Operating in 67 municipalities with its own productive units and partner producers (located between 1,600 and 3,000 metres above sea level in different regions of the country), Cartama is able to produce avocado 52 weeks of the year.
Nothing is random at Cartama. Each part of the business is strategically designed to produce the best Hass avocado in tropical conditions, and supply the different markets in a reliable and constant way throughout the year.
“He who does not appropriate genetics is condemned to failure”
After multiple trips around the world, the firm learned that the techniques used in other countries were not compatible with the soil and climate conditions of Colombia. That is why Cartama learned to develop its own trees. Today, it has a nursery that produces 600,000 plants a year, and is developing a second nursery with the same capacity.
This nursery has the ICA registration required to import plant material from other countries, and is integrated into the production process. In other words, it has the advantage of having the original pure Hass seedlings as well as others imported from the Brokaw Nursery which are under evaluation. “We have validated the best native varieties in Colombia with resistance in our conditions,” said Uribe. “We are very close to having a Colombian variety for cloning.” This is possible thanks to major investments in research and development, as the only company in the industry with a research group registered with the Ministry of Sciences. “We believe that the propagation via cloning is the future of the industry.” Cartama’s 9-year-old orchards with cloned trees are producing good results. This puts it in an advantageous situation compared to its rivals.
New office in Rotterdam
Cartama represents 25% of the total avocado exports of Colombia. “We need to know the market we are going to sell to by being there,” said Uribe. That is why in 2017, the firm opened an office in the United Kingdom and another in Rotterdam in 2020, with very successful results. “We know our fruit; we ripen it ourselves. We can offer a single origin all year round to give stability to customers and guarantee response speed. Cartama takes great care of its brand and that is why we seek to promote it and position it in the European market as a reliable and good-quality brand. We can point to long-term relations with supermarkets.” Europe represents 60% of total exports.
Greater participation in the United States
In 2022, the United States presented extremely interesting conditions for Colombian fruit. Cartama, which has a joint venture with Mission Produce in this market, managed to export 237 containers, making the US the second largest market for the company. “The United States is the natural market for Colombia, but exporters have to understand that you must first build it. We have to assemble programmes for year-round supply, understanding that there will be moments where there are not going to be good prices, but it is important to make the effort and position themselves before other countries such as Guatemala arrive,” said Uribe, who is also a member of the Board of Directors of the Colombia Avocado Board, an entity created to promote Colombian avocado in that market. Colombia has several advantages such as the possibility of reaching the port of Philadelphia in 5 days. “It is important to keep in mind that a truck contaminates 4 times more than a ship, making it more sustainable and faster to reach the United States from Colombia.”
Asia, full of opportunities
Cartama is the only Colombian company that has exported to China with very good results and was the first to reach Japan and South Korea with its fruit. However, the current logistics problems in the region represent a very severe challenge. “Consumption in these countries has not reached the levels we expect, so there are still many opportunities. Our packaging plant is in Pereira, Risaralda, 4 hours from the port of Buenaventura on the Pacific Ocean and we have a transit time of 27 days to China, which allows us to arrive relatively quickly in those markets under normal conditions,” said Uribe.
Cutting-edge technology and knowledge
All this is possible thanks to the investments made by Cartama in technology and knowledge through Avolab. “This is a unique project in the world where we combine cutting-edge technology with the best of our people so as to support our partner producers”.
New packing plant near the Atlantic
Cartama is building a new packing plant located 8 hours from its Atlantic ports. This is closely related to the investment that Banafrut, one of its sister companies, has made in Puerto Antioquia, a port that is being built in the banana zone with access to the Caribbean Sea. “It will be the natural port for fruit producers, especially avocado in that area, and will cut internal transit time from 24-48 hours to 6 hours.”