European success for Central American fresh fruit and vegetable companies

Washing okra

Since 2018, the European Union (EU), the Secretariat for Central American Economic Integration (SIECA) and the Centre for the Promotion of Imports from developing countries (CBI) have been working together to strengthen economic integration in Central America. With the support of local partners, dedication of experts and enthusiasm of entrepreneurs, results are starting to show. The companies Agrícola Antar and Panafruit both took part in CBI’s Connecting Central America project and have achieved outstanding results.

Increasing okra sales to Europe by 40%

Since 2019, 60 Central American companies have received technical assistance and training via CBI’s export coaching project. Many of these companies have achieved excellent results. Agrícola Antar, a Honduran okra enterprise led by 2 women entrepreneurs, is one of them. When the company started the CBI project, its sales to Europe were zero. Now, as much as 40% of its okra sales go to the European market.

The company’s goal was to expand its sales to the European market and receive a fair price for its product. During the Connecting Central America project, the company took the necessary steps to compete in the European market. CBI helped by providing (virtual) training sessions on digital marketing, personal coaching sessions with CBI experts and participation in (online) trade fairs.

The company started working on getting GLOBALG.A.P. certification before taking part in the project. And the training sessions reinforced how crucial this certification is for the European market. While taking part in the project, Agrícola Antar got certified. Through the project, Agrícola Antar also attended trade fairs such as Fruit Attraction 2019 in Madrid and Fruit Logistica in 2020 in Berlin. There, they met new European customers, who are now among their strongest clients.

Would you like to know more about Agrícola Antar and its successes? Take a look at its success story video!

Papaya exporter prepares for the European market

Another company that achieved great results during the project is Panafruit. Panafruit is a family business from Panama, founded in 2001. The company is dedicated to the production and export of papaya. They handle the entire process from planting and packing to export.

Maryan Safi, a packing plant manager, explains that the company joined the Connecting Central America project to grow and enter the European market. Before Panafruit joined the project, it focused more on American and Canadian markets. With the help of the project, it worked to achieve the certifications needed to enter the European market. Panafruit has been trying to get GLOBALG.A.P. certification since 2018. Thanks to the project, it achieved GLOBALG.A.P and GRASP certification in 2021. The company is looking forward to getting other certifications such as SMETA and Rainforest Alliance.

During the project, Panafruit benefitted from business to business meetings and coaching throughout the process. The meetings resulted in 8 potential European clients and an increase in sales to non-European markets. “CBI also helped us a lot with training,” says Maryan. One of the training sessions focused on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). “CBI helped us make a CSR roadmap, which included strengthening the company's social aspect. We had a direct advisor, who helped us strengthen the company’s weaknesses and achieve our main goal, entering the European market,” says Maryan.

Would you like to know more about Panafruit and its successes? Take a look at its success story video

Meet the companies

Panafruit, Agrícola Antar and 2 other companies from the Connecting Central America project will present their quality products at Fruit Logistica from 5 – 7 April. Fruit Logistica in Berlin is the largest fruit and vegetable fair in the world. 

The companies will be in:

  • Hall 25/C-14: supplier from Costa Rica at the PROCOMER pavilion;
  • Hall 26/D-10: suppliers from Guatemala, Honduras and Panama at the CBI pavilion.

Connecting Central America

The European Union (EU) co-finances the Connecting Central America project. The Secretariat for Economic Integration of Central America (SIECA) coordinates it.

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