ANTIGUA, Guatemala — Seminars at trade shows, while informative, don’t always come through with something you can act on once you return to the office.

Rolling out the welcome mat at Guatemala expo

Chris Koger
News Editor

If Guatemalan exporters attending a morning seminar at the Agritrade Expo and Conference March 18 don’t take action on what they heard, shame on them.

Rolling out the welcome mat at Guatemala expo


Bill Gerlach, Louisville, Colo.-based director of marketing and research for World Variety Produce, Los Angeles, not only discussed what specialty items his company is interested in, he implored exporters to follow through by contacting him.

The list ranges from rhubarb and non-tommy atkins mangoes to Asian eggplants and Tainung-variety papayas.

“In particular, we need the loquat, the bitter melon, we need Chinese long bean, we need Japanese eggplant, sugar snap peas, snow peas, Chinese okra, Thai chili … and I’ve seen most of that downstairs at the trade show, so I know they are available here.”

What Melissa’s (World Variety’s well-known brand) needs, Gerlach said, is a logistics plan, minimum order flexibility, phytosanitary documentation and CIF (cost, insurance, freight) pricing.

“Find a big importer on the West Coast, let us know who you are working with, and we will buy pallets from them as we need them, and we will slowly increase the market together,” Gerlach said.

Plan before planting, of course, said Gerlach, rolling out the welcome mat for World Variety’s headquarters or the company’s Produce Marketing Association Fresh Summit booth this fall.

“I’m not making a commitment here today, I’m just giving you suggestions of things to think about and you can come and talk to us about,” he said.

So there it is, just one example of the opportunities between the U.S. and Guatemala that Agritrade highlighted.

Problems arise

Later that day, another seminar served as a warning about the potential problems with international commerce.

Craig Stokes, an attorney with offices in San Antonio and Miami, deals with Perishable Agriculture Commodities Act cases. He used a current case to show the importance of following PACA procedures to avoid losing rights to compensation when a U.S. business fails.

Rolling out the welcome mat at Guatemala expo


Bacchus Fresh International, Glen Ellyn, Ill., closed its doors in early March, reportedly leaving about a $1 million in debt and less than $300,000 in assets. Stokes is working on behalf of several clients in the case.

He made an example of a Mexican company — Stokes did not name it — that is out $200,000.

“You will have protection under the law only if you take the proper measures … it is not an automatic clause that will protect you,” he said.

Harris NA, the Chicago-based bank that froze Bacchus Fresh’s assets, is asking a judge in the case to exonerate it from further losses under the PACA trust if the bank releases the money to PACA creditors.

Stokes said the bank will have to cede in the case, and PACA creditors will receive some return on their losses.

Not quite local

In yet another seminar on global market trends, Felipe Perez, the Newark, Del.-based Produce Marketing Association’s representative in Central America and the Dominican Republic, said Guatemala should take note of locally grown marketing messages in the U.S.

Granted, exporters in Guatemala and other Central American countries can’t jump on the bandwagon, but they can use social marketing to introduce themselves to American consumers.

Rolling out the welcome mat at Guatemala expo


“Tell your stories,” Perez said.

“They want to trust you and know you, if you’re on the other side of the world or the other side of town. … Let the consumer know about your product and know about you.”

A website with information on growers and Facebook and Twitter accounts are all part of the package, Perez said.

“The problem is that your competitor is already doing that,” he said. “The key is to put a face to your product.”


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