Over the years, Costa Rica has been considered an attractive destination for tourism. However, it also stands out for being an economically stable country with significant GDP growth, generating the attention of international investors and companies looking to grow and diversify their business operations. Randall Ortego Castillo, founder of RACO Investment and an expert in importing and exporting from Costa Rica and Panama, shares some opportunities available for exporting from Costa Rica.
Today, Costa Rica occupies first place in the exportation of the best pineapple in the world and concentrated pineapple juice. It also ranks third in banana export. There are many interesting business opportunities in Costa Rica, and the sectors are diverse. Explains Castillo, “Costa Rica has 14 trade agreements with several countries. In addition to the pineapple and banana indicators, in 2018 alone, we exported 4390 products to 150 destinations for 2405 companies, for a total of $11.31 million. The most prominent sectors were medical and precision equipment (29%), agricultural products (25%), food industry (14%), pharmaceutical chemist (6%) and livestock and fisheries (3%).”
To get started as an exporter in Costa Rica, there are several steps that need to be followed. The most important, a staple in any business development plan, is to investigate the sector. Before making any decisions, a market study should be carried out to define whether the market is commercially competitive for what you want to export.
Next, if the first step provides the responses you need, a provider will have to be found. Accessing expos or events linked to foreign trade could help you in your search, and remember that networking is important in order to get to know your future provider. Says Castillo, “To do this, start conversations with a handshake, use courtesy in treatment for the person and look for conversational topics. When talking business, make sure you have clear guidelines and avoid offering what can’t be met. PROCOMER, an entity that promotes external trade in the country, helps the Costa Rican exporter find a buyer, so going to the Costa Rican Embassy offices can also help locate suppliers of different lines according to their interest.”
Once you have your provider located and you feel they are a suitable fit, make contact with them in order to create an agreement. You must know the conditions and terms of shipment, the transfer and entry of the imported goods and find a customs agency that intervenes in the process of reviewing and auditing the goods you wish to export.
One of the most important steps, of course, is to ensure that the products can be exported legally to the target country. In addition, an export license will need to be obtained. According to the National Superintendency of Customs and Tax Administration (SUNAT) in Costa Rica, any natural person or company wishing to make an import must be registered in and enabled in the Single Taxpayer Register (STR) to export. In addition, the tax domicile declared in the STR indicating a Costa Rica base of operations must be marked as “yes.”
For any import management, there are some cautions, especially surrounding prohibited goods. There are also restricted goods and the VUCE (Single Window of Foreign Trade) allows exporters to obtain through the Internet the permits, certifications or licenses for the entry, transit and exit of these goods. For example, if you want to export products of plant origin, you have to ask SENASA (National Agrarian Health Service) for permission, industrialized food and beverages from DIGESA (Directorate-General for Environmental Health and Food Safety), etc.
Importing and exporting from Costa Rica is not impossible, but it can be challenging. Knowing the fundamentals before getting started will ensure there are no traps along the way, allowing the business to prosper and grow.