This has been a difficult year for Panamanian melon and watermelon exporters. Thrips have decimated Panama's fruit production for exports by 15%, which was already affected by the logistical difficulties there were to export products to the markets of Germany, the Netherlands, the United States, and the high price of agricultural inputs.
“We are facing difficult times,” summarized Ricardo García Salas, president of the Non-Traditional Agricultural Exporters Guild of Panama (Gantrap).
This year, exporters have had to deal with a lack of space in the containers to be able to export and a significant increase in freight prices, which went from paying $4,000 - $4,500 per container to $8,000, which affected their profitability.
They have also had to face the delay of ships, a situation that directly affected the fruit, which on some occasions arrived damaged at its destination.
Francisco Antunez, former president of Gantrap, said that the high costs of inputs have also impacted exporters, noting, by way of example, that the corners used in the boxes to separate the fruits went from costing $0.75 to $1.25, and that the boxes went from costing $1.62 to $2.20, nowadays.
The agricultural exporter said that they had exported approximately 1,300 containers this agricultural year, a much lower number than the 5,000 containers they exported in 2019. Exports have practically ended and the only product left to export is a remnant of melon in the region of Tonosí, province of Los Santos.
However, despite the setbacks, Antunez believes there will be a 10% increase in agricultural exports this year over 2021.