I was lucky enough to grab a coffee with Pedro Beirute, the head of the Chamber of Commerce in Costa Rica. He was recently in Dubai for Gulfood and I was astounded to learn how eco-forward Costa Rica is! In fact, it is set to be the first Carbon Neutral country in the world and being such a tiny country which holds 6% of the worlds biodiversity, has certainly boosted it higher on my bucket list!
What are the main reasons that would draw someone to visit Costa Rica?
Costa Rica is a very safe place, it is also a role model to the world in terms of sustainability. We have a strategy to have sustainability as part of our core values. 100% of our electricity comes from renewable sources, half of our land is protected and we aim to become the first carbon neutral country in the world. We have 6% of the earths biodiversity so it’s a unique experience for anyone going to Costa Rica. It is a safe place as well as a place that is thinking about the future in terms of protecting the environment. We have beaches, rivers, volcanoes and a lot of attractive nature related attractions. Costa Rica is positioned as an eco-tourism destination and people from Costa Rica are highly educated which adds to tourists experience. Costa Rica rank number one in the Happy Planet Index meaning that we are the happiest country on earth and also we have people that are friendly and happy to host people from abroad
You were here for Gulfood, what was your involvement in the exhibition?
We came for Gulfood with some Costa Rican companies offering heart palms, pineapple, juices, coffee, cocoa, chocolates, dried food, cocktail mixes. These are an example of our offerings, Costa Rica is in the Tropics with Volcnic soil so it facilitates the production of fresh foods and vegetables. There is a large variety of things that our soil gives us in combination with our tropical weather which is 25 degrees all year round.
When I travel I love to eat! Especially trying new cuisines and foods that locals eat, what is a typical dish in Costa Rica?
Our typical food consists of fresh foods grown there, typically includes root vegetables such as yuca which can be fried, mashed, pureed, boiled or served with ceviche. Lately there has been a large production of organic products which also fits pretty well with our sustainability values. One way of protecting the environment is not Using chemicals, we have a limited use of fertilizers and chemicals, so everything is linked. The products we export are limited as we are a small country but they are top quality and therefore not cheap. Costa Rica accounts for 2% of the global coffee, we have won many awards but quantities are limited and quality is high therefore the cost is more as well.
Some countries that have such limited production ends up exporting all the good stuff and nothing is left for locals, how do you control this?
We have a lot of small businesses and they simply don’t have the money or know-how to export to Dubai for example so all their products are sold locally. We have suppliers we work with which are farmed for export and locals get produce from smaller farms. We have a mantra to do business with purpose which we call the three p’s – people, profit and planet. The way we support companies is by conveying that they need to focus on a business with purpose. We are a middle income company so there is demand for good quality products so we retain these. Tourists are also an incentive for producers to keep their products in Costa Rica.
Where can we buy Costa Rican products in the UAE?
We were present at Gulfood because we want to bring more products to the UAE market, most of our products go to the US and Europe, this region has a very small volume. We are in the niche industry with high quality, boutique, premium products therefore we don’t have the volume to fulfil global demand. Our strategy has been to fulfil the orders in the US and Europe, we want to now enter the UAE market. You can find coffee, bananas and heart palms here but we want to provide more products and export them directly rather than going through Europe. This will make it cheaper and faster to get products here.
Find out in my video how Costa Ricans stay the happiest country in the world and what you should do when visiting Costa Rica!