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Stable Costa Rican orange crop

Stable Costa Rican orange crop © Eurofresh Distribution
© Eurofresh Distribution


Costa Rica’s orange production is forecast to dip slightly to 285,000 tons in 2020/2021 from 290,000 tons in 2019/2020, according to FAS data.  Delays in the harvest caused by the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in loss of fruit at the time of harvest during 2019/2020.  The industry had to make considerable investments in the application of sanitary protocols and new infrastructure to limit the spread of the disease among workers. Most of these measures are now in place for the upcoming harvest.  Many of the workers come from Nicaragua for the harvest. The industry has worked closely with the local authorities to allow workers to enter Costa Rica under strict sanitary protocols. The United States is Costa Rica’s main destination for its orange juice (purchasing 75 percent of total exports in 2019), followed by the European Union, and China.  Costa Rican orange juice enters the United States duty free under the US-Central American Free Trade Agreement.

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Costa Rica continues to supply world with quality products

Costa Rica continues to supply world with quality products

Despite its small size, Costa Rica offers a rich and diverse range of quality exports. The country has overcome significant challenges in the agricultural sector this year and has managed to maintain supplies to the world, while retaining all of the products’ freshness, quality, diversity and safety. Costa Rica is home to 5% of the world’s biodiversity, which is reflected in the fresh products it produces and exports, from traditional tropical fruits such as pineapple, banana and mango to exotics like rambutan, pitahaya, carambola and cape gooseberry. Costa Rica also provides markets such as the United States and Europe with healthy and tasty roots and tubers, such as cassava, its most exported root, accounting for 3% of the country’s agricultural exports and shipped to 28 destinations around the world. Jorge Zamora, Procomer’s trade commissioner and director for Spain & southern Europe, said: “Exports of products such as yams, ñampí and taro are growing in different parts of the world, which shows that this category, that started with cassava, still has great potential for further expansion. And a new product has recently been launched: pink sweet potato, with first shipments made in August to France, thanks to a public-private partnership.”

Costa Rica’s produce come from every corner of the country. Their quality is certified by international standards such as Global GAP, 100% Organic, Non GMO, Primus Labs, Fair Trade, USDA Organic, EU Organic Farming, BCR Food Certificated, and others.

Photo: Procomer 

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Costa Rica, showcases diversity and freshness of its agricultural products

Costa Rica, showcases diversity and freshness of its agricultural products

The Costa Rican delegation is made up of the following companies: Tropifoods SA, Verita Tropicals Costa Rica, Jalaram Fruit, Exportagri, Fertynic, ByC Exportadores, Barvatex de Heredia SA, Chestnut Hill Farms, Pineapple Hills, VISA Agricultural Products, Total Fruit, Agricultural Products Del Campo, Exports Michelle SMLA and the Costa Rican Foreign Trade Promoter (PROCOMER). This year will mark the 20th time that Costa Rica has participated at the Fruit Logistica fair, which PROCOMER’s director of exports, Álvaro Piedra, views as strategic for promoting the country’s agricultural sector. “This fair is an international benchmark for the fresh produce sector; it is where buyers from all over the world converge in search of quality fruits and vegetables and where our exporters can learn about the new market trends. That is why we are pleased that these 13 companies will be participating at such a global showcase,” said Piedra. The products that the exporting companies will be promoting at the fair are: pineapple, banana, roots and tubers (cassava, eddoes, taro malanga, cane), and chayote. Up to November, the agricultural sector accounted for 23% of all Costa Rica’s exports for 2019, with shipments abroad worth US$2.469 billion.


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Costa Rica seeks carbon neutrality

The banana sector in Costa Rica seeks a zero carbon footprint.

In the Costa Rican banana sector, both public and private institutions are working together to make headway towards production systems noted for a more efficient use of natural resources and for mitigation of greenhouse gases.

Their efforts fall within the national goal of making Costa Rica a carbon neutral country by 2021.

Tropical agriculture is also shouldering its responsibility as regards climate change. This is why most banana companies are well aware of the environment, above all Sura Green, which is a faithful representative of such values.

Sura Green: exemplary in sustainability

Sura Green’s loyalty to its collaborators, the community and the planet has led it to be recognised, obtaining certifications such as Rainforest Alliance and GlobalGAP since 2002.

In 2011, it managed to obtain verification of standard 14064:2006, making it one of the first banana farms verified as carbon neutral in Costa Rica. It is a company based on Costa Rican capital that began producing Cavendish bananas 28 years ago.

With 600 ha under cultivation, giving 1,800,000 boxes a year on average, it is capable of dispatching 30 to 42 containers a week.

Commercial director Grettel Zahner said Sura Green began selling fruit via big traders to the US and Europe.

“By taking part in international fairs, we began to open up new markets, managing to initiate relationships with Walmart in the US, to whom we sell 80% of the fruit. We sell the remaining 20% to Italy, Portugal, Poland, Russia, China and Aruba, among others, seeking to diversify the markets a little,” she said.

Banana production was hit hard in 2015 by the weather, but Zahner is optimistic about the upcoming season. “For next year, we want to consolidate the relationship we have with our current clients and to continue opening up new markets with direct clients, with no gobetweens.” 

Image of Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica: Rauldmo (assumed) Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons 

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Essential Costa Rica, byword for competitive edge

The Costa Rica country-brand represents the 5 key farm export sector values: excellence, sustainability, innovation, social progress and origin.

September 3, 2013 saw the launch of the country-brand: Essential COSTA RICA. Gloriana Castro, country-brand manager, describes it as “a commercial tool for all-round competitiveness in economic areas: tourism, foreign investment and exports, all based on the country’s culture.” It essentially reflects what the country is like: small, concentrated and with inhabitants providing a unique value, generated mainly by its people. The brand has 5 key values: excellence, sustainability, innovation, social progress and origin. “Rather than a series of benefits, the country-brand licence for a company is a distinction adding value to its products, providing differentiation, projection of excellence and high standards, corporate image and promotion of the company and its products,” Castro said.

Export balance

According to PROCOMER in Costa Rica, exports of goods accumulated in the 12 months from October 2014 to September 2015 reached a total of USD 9,847 million, a figure 15% lower than the amount reported for the same month in the previous year, and 13.8% below the average for the last 3-year period. In figures accumulated by the third quarter of 2015, the agricultural sector took pride of place (26%). Main products making up the sector include banana, pineapple, melon and other fruits, both uncooked and frozen, as well as fresh watermelon.

Banana and pineapple performance

Banana and pineapple are among the products with the most notable contractions in Costa Rican exports, having fallen off by US $103.3 million and US $58.6 million respectively. Both fruits are still under the strong negative impact of weather conditions associated with irregular rainfall patterns that affected the planting period last year, and which determine this year’s crop, as a result of the El Niño phenomenon. This trend is expected to be maintained and recovery is not forecast until 2016. Nevertheless, banana is still one of the main drivers of growth in Europe, as the continent receives a 19% share of total exports from Costa Rica, a situation repeated in Asia, with 4% uptake.

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Product ‘tropicalisation’ important for Costa Rican market

Though its population is small – just 4.8 million people – Costa Rica adds more than 2 million tourists and thousands of affluent retirees to its base of retail food consumers every year.

Suppliers of food for Costa Rica’s retail market should show more interest in ‘tropicalising’ products, a new GAIN report says.

Tropicalising involves concepts such as packaging in smaller volumes and in a manner appropriate for the heat of the tropics, and incorporating popular local flavours, such as fruit, etc, it says.

It also reports that Costa Rican food executives encourage US food manufacturers and suppliers to, among other things, be more aggressive in all sectors, but especially regarding canned and fresh fruits and vegetables, and processed foods; and to show greater interest in providing environmentally friendly packaging.

According to ‘Costa Rica: Retail Foods’, the economic outlook in Costa Rica is promising, “economic growth is steady and a solid base of middle to upper-class consumers is expanding in the country.” Though its population is small – just 4.8 million people – Costa Rica “adds more than 2 million tourists and thousands of affluent retirees to its base of retail food consumers every year.”

Best prospects for exports to Costa Rica

Costa Rica imports fresh fruits year-round, but about 70% of total domestic consumption of non-tropical fruits occurs during the Christmas season (October through December).

Mexico, Chile and Guatemala are the main competitors of the US in the Costa Rican fresh fruit, wines and vegetable market.

While the most favourable export prospects for the US lie in processed products, in recent years, “consuming more convenience and healthy foods has been the trend and has resulted in good prospects for US exports of fresh fruit (mainly apples, grapes, peaches and pears), processed fruits and vegetables (especially canned fruits), and snack foods (including chips, cookies and candies),” GAIN says.

The US and Chile export similar products to Costa Rica, but during different seasons. “Imports from Chile take place from January to July. During the rest of the year, imports come mostly from the United States, except for those fruits available year-round.” Canada also poses slight competition in the fruit and potato sector because of its 2002 FTA with Costa Rica.

Fruit and vegetable production in Costa Rica

Tropical vegetables and fruits are among the locally produced products that present competition to US exporters in the Costa Rican market.

Costa Rica has been incorporating advanced technologies into the preservation of locally produced foods – preserves, concentrates, deep freezing, canning, and packaging thus opening the door to new markets and diversity, both for internal consumption and also for export.

Key Costa Rica exports include bananas, heart of palm, concentrated tropical fruits and jalapeno peppers.

“Tropical fruits and vegetables like bananas, pineapples, cantaloupes, watermelons, mangoes, cassava, ginger, yams, roots and tubers, vegetables and greens – produced both with conventional methods as well as organically – have been very important products in the international markets, as much as for fresh food consumption as for fresh raw ingredients,” the report says.

Retail in Costa Rica

In 2014, the retail sector continued its planned expansion with major retailers moving deeper into the small store segment, targeting those who shop in convenience and small stores. “Additionally, the Costa Rican market of wholesale supermarkets continues to grow, mainly driven by the opening of convenience stores, bakeries, ‘sodas’ (small low end restaurants), restaurants and hotels in recent years.”

Source: Costa Rica: Retail Foods
Image of popular Costa Rican tourist destination Jaco Beach: by Costaricapro (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

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Trends in exotic fruit consumption

World consumption of exotics is on the rise, though more so for certain products, such as pineapple, mango and avocado, according to Freshfel Europe.


Demand is still high but EU imports of exotic fruit fell 8% over 2009-2013 and only those of avocados and guavas/mangoes are climbing, research by Freshfel Europe shows.

In contrast, in the US, the world’s top exotic fruit importer, imports are increasing across the range.

And globally, consumption of exotics is on the rise, although more so for certain products, such as pineapple, mango and avocado.

Exotic fruit production, imports that for total fruit

The Freshfel analysis, presented earlier this month at Berlin’s Fruit Logistica, also indicates worldwide production of exotics has risen 48% in the last ten years, while that of total fruits grew 28%.

Similarly, in 2013, global imports of exotic fruit were 146% higher than in 2002, more than double the change for total fruit.

Both the US and the EU, the second biggest importer of exotic fruit, rely heavily on Costa Rica for their imports, particularly for pineapple.


Freshfel Exotics split in types.png

Exoctic fruit consumption

In the EU, exotic fruit (mainly pineapple) accounted for about 5% of all fruit consumption in 2012, compared to 9% in the US (mainly pineapple and avocados).

Freshfel noted a trend towards increased avocado consumption in north and western Europe, while in middle and eastern Europe there’s more consumption of other exotic fruits, such as tamarinds, jackfruit and lychee.

EU imports in exotics from non-EU countries

Freshfel’s overview of the EU market also showed the main sources of EU exotic fruit imports in 2013:

  • Pineapples: 83% from Costa Rica

  • Guavas, Mangoes and Mangosteens: 61% from Brazil and Peru

  • Avocados: 40% come from Peru

  • Papaya: 81% from Brazil

  • Persimmons: 86% from Israel and South-Africa


eu imports expotics.png


See the Freshfel presentation

“Exotic fruit – a highlight at POS

Consumption and Trends”