Saturday, February 7, 2009

High Demand for Avocados is an Opportunity

From 2005 to 2008, Guatemalan avocado production rose from 20 thousand to 35 thousand tons. The growing global demand for the fruit opens the way for the development of a thriving agricultural industry.

Melgar Nestor Blanco, technical advisor to Profruta, commented that as a backyard crop this fruit has taken off. It's estimated that future production will increase at a rate of 10 thousand tons per year, which by 2013 corresponds to 90 thousand tons of production.

The area under cultivation with avocados in Guatemala has increased from 2,500 hectares in 2005 to 5,000 hectares in 2008. By 2013 it's expected to be 10,000 hectares. Engineers expect that from 2009 to 2012, both production and area under cultivation will increase threefold.

At present, avocado production provides employment to about 8,000 to 10,000 people.

Alex Montenegro, Profruta Marketing Coordinator, explained that one of the first steps to boosting the avocado industry is to integrate all the links in the supply chain.

U.S. avocado production is about 250,000 metric tons but this falls short of demand by about 80,000 tons which must be imported. There is also potential for sales in the EU where people have a tendency to eat more healthy foods like avocados. At present, Guatemala also exports avocados to El Salvador, Honduras, and Costa Rica.

It's an important market. $40 million in advertising for avocados is spent annually in the United States, Mexico and Chile. The high demand for avocados represents an opportunity for the country since conditions of climate and soil in Guatemala are ideal for the production of avocados.

Focus on Child Labor

The National Coffee Association (Anacafé) conducted an analysis of local perceptions about child labor, which is to provide the basis of a national policy to eradicate child labor.

According to Anacafé, the goal of this research is to establish a benchmark of knowledge, information, causes and effects of child labor in the country's coffee sector, which will also provide guidance for strategies of awareness, training and outreach, and to strengthen efforts to reduce and prevent it.

Jesus De la Peña Rípodas, subregional coordinator of the International Program to Eradicate Child Labor (IPEC) of the International Labor Organization (ILO), said: "It is of utmost importance to have information that indicates the perception of child labor in this [the coffee] sector." He added that it will serve as a basis for strategies for the prevention and eradication of child labor, specifically in the various sectors of the coffee trade."

According to the Ministry of Labor, there are an estimated one million child laborers nationwide. More information

Cold Wave Hits Guatemala

The National Coordinator for Disaster Reduction declared a yellow alert due to the cold temperatures and high winds that have sent people scurrying for heavier clothes, coats, hats, and scarves. The Relief Corps is mobilized to assist people suffering from hypothermia. Temperatures in Guatemala City, the Highlands, Huehue, Xela, and Alta Verapaz have been in the range of 0 to 9 degrees C with winds of 40 to 50 kmh.

The Department of Social Development has requested that if citizens discover people suffering from hypothermia, particularly the homeless, that they bring them to Relief Corps shelters.

High winds have disrupted electric service in several towns including Esquintla, Puerto San Jose and Santa Lucia Cotzumalguapa, aggravating the problems of cold weather.

The winds are expected to diminish during the weekend.