APEX: Panama must diversify its markets

“We must continue to increase the level of our production,” said the guild’s leader, Bianca Morán.

Mayela De Sedas

Panamanian exports continue to grow; however, Bianca Morán, president of the Panamanian Association of Exporters (APEX), acknowledged that the country has opportunities that should be seized more effectively to strengthen the sector and reach more markets. “We need to facilitate exports, standardize digitalization processes with the countries where we are sending products. We still generate documents in Spanish when the language of transactions worldwide is English. We have to digitize everything because we are living in a world that places a lot of emphasis on the chain of custody, product traceability, and we are still working with paper. Panama complies with many things, but we cannot prove it because the international requirements of the different institutions stipulate that the information be digital and easily accessible,” commented Morán. Developing the country’s brand is vital, the businesswoman emphasized. She explained, “When you go to international fairs, you see countries that already have a developed identification, and Panama does not have that. That project has already been done; it needs to be implemented.” She highlighted that Panama must “diversify our destination countries. Relying on a single country puts us in a very weak and risky position. A natural ally for us is the Caribbean market, and we are not capitalizing on it. We can increase in certain sectors because the conditions are not the same for all products. The Caribbean demands a lot of fresh merchandise, many products for immediate consumption, so let’s focus on markets that pay us more.” According to official data, Panamanian exports excluding copper amounted to $1.0912 billion by November 2023, surpassing by $20 million the value of the entire year 2022. For the president of APEX, “yes, we have a small country with high production costs, where land is costly, and electricity is expensive. We must raise the level of our production to produce premium products and reach premium markets because the difference in production is not significant, but the difference in consumer prices is significant.” Therefore, she suggested “investing in technology, and employee training.” Last year, the agricultural, industrial, agro-industrial, and fishing sectors totaled $826.9 million, with a 4.3% increase in the FOB export value compared to the same period last year, which was $792.9 million.

In 2023, exports excluding copper amounted to $1.0912 billion.

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