But unlike the country’s Hass avocados, which entered the U.S. market for the first time this year and already had a sizeable export deal with Europe to begin with, Colombia doesn’t have a substantial fresh pepper industry to speak of.
According to export promotion agency ProColombia, Last year Colombia grew 28,893 metric tons (MT) of the crop and received export returns of US$124,607 with Curacao, Aruba, Canada and Panama as the main destination markets.
“From the point of view of market access, our goal is always open the market and generate the conditions. That means if there are investors with capital they already know the market conditions they have in order to produce,” says ProColombia SPS (Sanitary and Phytosanitary) representative Luis Ernesto Forero.
“But right now as they don’t have full access you can’t offer a company to invest because the guarantees aren’t there yet.”
The Ministry of Agriculture recently announced a priority list of 15 products it hoped would gain access to the U.S. market, and Forero adds peppers are at the top, followed by melons and watermelons as a joint package deal and then mangoes.
He says the scientific and technical aspects regarding peppers have already been discussed with U.S. counterparts.
“We proposed the same as what Central America has, which is nothing new, called enclosed greenhouses, and Peru and Ecuador recently got access for that too,” Forero says.
“They are closed greenhouses with double doors – in Colombia that’s being developed in what’s called the “Diamante Caribe” (Colombian Diamond), a zone in Cesar in northern Colombia.
“That’s an area where production takes place. There is a company with Israeli capital that is doing the first greenhouse installations to be able to produce under those requirements – there is a cooperation deal between an Israeli-Dutch group and a community of producers.”
He says growers of crops grown in that region could use Colombia’s existing export infrastructure and ports that are used for exporting other fruit crops like bananas.