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Project helps Guatemalans learn about international trade, agricultural marketing

High Plains/Midwest Ag Journal, USA

Project helps Guatemalans learn about international trade, agricultural marketing

14 August 2009

Through its Food for Progress efforts, the Norman Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture is helping farmers, agribusiness people and others in Guatemala make the most of producing, marketing and exporting a variety of agricultural products, said a project coordinator.

"Texas A&M System experts have offered a series of workshops on free trade and agricultural marketing opportunities for Guatemalan farmers through this USDA-funded project," said Johanna Roman, Latin American programs coordinator for the Borlaug Institute. "We expect these to have a positive impact in Guatemala’s private sector by boosting trade, increasing productivity and job opportunities, and opening new markets for Guatemalan agricultural products."

One of the main topics addressed in these workshops is the Dominican Republic and Central American Fair Trade Agreement involving the U.S., the Central American countries of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua, and the Dominican Republic.

In July, Dr. Parr Rosson and Flynn Adcock of the Center for North American Studies of the Texas A&M System presented the latest in a series of workshops on this agreement at the Escuela Nacional Central Agricultura in Barcena, Guatemala.

The three consecutive day-long workshops were presented free of charge to Guatemalan agricultural producers, agribusiness owners, non-governmental organization representatives, university faculty and others. According to the Borlaug Institute’s project director in Guatemala, Felipe Lehnhoff, more than 110 people representing 23 institutions or organizations attended the three workshops.

Those represented included the Universidad de San Carlos de Guatemala, Universidad Rafael Landivar, Universidad del Valle de Guatemala, Escuela Nacional de Agricultura, Ministerio de Agricultura, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Fondo de Tierras, AGEXPORT, Helvetas, DEFRUGUA, S. A., Rain Forest Alliance, Save the Children, Valle Fertil, AGROVEGSA and Fundación Agil.

Since mid-2007, eight DR-CAFTA workshops have been presented by the Borlaug Institute and have been supported by Texas A&M staff in cooperation with in-country institute personnel working on Food for Progress activities.

"The ultimate benefit of these is that they help Guatemalan producers by helping create new jobs and new agricultural markets, and to learn when and how to market their products so they can get better prices and improve their income," said Rosson, Texas AgriLife Extension Service economist and the center’s director.

Rosson estimates more than 300 people have attended the workshops since they were first offered in mid-2007. "Attendees get an overview of CAFTA and what the market potential is for exporting to the U.S., as well as learning about things like tariffs, business planning, export procedures, international standards and other topics of interest," said Adcock, also an AgriLife Extension economist and the center’s assistant director.

Guatemala exported more than $1.3 billion in agricultural products to the U.S. in 2008, Adcock noted. While its main agricultural exports are bananas, coffee and products made from sugar cane, there is an increasing interest in and opportunity for "non-traditional" agricultural products such as peas, pineapple, cantaloupe, frozen broccoli, macadamia nuts - even flowers.

"We also share information on websites where they can get a lot of free information on CAFTA and associated topics," Adcock said. "They’re usually surprised to learn how much information is available through the Internet from the USDA and U.S. Customs and Border Protection, even the CIA World Fact Book site and Canadian export websites."

"We’re helping them find new markets and understand the entire agricultural marketing process," Rosson added. "This will help them know what products are cleared for export, how to comply with international standards and the optimal timing to market so as not to compete with U.S. producers."

The Borlaug Institute also is assisting by providing additional agricultural product-marketing advice and expertise through the Food for Progress project in the person of Dr. Marco Palma, an AgriLife Extension horticultural marketing expert.

Since 2007 Palma has been making two to three trips annually to Guatemala to present an agricultural marketing workshop focusing on fruits, vegetables and flowers for domestic sale and export to other countries.

"These workshops also help the U.S. consumer by helping the Guatemalans improve their agricultural practices, and increase food safety to provide us with a better and greater variety of agricultural products for consumption," Palma said.

Palma estimates that since 2007 he has reached more than 640 people involved in horticultural production and associated industries through his presentations in Guatemala.

His workshop is typically divided into eight modules presented over a two-day period. Topics include: international trade opportunities, U.S. fruit and vegetable trends and opportunities, production management practices, quality control, produce marketing strategies, developing a business and marketing plan, pricing strategies and personnel management.

Also working in cooperation with the Borlaug Institute’s Food for Progress project in Guatemala is Pedro Schambon, president and co-founder of the 22-acre My Father’s Farm in Seguin, Texas. The organic farm is part of a non-profit organization that has built orphanages in North and South America, including one next to My Father’s Farm in Seguin. Schambon, originally from Bogota, grows organic vegetables to help support the Texas orphanage.