Costa Rica is mainly a black bean market for the U.S. because of in-grained consumption habits. Ninety percent of Costa Rica´s dry bean consumption is divided between black beans and red beans in a proportion close to 50%, varying slightly depending on the price difference between the two. Black beans, importers often source from the U.S., while red beans are either grown domestically or sourced from neighboring Nicaragua as it is a Central American variety that grows under tropical weather.
The U.S. grows a wide variety of dry beans. Therefore, diversifying the bean types consumed in our export markets is a key goal to gain preference and a competitive advantage over other producing countries. In that sense, trade servicing efforts highlight U.S. dry bean diversity, quality, service, and the potential of introducing new bean types in the CAFTA-DR market.
In early 2021, Coingraba, a Costa Rican importer, started inquiring with USDBC´s regional representative about the possibility of importing pinto beans in bulk to package them under their El Campesino (The Countryman) brand. USDBC´s regional representative generated a trade lead that was distributed among USDBC´s members. In November 2021, the company made its first import of one container of U.S. pinto beans. Previously, pinto beans were only available in canned form in a few stores, meaning now pinto beans will be more accessible to consumers, in terms of price and availability.
It is not possible to attribute the present success story to one specific activity, as it is the result of many years of trade servicing, including ATP-funded seminars and promotions, reverse trade missions, and day-to-day communications, all of which maintained the education of buyers in U.S. dry bean varieties and the diversification of the market as strategic objectives.
U.S. pinto beans packaged in Costa Rica under El Campesino brand
Currently, El Campesino pinto beans are sold in Pequeño Mundo, a well-known discount store, but there are plans to expand to two more supermarket chains by the first semester of 2022. Jorge Chavez, Coingraba´s general manager, mentioned he is pleased with the sales of U.S. pinto beans, which he estimates at one container per semester during 2022 and gradually increasing as more consumers try them. The first exports of pinto beans to Costa Rica in 2022 were valued at approximately $50,000, but the strategical significance of this first export is substantial as it opens the biggest Central American dry bean market to a bean variety that U.S. farmers grow more efficiently and with higher quality standards than any of our competitors.