Colombia: The potential of minor crops

The exports of Colombia's agricultural sector are traditionally dominated by coffee, flowers, bananas and palm oil. They have been their flag products in the end markets.

Some have their main customers in the European Union while others aim at the large stores in the US market, one of the most appreciated markets because of the high purchasing power of its inhabitants.

In these markets, the other minor crops, which may be regarded as exotic, have earned a space and have great potential of having very good prices.

These products may be exported fresh but, according to experts, its better to export them as dried fruits, jellies, jams and preserves, as it would allow the country to offer added value and increase the dynamics of the regional economies.

According to ProColombia, the agency that promotes exports, tourism, investment and Colombia's national brand, one of the fruits that has a great potential is the mango, as its main customer in the American market, for example, is the Hispanic community.

It can be exported processed, semi-processed, and in fresh slices (peeled, seeded and cut in slices that aren't bigger than 1.5 centimeters thick).

The Tahiti lime also has potential because, according to ProColombia, Mexico, the main supplier of the US market, can't supply this market in the first four months of the year, which potentiates the opportunities for Colombia.

"Additionally, the presence of the yellow dragon pest in this citrus crops in some regions of Mexico increased import costs for the United States, which motivated importers to look for new suppliers," added ProColombia.

This sector's growth is evidenced by the sales in 2014, which were 14 times higher than in 2012. According to the Dane, sales went from 306,143 dollars in 2012 to 4.5 million dollars in 2014.

Overcoming obstacles
Over the years, the culture of cape gooseberry in Colombia has overcome different health obstacles. Recently, it surpassed its hardest obstacle and it can now be exported to the US market without cold treatment.

According to ProColombia, this fruit is very appreciated and has a growing demand, not only in the US but also in the European and Asian markets.

"This super fruit, which has various health benefits, has opportunities in New Jersey, Texas, Washington, New York, and California, among other states. Thanks to the FTA with the US, Colombia can export without paying tariffs," stated ProColombia.

Another fruit with a great potential is the Hass avocado, which has been highly promoted by the Ministry of Agriculture. Exports of this fruit in the first quarter of 2015 surpassed total exports in 2014, and amounted to 4.5 million dollars.

This fruit is widely consumed and its sales in the US and Europe, its two biggest markets amounts to 3,000 million dollars.

Other prized fruits include the gulupa, dragon fruit, granadilla, tree tomato, and passion fruit.

According to ProColombia, the great strength of the country is its tropical climate, the variety of thermal floors and its lands that are highly rich in nutrients. The country can offer fresh fruits and vegetables, including exotic ones, at times when other countries have no production.

Untapped native fruits
In Colombia, there are some wild fruits that grow between 2,500 and 3,200 meters above sea level that would be highly desired by the international markets because of their medicinal benefits. Unfortunately, these fruits are neglected and underutilized.

According to Victor Hugo Morales Nunez, manager of Agronegocio y Proyectos Ltda., these fruits include wild blackberries, such as the sour grapes and a fruit popularly known as the big grape.

"These areas have a wealth of wild fruits that could be part of an exportable supply, as they are within the exotic range and their production is organic, natural," he added.

According to Nunez Morales, these are fine fruits that could be exploited through associative systems with small producers, while retaining their wildness, an asset that would increase their economic value.

"All the berries that come from Argentina and Chile are very expensive, and we have some more natural varieties that are striking. We are underusing our native fruits. The Americans took our raspberries and improved them so they could offer them to the world; meanwhile, we do not even have a minimum research process to conserve these genetic materials, which are of great value," he said.

Source: Editorial Mexicoxport / with information from

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