To The Editor,
Six months after winning the Store of the Future award at Natural Products Expo West (see The Store of the Future Finds a Home in Costa Rica NFM, April 2003), here I am in Costa Rica. I want to thank all the sponsors who contributed to the store and those who donated the seven pallets and six crates of shelving, bedding, herbs, vitamins, olives, soaps and cleaning goods to the Store of the Future.
It had been my plan to relocate and get involved in the health food industry in Costa Rica for some time now. I finally had decided to make the move, resigned from my job as general manager of Nature's Food Patch in Clearwater, Fla., and started moving—and then I won the Store of the Future award! In my 29 years in the organic industry, this could not have come at a more perfect time.
The Store of the Future and I have partnered up with a well-established and rapidly expanding organic grower/wholesaler/importer/exporter in Costa Rica, Hiedras Organicas S.A. Plans are in the works to open the first store early next year. The Store of the Future will feature many of the donated products along with other imported products from the United States and Canada. It will also serve as a desperately needed marketing base for local organic products available in Costa Rica and imported from around the region.
Hiedras Organicas imports and distributes U.S.-manufactured organic rice, soy, oat and almond milks from Pacific Foods; Muir Glen tomato products; children's Yummi Bear vitamins; Alacer Emer'gen-C products; and locally grown organic produce into the majority of the local supermarket chains in Costa Rica, as well as to pharmacies and doctors' offices. Hiedras has more than seven years in the Costa Rican market and has just finished a new warehouse facility, complete with offices, translation and labeling facilities, and a small fleet of delivery vehicles. Hiedras also supplies technical assistance in organics to local growers to help produce better quality organic produce. It also grows organic peanuts, edamame soybeans, limes and asparagus for the local market. Hiedras has grown an astronomical 300 percent over the last two years.
On the larger production side, my local partners in Costa Rica have been working in the organic industry in Latin America for more than 16 years. We are working with growers, investigating problems that are not readily addressed by conventional or organic agriculture in the region and teaching ecologically, socially and economically sound production systems that are based on the "Principles of Organic Agriculture" (see www.IFOAM.org). The balancing principles of organic agriculture have been fine-tuned over the last 16 years in Latin America and adapted to the needs of these specific soils. As a result, technical services in plant nutrition are provided on a constant basis to both organic and conventional growers, farming more than 70,000 hectares (168,000 acres) as of this writing. The acreage is increasing daily as growers, both conventional and organic, learn the secrets of balancing their soils.
Our North American partner, the U.S. Organic Fruit Company Inc., is the U.S. import/export arm of this international organic triangle. The company buys finished products in the U.S. for export to Latin America and now has two years of making successful equity investments with organic growers in Peru. Via a new funding source, U.S. Organic Fruit plans to substantially increase its equity position on more organic farms. It imports, on the fresh side, organic fruits and vegetables via marketing, technology and equity agreements with Latin American growers. Current projects include organic asparagus, peanuts, sugarcane, sweet onions, mangoes, grapes, avocados and limes in Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Peru and Brazil.
Robert B. Roman
vice president of international purchasing & sales for the U.S. Organic Fruit Co.
Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXIV/number 11/p. 16