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Fresh fruit for the world

Article - September 13, 2011
Fruta Internacional turns the exotic into the readily available everywhere it goes
While chayote, yucca, guava, star fruit, and papaya may have sounded as exotic to North Americans as the contents of Carmen Miranda’s fruit hat, apples, pears, peaches, and grapes used to have a similar effect on the inhabitants of many tropical nations.  

In 1988, Alvaro Figueroa and his wife Cristina Guzman decided to try their hand at growing and marketing one of the temperate world’s favorite fruits, the strawberry. Such was their success that their newly established company, Fruta Internacional, in an ironic turning of the trade tide, began exporting strawberries to Europe and North America, thereby lengthening their strawberry season.

“After that,” muses Mr. Figueroa, “we thought that if we could sell strawberries, we could sell just about anything!”

And right he was. Five years later, Fruta Internacional (the company founded to deal with the import/export business) began importing fruit which at the time was considered exotic, such as apples, grapes, and nectarines, from the United States and then selling it at home in Costa Rica and to other countries in Central America. Today, the company works with a wide variety of perishable fruit and vegetables, not limited to blueberries, cherries, avocadoes, garlic, and potatoes, proceeding from Chile, China, Mexico, Canada, Spain, Argentina, France, and Peru, among others.

Conversely, Fruta Internacional, through its company Agroindustrial Tres Amigos, grows high quality tropical fruit, namely pineapple, and markets it abroad in the U.S., the U.K., Spain, Italy, and other European countries.

In branching out geographically, Fruta Internacional has created various other companies that operate out of different countries, including Five Diamond Cold Storage in California, Grupo Dispersa in Guatemala, Imporfrut in Honduras and El Salvador, and South Fruits in Chile.

“We’ve globalized the fruit business with a global operation of some US$200 million a year,” says Mr. Figueroa.

To find Fruta Internacional’s produce in Costa Rica, one need only visit the company’s branches in the country’s most important markets or browse the aisles of select grocery stores. “As a producer or vendor we know that growth lies in the supermarkets,” comments the company president. “They’ve become our main customers.”

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