Emerging Markets / August 1, 2017

Fruit Trade and Agribusiness in Costa Rica

In recent years, demand for exotic fruits has grown at a faster pace within the United States than it has in the European Union. This trend makes the United States the largest importer of exotic fruits on a global scale, followed closely by the European Union. Overall, global production within the exotic fruits sector has grown approximately 50% throughout the last decade, which is substantially higher than the less than 30% growth that the fruit sector in general has experienced during the same time. Furthermore, the global import of exotic fruits, mainly towards European and North American markets, grew by almost 150% between 2002 and 2013. The largest growth in both production and trade has come from key exotic fruits, particularly pineapples, mangoes, and avocadoes. Global production of the main fruits within the exotic category during 2012 was dominated by mangoes and guava, representing more than 50% of total output; pineapples, accounting for more than 20%; and papayas, totaling some 12% of the production. It is estimated that the consumption of imported exotic fruits in the European Union represents about 5% of fruit consumption in general, whereas imported exotic fruits in the United States account for close to 10% of the total fruit consumption.

In the case of the European Union markets, Latin America is by far the largest supplier of exotic fruits. During 2013, the European Union purchased 83% of its pineapple imports from Costa Rica; 63% of its guava and mango imports from Brazil and Peru; 40% of its avocados from Peru; and 81% of its papaya from Brazil. This equates to more than 700.000 metric tons of exotic fruits imported from Costa Rica into the European Union in 2013, almost 180.000 metric tons imported from Peru, and little over 115.000 metric tons of exotic fruits imported from Brazil. This article explores the status of agribusiness and trade in Costa Rica.

Fruit Trade and Agribusiness in Costa Rica

Costa Rica is a small Central American nation, yet a major agricultural producer. With a total territory of 51.100 square kilometers, Costa Rica is somewhat smaller than West Virginia. However, the country has almost 1.300 kilometers of coastline. Likewise, the country is dominated by a mountainous and volcanic landscape. Costa Rica has a total population of close to 5 million citizens, some 77% of which live in an urban setting, notably the capital city of San Jose with more than 1 million inhabitants. Within agriculture, the country’s main products are bananas, pineapples, coffee, melons, ornamental plants, sugar, corn, rice, beans, potatoes, beef, poultry, dairy, and timber.

In terms of trade, Costa Rica exported a total of US$12.6 billion worth of goods during 2015 and imported US$15 billion, which resulted in a trade deficit of US$2.4 billion for that year. Currently, the country’s main trade partners are the United States, Guatemala, China, Mexico, and the European Union as a whole. In 2015, Costa Rica’s main agricultural exports were bananas, accounting for US$1.24 billion or 9.8% of the export total; pineapples, representing US$1.22 billion or 9.6% of the export total; and coffee, totaling US$360 million or 3%.

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