source: Gupta and Vegelin (2016).
File image/png, 48k
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Electronic reference

Heidrun Kollenda, « From Farm to Table : productive alliances as a pathway to inclusive development in Peru », Anthropology of food [Online], 14 | 2019, Online since 17 June 2019, connection on 12 August 2020. URL : ; DOI :

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About the author

Heidrun Kollenda

Graduate Institute of Social Sciences, University of Amsterdam,

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Licence Creative Commons
Anthropologie of food est mis à disposition selon les termes de la licence Creative Commons Attribution - Pas d'Utilisation Commerciale - Pas de Modification 4.0 International.

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