Despite abnormal weather conditions this year, Guatemala is still a top source of fruit and vegetable exports from Central America this year.
Crops haven’t reached top quality yet, said Amador Sanchez, salesman at Fresh King Inc., Homestead, Fla. Snow peas, sugar snap peas and miniature vegetables have been affected by nonseasonal rains and depressed volume, he said.
“We have a very, very strong presence in Guatemala,” said Charlie Eagle, vice president of business development for Southern Specialties, Pompano Beach, Fla., who counted items including sugar snaps, snow peas, French beans, baby squash and specialty lettuce, as well as a growing blackberry program.
Eagle also affirmed that he was not worried about shortages that are expected to lapse by late December.
Maria Gutierrez, sales manager for Fresh King Inc., said the adverse weather has caused high pricing for snow peas and sugar snaps.
“Prices are inflated because they don’t really represent the value of the product,” she said.
Sugar snap peas and snow peas are starting to come back, and the market should be stabilizing in coming weeks, Gutierrez said.
Eddie Caram, director of operations at New Limeco, LLC, Princeton, Fla., said New Limeco is bringing 10 loads a week out of papayas from Guatemala.
“We’re going to be really, really big for papayas,” he said of the long, red formosa variety the company will be increasing this year from Guatemala as well as Belize by February.
Melons are also a strong import product from Guatemala, though some suppliers note a slight dip in demand.
“We have noticed the overall demand for honeydew had decreased a little bit,” said Lou Kertesz, vice president of Fresh Quest Produce Inc., Pompano Beach, which grows about 8,000 acres of melons over two growing seasons in Guatemala. “We think it has something to do with the inconsistency of the variety and quality.”
Kertesz said he hopes Fresh Quest’s “next generation” cantaloupe will help stabilize the market by providing consistent high sweetness. He said the company is working on a similar variety of honeydew.
“We still maintain about 6 million boxes between our Honduras and Guatemala programs,” he said.
Kertesz also said the company is growing 100% new generation cantaloupes, which have a higher brix level.
“Some of the competitors are trying to replicate our program and haven’t had much success at it,” he said.
Fresh Quest also signed a long-term agreement with Port Manatee south of Tampa that provides flexible load times and start-of-the-art cooler facilities.
Michael Warren president of Central American Produce, Pompano Beach, said Central American Produce has been growing melons in the region for more than 30 years. The company has two farms each growing two seasons in order to provide consistent supply from November to May.
Warren said he is expecting arrival around the end of December and the first week of January.
“Volumes overall at the moment are probably up a little bit,” he said. “Rain last year affected early production. As we get further along in our growing season, weather doesn’t become an issue.”
Warren said that although erratic rains in Guatemala did not harm the early melon crops, temperatures are a little bit higher than normal.
“The difference of day and night is a little closer than usual,” he said of the temperature disparity that helps improve melon brix levels.
“As we go into our next growing area in early January, we have much wider range of temperatures and the melons we typically get at that type have even that much more flavor, sweetness and appearance.”
Warren said Central American Produce is also working with growers to receive product from Honduras to fill a short gap between the company’s two Guatemalan growing areas.
Suppliers of Honduran produce said Honduran President Manuel Zelaya’s removal from office in June and a disputed election last month have not led to any hiccups in the agricultural export market.
After initially refusing to recognize the interim government or the election, the U.S. has reversed course and recognized the recent presidential elections, thus diffusing the possibility of further sanctions against the country, which lost some humanitarian aid as a result of Zelaya’s removal from office.
“It will be resolved in the political arena and will have no affect on the importing of the fruits,” Kertesz said. “For the overall best interests of the country, agriculture is usually left alone and should continue on as normal.”