ON THE LINE

Costa Rica 2017 | AGRICULTURE | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Victor Pérez Pérez, Commercial Director of Grupo Calvo, on the company's operations in Costa Rica, its CSR projects, and his projections for the sector.

Victor Pérez Pérez
BIOGRAPHY
Victor Pérez Pérez is a professional with more than 20 years of experience in commercialization of high consumption products. He holds an MBA in finance, marketing, and sales and is an alumni of Incae and IPADE. He has been in charge of the business development of Grupo Calvo in the region for over 10 years. He is the marketing and sales responsible for Central America, NAFTA, and Colombia and the expansion of new markets in the Caribbean. He is also vice president for the Commerce Spanish Chamber in Costa Rica and director at the Costa Rica Exporters Chamber.

How has the company evolved in the last decade, and what is the importance of Costa Rica for Grupo Calvo?

We have been operating in Costa Rica for 11 years; we started our business just selling tuna products. Our arrival in Costa Rica was a couple of years later than the group's expansion of manufacturing facilities in El Salvador and Brazil. In the first decade of the 2000s, the group acquired other companies in other parts of the world and developed its sales to many countries to strengthen its position. In Costa Rica in the last three years, we have partnered with other producing companies to expand our business lines to other segments outside the tuna industry. Costa Rica has excellent producers in the food industry, and we saw this as a way to further strengthen the brand in the country. We started to commercialize different canned products, hot sauces, and sauces to prepare pasta, and today we offer over 50 highly recognized products in the Costa Rican market. Costa Rica is a strategic market for us in terms of diversification. We own around 20% of the market share in the country

Grupo Calvo has invested over USD1 million in Costa Rica in the last few years. What are the company's expansion plans?

When we first started operating in Costa Rica in 2006, we were selling just under USD1 million, but today that figure has reached USD20 million. The investment in the country goes exactly in that line; we see great potential to commercialize locally produced products in the entire region. We have already started working in that direction; recently, we began exporting locally produced products to El Salvador. Currently, we export about 50,000 units of sauces to El Salvador; this is the potential we see for investment and development in Costa Rica. We want to start with more Central American countries, though we also see great potential to export to Eastern European countries.

What social responsibility activities does the company engage in here in Costa Rica?

We are highly committed to social and environmental responsibility. We try to engage with the maritime conservation and that is why among our ships there are biologists on board, too. We also work on improving fishing techniques. Since we have partners and commercialize other products, we work on social responsibility for the entire production chain we are involved in. We are committed to contributing to the social and economic development of the countries where we operate.

The import of tuna to Costa Rica experienced a sevenfold increase. How do you foresee the evolution of the sector over the next five years?

Costa Rica is a mature market in tuna consumption. It will be very hard to increase this consumption in the next few years; people in Costa Rica eat an average of 2.5kg of tuna per person per year. This figure puts Costa Rica at the same level of consumption as countries like Spain. Costa Rica is in fact among the top tuna consuming countries in the world. The first is Libya with 6kg per person per year. In five years' time, we want reach 30% market share. Our main objective in the Central American region is to increase tuna consumption in neighboring countries, and work hard in our diversification to sell sardines, canned vegetables, and sauces with the Calvo brand.

What are your priorities for 2017?

We have developed our strategic plan for the period 2017-2020 and expect to increase operations and volumes in the region by 40% during this time. Current figures are around 3,000 tons for Costa Rica and 5,000 for the region. We aim to reach 7,500 tons in the region by 2020. We have achieved a great deal in terms of the production chain with our partners here in Costa Rica and we want to further strengthen that position, and the position of our plant in El Salvador.