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Guatemalan Produce Trade Association continues growth

The Guatemalan Produce Trade Association, comprising the major importers and key players in the Guatemalan produce trade, is amplifying its influence and involvement in strategic issues and industry events. Members of the association share their perspective and outlook for Guatemala’s continuing trade.gpt

Guatemala persists with significant potential for the U.S. produce marketplace. “Guatemala’s close proximity to the U.S. ports combined with rich volcanic soils, varied microclimates and modern infrastructure makes the country an ideal source for many fruits and vegetables,” said Charlie Eagle, vice president of business development of Southern Specialties in Pompano, FL. “We have decades of experience growing, importing, processing and distributing the finest quality-assured products grown in Guatemala.”

Guatemala is strategically situated to provide a steady year-round supply of superior quality agricultural products, according to Andy Wilson, sales manager for Ben Bud Growers in Boca Raton, FL. “Guatemala is a natural trading partner for us due to its strategic proximity to our distribution network,” he said.

Katiana Valdes, marketing director for Crystal Valley Foods in Miami, said the Guatemalan produce industry has become even more sophisticated over the last several years. “They have excellent food safety and good manufacturing practices which, given the favorable climate, results in top notch quality of fruits and vegetables,” she said.

Combining the country’s microclimates and U.S. partnerships has enabled the development of a sustainable and diverse export sector. Southern Specialties brings in snow peas, sugar snaps, French beans, baby vegetables, heirloom tomatoes, limes, radicchio, blackberries and tropical fruit from Guatemala. “For us, the Guatemalan deal is in our DNA,” said Eagle. “We were first ‘to the plate’ and made investments that assured we would be the best possible supply partner for our customers.”

Crystal Valley Foods handles sugar snaps, snows, French beans, baby squash, blackberries, tomatoes, English peas, baby corn and baby carrots from Guatemala. “The microclimates allow for a variety of fruits and vegetables to be grown year-round and throughout the country,” said Valdes. “The country’s proximity to U.S. ports helps get product here faster and at lower costs.”

In addition to its main products of snow peas and sugar snaps, Agricultural Marketing Services Inc. AMS in Doral, FL, also imports green and red papayas from Guatemala. “Importing from Guatemala enables us to have a regular supply of good quality fruits and vegetables year-round,” said Mike Sullivan, president. “Our partners in Guatemala allow us to broaden our range of quality produce with excellent service.”

Key to Guatemala’s efficient trade as well as GPTA activities are industry service providers, including customs brokerage, such as Advance Customs Brokers, Customized Brokers/Crowley and The Perishable Specialist and legal services such as Henkel & Cohen. “We support the industry by providing legal services to Guatemalan exporters and U.S. marketers dealing with Guatemalan growers or produce both in transactional and business contract matters as well as helping resolve legal disputes,” said Tim Henkel, partner, Miami.

GPTA’s members look to increase Guatemala’s presence in the U.S. marketplace in 2019 through the association. “We want to highlight Guatemala and educate North American buyers and consumers on the benefits of Guatemalan produce,” said Valdes. “Our Guatemalan growing partners are in compliance and up to date with all of the North American food safety and traceability regulations and the country’s infrastructure has come a long way to support the volume such a rich growing environment can produce.”

Through GPTA, importers aim to actively address crucial trading and quality standards. Guatemala has long demonstrated tremendous potential for diverse high quality produce states Priscilla Lleras-Bush, coordinator for GPTA.  “The partnerships between the Guatemalan exporters and U.S. importers have evolved throughout the years.  GPTA importers are solely focused on partnerships with exporters that uphold the highest integrity in quality throughout the growing and logistics chain by following strict food safety requirements, social responsibility principles and cold chain logistics to ensure the retailers in U.S. are completely satisfied with our GPTA importers’ products,” said Lleras-Bush.

“An association such as GPTA really serves as a platform to enhance an already successful trading deal,” said Pat Compres, CEO and CFO of Advance Customs Brokers in Miami. “We look forward to continue working on issues that make a real difference to both Guatemala and the U.S. industries.”

GPTA continues to foster Guatemala’s reputation as a quality supplier. “We must continue to promote the Guatemalan industry within the U.S.,” said Wilson. “Guatemala has come a long way as a reliable supplier of agricultural products since I began my career many years ago. Advances in consistency, food safety and social responsibility have been remarkable to watch take shape. I believe we are only just beginning to reach the true potential Guatemala has.”

GPTA members will be looking for more opportunity at Agritrade 2019, located in Santo Domingo Del Cerro Antigua Guatemala, March 21-23.  “We are going to Agritrade to expand our product lines,” said Alex Sotolongo, president of Sotolongo Farms. “Specifically while at Agritrade we will be looking for quality growers and exporters of Persian limes, snow peas, sugar snaps red, yellow and orange bell peppers, as well as mangos. We are a consistent reliable quality importer with a very strong customer base and are looking to do the same by establishing and building long-term business partnerships with quality exporters from Guatemala.”

Agritrade is Central America’s premier trade show and largest agricultural export platform bringing together international buyers with the most important exporters of fresh and processed products from Latin America.