International Women's Day: The driving force behind Guatemalan avocados’ admission into the U.S.

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International Women's Day: The driving force behind Guatemalan avocados’ admission into the U.S.

When Gloria Polanco decided to abandon her career in advertising and marketing for the world of agriculture, she never imagined that she would end up leaving a permanent mark on the history of Guatemalan exports.

In 1983, with a devalued quetzal, the local currency, and a severe shortage of foreign investment affecting the country due to the internal armed conflicts of the time, Gloria did what so many women in search of independence and economic stability have done throughout the ages: she became an entrepreneur.

This calculated risk, for which she consolidated all her knowledge in the area of marketing and international trade, bore unexpected fruits. Between this first decision that led her to explore new paths and her current position as president of Agexport's Avocado Committee, there are countless stories and anecdotes.


After a visit to London, England, Gloria was able to closely observe the success of tropical fruits such as mangoes in European markets. Years later this improvised field study, would give her the final push to lay the foundation stone of what today is Frutesa, the company that she has led for 40 years

Out of the ten potential clients she contacted through telex, five were interested in buying Guatemalan mangoes, and the new businesswoman made her first official sale after some initial test shipments.

"I gathered everything I needed. The supply, the demand, the packaging material, the transportation. The men who cut the fruit began to bring huge quantities of mangoes to the collection center where I was waiting for them, but there was no one who could pack them. I had failed to foresee that," Gloria recounted to

"At noon, I found myself sitting among thousands of mangoes and I had no idea how I was going to pack them, when the women who were bringing lunches to their husbands, who would cut the mangoes, began to arrive. I told them that I could give them a job if they helped me pack."

The response from these women was not immediate, as they had to go back to feed their children at home. But word spread quickly and that day several of them soon arrived to take up Gloria on her offer.

A working relationship was forged that would last for years and that today continues to characterize Frutesa, where the vast majority of its packers are women.

"God planted the avocado in Guatemala"

As one of the countries of origin of this fruit, Guatemala has among most favorable climatic conditions for its cultivation, which today allow it to have a local production practically all year round. The main harvesting period coming from mid-October to mid-February.

Currently, Frutesa exports avocados to the EU with great success. However, the entrepreneur has her eyes set on the U.S. market.

The firm exports by air and sea from Santo Tomás Milpas Altas, in the country’s southern Sacatepéquez region. Its star products are snow peas and sweet peas, French peas, blackberries and, of course, avocados.

The great international success of this fruit has led the Guatemalan Avocado Committee to carry out all the pest studies and procedures to achieve the admissibility of the product to the U.S. 

The documentation, which was sent in October 2022, is now awaiting a response from the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS).

"From the committee we are putting a lot of energy into it, giving it follow-up and momentum and collaborating with everything we can to achieve admissibility. Although the U.S. market is very well served by the Mexican industry, we believe it still has opportunities for us who are starting on a small scale," Polanco told

The committee chairwoman explains that they are currently working on identifying all the harvestgaps in order to implement new methodologies to improve production efficiency and reduce the presence of pests, which is a problem dueto the country's humid climate.

"Our competitive advantage is that the Guatemalan avocado is very tasty. The consistency and flavor are much better. In addition, we can reach the U.S., by land or sea, in up to four days, which gives us good marketing windows with our Hass and Booth 8 varieties," she said.

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