Guatemalan growers await US opening for organic blueberries
March 20, 2024

The United States is the number one destination for Guatemalan berries, but not all types of berries are guaranteed access. That’s something the Guatemalan industry is trying to change.

Francisco Solórzano, business director of Kultiva Organics Guatemala, spoke to last week at Agritrade in Antigua. He said the main berry category exported from the country to the U.S. is blackberries.

The company, an exporter under the Agrocumbre brand, also sends fruit to Europe, Canada, and other countries in Central America.

The hope for blueberries

Not all Guatemalan berry crops have access to the United States, however. As Solórzano explained, the existing protocol is a barrier for organic Guatemalan blueberries as it increases costs, making them unable to compete in the market.

“Organic blueberries are on standby because the only port they are allowed to arrive in is Philadelphia. Then it must go through a fumigation process, and since all of our product is organic, we can’t do that,” he said.

Kultiva is now working on a program to put the fruit through a cold treatment, allowing the fruit to enter Philadelphia without fumigation.

Regardless, Solórzano is optimistic they will be granted access soon, given the number of growers investing in new blueberry cultivars in the country.

“I expect that in a short time, Guatemala will be an important player in blueberry production,” he assured.

“We are sure that next year, we will be the first ones to send the first container of organic Guatemalan blueberries to the U.S. in collaboration with Maersk.”

However, blueberries are a long-term project. Until the U.S. and Guatemalan governments establish blueberry protocol, he says the issue will not be solved.

According to Solórzano, the industry is already in contact with the Guatemalan Ministry of Agriculture and intermediaries with the U.S. to define the process.

At the moment, demand in Central America is very high, so regional sales remain more convenient than shipping it to Philadelphia. There is also less competition in these markets.