The country’s natural
The South Region is Costa Rica’s natural medicine chest, the area where nutrient-rich superfoods like mangosteen, rambutan, cassava, passion fruit, papaya, ginger and soursop grow side by side with more popular fruits, vegetables and tubers.
The diverse region includes mountains, plains and Pacific beachfront, all close to the Central Valley.
- Food industry
- Light Manufacturing
- 268,617 population
- 63% under 35 years old
- 90,003 labor force
- 25% with high school education
- 9% with university education
About the region
The South is connected to the Port of Caldera in the Pacific Ocean via a brand new coastal highway, about a 3 hour drive from main cities in the area. The Caldera Port is a 7 day voyage from San Francisco and provides access to main U.S. Western ports as well as Asia. The region is also accessible to the world via San Jose International Airport less than 100 miles away from San Isidro, with 720 weekly flights.
The region is home to a large, young, entrepreneurial population with more than 60% of its residents under age 35. Five private and two public universities, as well as two campuses of the National Training Institute are in the area, which offer training in English, entrepreneurship, food handling and quality controls, agricultural project management, organic and hydroponics agriculture, quality assurance for textile and special garment manufacturing, and forestry.
Recent English language proficiency tests sponsored by CINDE and the Association of Professionals in Perez Zeledon found that two thirds of the region’s population has an English level of B2+ or higher, demonstrating that Costa Rica’s English-language skills, ranked #1 in Latin America, extends beyond the Central Valley.
Companies were historically drawn to the area’s fertile soils to grow staple crops, coffee, sugar cane and pineapple. Today, new local and multinational investments are producing differentiating foods as consumers draw preference towards more natural, healthy and nutritional goods.
Asofrubrunca, routinely ships its fresh rambutan via air to markets in New York and California. This association of 115 growers, produces more than 550 tons of the superfruit in the South Region and is doing R&D into higher value-added products like juices, jams and dried fruit.
Del Monte also opened a new highly-automated plant in Volcan, Buenos Aires in mid 2015 to make about 200,000 liters of pineapple juice per month. It projects to add other tropical fruits and vegetables to the local product line soon.
The Los Santos area in the highlands of Dota, with its chilled climate is home to about half of the nation’s 300 aquaculture companies nurturing more than 550 tons of rainbow trout each year – nearly half of it destined for the U.S. market. Many are family owned business, but produce high-value products, like smoked, pre-packed or frozen products.
Perez Zeledon is also a center of Costa Rica’s bamboo industry. Bambu Tico, a pioneer in growing highly sustainable bamboo, makes furniture and other construction materials for fine finishing.
BEYOND FOODS TO VALUE-ADDED SERVICES
Enterprises in the South Region are supported by organizations like the Association of Professionals in Perez Zeledon, which are dedicated to improving the region’s infrastructure and skills to attract more services investment. That’s one reason why six of the region’s universities offer software engineering programs.
The availability of skilled, English-speaking engineers has spawned enterprises like Grupo Babel, a software and information technology company that opened in Perez Zeledon in 2004. It specializes in Microsoft technologies, provides services and solutions ranging from software development, project management, outsourcing and infrastructure and cloud services. The company serves clients in the United States and Canada from its local offices including Walmart, Dole, Phillip Morris, Ericsson and DHL.
In addition, the South Region has developed several sophisticated textile manufacturers specializing in areas such as performance fabrics or technically demanding garments. ICC Industries is one manufacturer of high-performance sports and lifestyle clothing for international companies like Russell Athletic, Spanx and Athleta.
The South of Costa Rica offers significant and diverse investment opportunities in emerging industries related to agribusiness and aquaculture, construction and advanced textiles and sustainable projects.
Costa Rica is the regional headquarters for Fresh Del Monte Produce’s Latin America operations.
The company significantly expanded local operations with its 2008 acquisition of Caribana, a Costa Rican company, for $403 million
Del Monte’s Costa Rican operations export fresh produce, mainly pineapples and bananas, and processed goods. The company has pineapple and banana farms in San Carlos, Limón, and the Southern Region cantons of Buenos Aires and Pérez Zeledón.
Del Monte’s main food processing plant is in Heredia, in Costa Rica’s Central Valley. That is where the company processes most of the fruit that does not comply with export standards. The plant processes pineapples, bananas and mangos and produces pineapple juice.
The plant annually processes about 100,000 tons of fruit, about 20 percent of it pineapple. Products are exported to the United States and Europe.
To supplement operations in Heredia and other Costa Rican locations, Del Monte recently built a new processing plant in Volcan, Buenos Aires. The company estimates that its $12 million investment in the new facility will quickly be paid for in the savings it accrues from no longer shipping the region’s fruit to other processing plants.
The new plant, which is highly automated, will process 60,000 tons of pineapple each year – 70 percent of it grown in the Southern Region. The company expects to eventually process passion fruit and papaya at the new facility. Juicesproduced here will be shipped both concentrated and fresh.
The company also operates green houses in the area, where it is growing peppers, tomatoes and cucumbers, which are also exported.
The Southern Region was attractive to Del Monte because of its abundant pool of qualified labor – and its easy access to seaports that make it easy to ship the company’s products to global markets.
The Volcan plant ships most of its products through the Port of Caldera on the Pacific Ocean, about 145 miles away. It also ships through the Port of Limon on the Atlantic Ocean, less than 190 miles away. About 80 percent of the plant’s products go to the United States, 20 percent go to Europe.
In coming months, Del Monte expects its Volcan plant to receive its FSSC 22000 Food Safety Management System certification, along with its ISO 14000 environmental management standards certification.
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