Horti-Consult on market exploration in Guatemala and Costa Rica

Tomato business as usual, even with the armed guards

Each year, the cultivation consultants from Horti-Consult International organize a study trip to a distant destination. How do they cultivate in a place where everything is different, and what are the challenges and solutions? For example, in recent years, study trips were made to South Korea (2013), Brazil (2014), Azerbaijan (2015) and Poland (2016). Due to the passing of Ruud van Amersfoort, last year’s edition was cancelled, but now the suitcases were packed again for a visit to Guatemala and Costa Rica.

At the time of the visit, the volcano Fuego had just started the second eruption of the year.

The full report by Gilbert Heijens can be read here (in Dutch). Below are the summaries of the visits to Bejo Guatemala, tomato nursery Tomato & Co and Detpon Guatemala. The gentlemen noticed particularly that, among other things, the Netherlands is investing heavily in agriculture and horticulture in the country that is three times as large as the Netherlands, but with 'only' fifteen million inhabitants. Politically and economically the country is stable, but at the entrances of the various companies there were armed guards as a precaution.

Bejo Guatemala
At Bejo a visit was made to the test seed center. Bejo is especially successful in the area of fruit-bearing vegetable crops. There are 36 people working here, while in the field there are another 250 people busy with the vegetables. Commercial varieties are planted between the test varieties, but everything was very nicely set up, as it turned out during a three-hour tour. The radish is remarkably large in fruit. Thrips, bemisia and fusarium are the biggest challenges. In order to educate the growers of the future, Bejo has established a school to train growers’ children.

Tomato nursery Tomato & Co
Also in Guatemala they can’t do without tomatoes. The consultants visited a nursery where year-round they grow 36 kilos/m2 annually. Production started in 2002, and now 73 varieties are grown. From 2012, hydroponics is also used. The growers have a lot of trouble from patrioza insects, but by using netting, this has decreased.

Wind directions change rapidly in Guatemala. Irrigation was first fine-tuned to light, but the differences in absorption due to different atmospheric humidity were insufficiently taken into account, as the cultivation consultants observed.

They also have a lot of problems in Guatemala with quality. The quality of the water certainly needs to be improved (sodium, but also too much stagnant water). We also discussed about the size of the mixing bin with the growers that we think was too small, while the water supply basin was too big, causing oxygen-depleted water. The water should be aerated more.

Detpon Guatemala
After the harvest vegetables must be packed and transported. This is done at Detpon Guatemala, a packing station. Here, various vegetables from the open field and from the greenhouse are packed and sent to North America. Especially Miami appears to be an appealing choice because of the relatively close location.

The quality of the products stood out positively. A total of 600 employees worked here.

After the visit to Guatemala, also Costa Rica was visited, especially to see the beautiful nature. In Costa Rica a bromeliad nursery was visited, a coffee plantation and the botanical garden of the Centro Agronomico Tropical de Investigación y Enseñanza, where 400 tomato varieties are stored in a gene bank. Furthermore, a cocoa tour was made, the gentlemen had a look at the pineapple cultivation, after which finally two local markets were visited.

For more information:
Gilbert Heijens
Horti-Consult International 

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