Friday, December 26, 2008

Green Gold and other exports

Whilst imports of gringos may be heading towards historic lows, the news is a bit better on the export front.

Between January and September 2008 Guatemala's coffee exports increased 1.2%, while banana exports increased substantially by 28.2%. Sugar, cardamom and oil export decreased, but revenues have remained stable.

The BANGUAT report with this data also recorded significant increases in foreign exchange earnings from products such as natural rubber, which increased by 101%, and honey, by 91.5%. Oil rose by 59.8% percent and other minerals by 69.8%.

Guatemala's Green Gold is Cardamom. Production levels here effectively set prices in the global market.

Originally from the south of India cardamom was introduced into Guatemala back in 1914 by German plantation owner Oscar Majus in the department of Alta Vearapaz.

Guatemala is now the world's biggest producer and exporter of cardamom, with its entire crop dispatched to the Middle East, where it is used to pep up Arabian grub and is also ground together with coffee beans to make a spicier blend. Demand soars during Ramadan.

The name cardamom is used for herbs within two genera of the ginger family: Elettaria and Amomum. Both forms of cardamom are used as flavorings in both food and drink, as cooking spices and as a medicine. Elettaria cardamomum (the commoner type of cardamom) is used as a spice, a masticatory, and for curative purposes. It can also be smoked.

The BANGUAT report indicates that foreign exchange earnings from cardomom rose by 62.2% between January and September this year, equivalent to $48.9m while revenues increased by 23.1% , or $28.5m.

Meanwhile coffee revenues rose 16.8% ($92.4m) and banana 8.4% ($21.9m) in the same period.

Banco de Guatemala has estimated that the local economy will grow by 3.5% in 2009, compared to 4% in 2008 (and 6.3% in 2007). Not that bad when you consider that the World Bank forecasts 2.1% across Latin America, and Morgan Stanley has cut its forecast for the seven largest economies in the region in 2009 from growth of 1.5% to a contraction of 0.4%.

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