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Piet Schotel, Fruit Consultancy Europe:

Guatemala: Certifications become more and more important

“If you are interested in doing business with Europe, it's important to know the role of the supermarkets. They control the market in terms of the requirements for the fresh produce, for example the Global GAP certification, the hygiene protocols, as well as sustainability, nowadays. In my opinion, if you don’t meet these requirements, it’s almost impossible to do business in Europe”, starts Piet Schotel from Fruit Consultancy Europe.

During the Agritrade in Guatemala, it was also possible for visitors to join the conference program. The first day finished with a panel about fresh produce top trends in the USA, Canada, and Europe. Piet Schotel represented Europe on this panel and gave his idea of what an exporter should do to succeed in exporting to Europe.

Piet Schotel explained in his presentation that the majority of fresh produce being sold, goes through supermarkets, one way or another. This is why the known requirements are important, such as Global GAP, BRC, social requirements, and sustainability. As well, the pesticide rules that producers must take into account.

“It’s important for exporters to realise that, just having a high-quality product and good prices, isn’t enough. To be able to export to Europe, you must have everything well organized including all certifications. This is becoming more and more important, as also supermarkets in Central-America and the United States have started asking for these certifications”, continues Piet.

Moreover, Piet mentions health and convenience as trends in Europe. Taste, experience, and convenience are the keywords at the moment. In the case of Guatemala, a good example is avocados. Guatemala is in the process of establishing a good avocado crop, which is healthy, popular and trendy in the European market.

Export coaching program
Piet Schotel is the consultant in the export coaching program from Agexport. “It was initially a program for fruit producers, however, some companies also have vegetables in their assortment. There are several companies participating in this programme for example, with rambutan, mangostan, avocado, limes and also blackberries, in combination with beans and peas.”

He explains that to be able to join the programme, you must have Global GAP or at least be willing to get it. “It’s not difficult to sell a product to an empty market. However, as soon as there is sufficient supply, expectations are that the products meet all requirements. This includes having Global GAP. It’s quite an investment for companies to get this certification. It’s a choice companies have to make.

“As soon as companies have the necessary certification, we advise them commercially. This doesn’t mean I try to be their agent, but we try to get companies export ready. I inform the companies on how to do business in Europe, how to communicate with the importers, give advice in potential companies with the right product mix etc. The actual business should be done by themselves.”


According to Piet, there are some very professional companies in Guatemala. Especially, in the peas and snaps. There are, as well, companies with a very good product, but they haven’t completely organized their business in terms of certification. This is referring to the production of the most known products in Guatemala. For example, avocado is upcoming in Guatemala, so there is a lot of space for improvement still.

This is the first time in years that Guatemalan avocados have been successfully exported to Europe. However, there is a lot of potential for Guatemalan avocados. If the market is full with Peruvian and South African avocados, it’s too difficult to compete. However, they have the right window and the right variety. Meaning their avocados are an additional supply in the market.

“Looking at the broad assortment of produce in Guatemala, we know they are performing strongly on peas, snaps and mini vegetables, and blackberries are a well-established product”, continues Piet. “The Guatemalan rambutan often gets exported to the United States, because of a high consumption level, due to the Asian population. Other Central-American countries and Mexico export rambutan into the US market. Therefore, Guatemala also exports some volume to Europe. Yet the consumption level is low and they have strong competition from Asia. An advantage over Asian companies could be the certification and high quality produce.

More products are produced, for example, mango, melons and pineapple. However, it’s often mainly exported into the United States instead of Europe explains Piet. “It’s easier for Guatemala to export to the US, compared to Europe with the stricter requirements. Logistical costs are also higher when exporting to Europe. It all influences the cost price, which eventually makes it more difficult to compete. However, as soon as the US market isn’t promising anymore, exporters try to switch to the European market. Then often they notice they can’t find clients anymore.

“First, I would like to say that Guatemala is performing quite well. Often I’m pleasantly surprised when visiting the companies and it’s a professional country. Nonetheless, their challenge is the logistical process in airfreight. There are limited options of direct lines to Europe or, for example, options that have non-favourable arriving days. If cargo has a stopover via Miami or Panama for example, it brings a lot of disadvantages such as more time, higher costs and it’s not ideal for the cold chain.

Moreover, I always advise the companies in our programme to make use of market differentiation. Some companies have everything it takes to export to both the United States and European market. Unfortunately, often habit and convenience hinder their export opportunities.

For more information:
Piet Schotel
Fruit Consultancy Europe
T: + 31 153809311

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