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Is the Food in Latin America Organic for Expats?

Published March 31, 2022 in Personal Stories & Opinions - 0 Comments

Some of my earliest travels to Latin America involved visiting “organic” or “fair trade” products produced in places like Misiones of Argentina or Chiapas of Mexico.

Flying from Buenos Aires to Posadas in Argentina, I took the bus afterwards to a more rural town known as Obera that has a cooperative called Rio Parana.

Their yerba mate, known as “Titrayju,” was advertised as “fair trade” and “organic” or “natural” as you can see here.

This is a photo of their cooperative I took back then.

Similarly, there was another yerba mate producer known as Guayaki that I got to know.

As you can see here, they often get labeled organic and, in this case, “USDA Organic.”

In contrast, from what I remember at the time, “Titraju” was not organically certified but did make claims of being organic at the time.

Truth be told, that’s not entirely unusual for a producer to claim to be organic but not have the certification.

While it’s understandable why consumers would prefer the certification and producers can always lie, I also am a little bit understanding of why some producers choose not to go the route of being certified.

For example, when I went to Chiapas in Mexico, I remember visiting small producers of coffee that they claimed were “organic” and “fair trade.”

These small producers were part of a social movement known as “the Zapatistas” that typically lived anywhere from small towns to very isolated villages that would be difficult for an average person to visit.

Here is one place they live in from a photo I took.

Meanwhile, they’ve consistently had armed conflicts with paramilitary groups that have displaced many.

On top of that, they’ve had efforts made by the Mexican government to undermine their movement and also have had to deal with issues like la Roya (a disease) that has been hurting their crops.

And when you consider the high cost of getting certification, it’s understandable why producers in these areas haven’t taken the time or resources to do so.

Among other issues that small producers are facing locally in their own communities or issues more commonly expressed regarding agencies that regulate the certification process.

In short, producers of organic products in Latin America can be small producers or larger ones with more capital.

They can be certified and uncertified.

 But they do exist in Latin America like elsewhere in the world.

And when other gringos, such as myself, come to Latin America to be expats, digital nomads, tourists, immigrants or whatever term you prefer to call us, it is quite often an observation that many of us make about life in Latin America.

“Wow! The food is so organic!” they often express when wondering into a local farmers market in some place like Pachuca de Soto in Mexico or wherever else.

But is the food organic?

There are definitely organic producers in Latin America as shown before!

And, to be fair, sometimes the food you see in the markets looks “less prepared” so to speak.

It might look dirtier, not as well washed or packaged, the market more informal than a Walmart, mud on some of the vegetables, etc.

But that doesn’t mean that the food you see in the markets is organic!

Not everything you see in the markets is produced by cooperatives similar to the ones described in Misiones of Argentina or Chiapas of Mexico.

And, even if the food is produced by a small farmer, you should know that pesticides, antibiotics and more are commonly available to any small farmer.

So is the food in the market organic?

Well, I can’t speak for the exact food you are buying at your specific market from your specific producer in your specific Latin American city but I will try to get you all the relevant information I could find regarding organic food production in Latin America.

Let’s get to it!

The Organic Food Exported from Latin America

The first thing to realize is that Latin America does actually produce a lot of organic food but that much of it gets exported to markets outside of Latin America where you have more consumers that can pay the premium for organic food in places like the US.

For example, when it came to the organic yerba mate and coffee discussed earlier, much of it was and is currently exported abroad.

For the Zapatistas, I remember most of their clients being in the following countries: US, Canada, Turkey, Japan, Germany, France, UK, Poland, Greece, Italy, Spain, Norway, Sweden, Russia and probably a few other European countries.

Though, to be fair, the Zapatistas do sell some of their organic coffee domestically within Mexico. I’ve seen it sold here in Mexico City for example. The thing is that they primarily only sell the coffee that doesn’t sell abroad here in Mexico.

Similarly, you would see a lot of the yerba mate being sold abroad also in similar countries.

Funny enough, when I returned to the US after my time in South America, I remember actually having a meeting with a man named Paul over some work we were to do together and he had a bag of the exact same yerba mate that I was learning about in South America.

Small world.

At any rate, what are the numbers?

First, we have this information here.

“South America is fast on its way to becoming a global giant supplier of organic products, as mentioned in the 8th assembly of the Inter-American Commission of Organic Agriculture (CIAO). As at 2016, the region represented between 17% and 20% of the world’s ecommerce in organic produce. This figure is bound to increase, with 400,000 of the current 2.2 million organic food producers being from Latin America.”

Second, we have this information here that claims that the countries that export the most organic food from Latin America are the following:

  • Mexico (372.52 million Euros worth of food exported)
  • Peru (339 million Euros worth of food exported)
  • Chile (213.26 million Euros worth of food exported)
  • Dominican Republic (190.82 million Euros worth of food exported)
  • Bolivia (178.73 million Euros worth of food exported)
  • Brazil (126.47 million Euros worth of food exported)
  • Argentina (122.25 million Euros worth of food exported)
  • Colombia (13 million Euros worth of food exported)

These were 2018 numbers and the average exchange rate from USD to Euro in 2018 was 0.8475 EUR.

And apparently any countries past Colombia simply don’t produce much of the region’s organic products.

As we can see, it’s mostly South American countries that do most of the heavy lifting with Mexico and the Dominican Republic also.

One surprising detail about this is how countries like Brazil or Argentina are not higher. Mexico and Peru being high on the list isn’t so surprising though.

Moving on, we have some information here showing how much of the organic products are exported from Latin America and how much are kept for domestic consumption.

From what I could tell, about 98% of Mexico’s organic food is exported and 99% of Argentina’s organic food is exported.

For Argentina anyway, it goes on to say that 50% of its organic food goes to the US and the European Union is the second bigger purchaser of Argentine organic food.

Similarly, I imagine that you’ll find the same scenario playing out in other Latin American countries also.

It should be noted though that there is a demand for organic food in Latin America and that demand is growing every year.

So Do Latin Americans Eat Organic Food?

Well, most people in the world, including those living in countries where most of Latin America’s organic food gets exported to, do not eat organic food every day.

For comparison, you can see here how much organic food Americans eat.

“Overall, how much organic food do people eat? Four-in-ten Americans say that some (34%) or most (6%) of the food they eat is organic. Some 15% of Americans say that none of the food they eat is organic and 44% say not too much of what they eat is organic.”

Outside the US anyway, we also have lists out there ranking which countries typically buy the most organic groceries. Here is one where they rank each country by per capita revenue when it comes to organic grocery consumption.

  • Switzerland ($337)
  • Denmark ($279)
  • Sweden ($242)
  • United States ($146)
  • Germany ($142)
  • France ($124)
  • Canada ($106)
  • Norway ($93)
  • United Kingdom ($47)
  • China ($4)

As you can see, that’s quite a big drop from United Kingdom to China and that list (among many others on the internet) doesn’t include any Latin American country.

Suffice to say, the per capita consumption of organic foods in Latin America is assumingly fairly low even if plenty of people do try to occasionally buy some organic food down here.

But are there any numbers we can go with regarding any specific Latin American countries?

Here’s what I could find.

First, similar to other countries out there, you have different information ranking different countries by different numbers when it comes to this topic.

The first example I could find is this source here that looks at various numbers regarding sales of organic food in various Latin American countries.

This website seems to have some credibility in terms of being involved in this industry as they apparently receive funding from  the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agriculture Service (FAS).

And, based on the information from their website, we get a picture of which Latin American countries consume more organic food.

For Brazil here in 2019 numbers: They had a market size for organic food at 89 million USD (representing 0.1% of the global market) and a per capita consumption of 0.42 USD.

For Mexico here in 2019 numbers: They had a market size for organic food at 51.2 million USD (representing 0.1% of the global market) and a per capita consumption of 0.41 USD. They rank 35th in the world for market size for organic food consumption.

For Chile here in 2019 numbers: They had a market size for organic food at 16.3 million USD (representing 0.03% of the global market) and a per capita consumption of 0.86 USD.

For Argentina here in 2019 numbers: They had a market size for organic food at 13.9 million USD (representing 0.3% of the global market) and a per capita consumption of 0.31 USD.

For Peru here in 2019 numbers: They had a market size for organic food at 0.4 million USD (representing 0.01% of the global market) and a per capita consumption of 0.01 USD.

Some good news from Peru though from the source used: “Despite a small market size, Peru is forecasted to show strong growth, ranking at 11th globally in terms of forecast growth, with a value CAGR of 8.4% for the period 2019-2024.”

Now, while I am sure people in other Latin American countries eat organic food, I couldn’t find any information about those other countries in that source above.

Based on my brief search so far, it does appear to me that the ones listed above tend to be the “relative heavyweights” of organic food consumption for Latin America.

But, for your interest, I did a little more research for each country I could find.

….Perhaps the local news in these countries reports on the issue?

So I looked into it!

For Mexico, we have this bit here: “México, es un importante productor de alimentos orgánicos, sin embargo el consumo de éstos entre su población es solamente del 15% de la producción, y de éste únicamente el 5% se comercializa como Producto Orgánico (PO) mientras que el restante 10% se comercializa como producto convencional.”

For Argentina, we have this source here saying that there has been an increase of Argentines buying organic food at least one time a year from 26% in 2015 to 46% in 2020: “Mientras la mitad de los argentinos desatiende su alimentación (por necesidad o mera omisión), una encuesta nacional de la Universidad Argentina de la Empresa (UADE) y de la consultora Voices! reveló que inesperadamente se ve un brote verde: el 46% de los consultados afirmó haber consumido productos orgánicos en el último año.”

Outside of these two countries, I couldn’t find quickly any news information regarding how much organic food the locals in other Latin American countries might be eating. For some reason, it just isn’t making the news in many other countries (or at least not to the point that I could find something to write about here).

Though some countries, like Chile or Peru as you can see here, did report on the “interests of the locals” regarding how many would prefer to eat healthier.

“Un factor importante es que la gente demanda este tipo de alimentos". MercadoLa tendencia apostaba por los productos saludables y hoy en día el 78% de peruanos mira alternativas orgánicas entre sus alimentos, ocupando uno de los niveles más altos niveles de la región.”

Which is what we’ll get to next!

Do Latin Americans Want to Eat Organic?

For those thinking of business ideas in Latin America, here’s one for you: selling organic products or any type of health products to Latin Americans in some select countries in the future.

From what I could tell doing brief research on this topic, it seems like most folks looking into this topic agree that there’ll be greater demand for organic food in the future.

While we all know already that Latin America has shown its potential for being able to produce organic foods, what we need for the region is a strong interest in consuming organic products and also the capability (read: money) to purchase organic foods

As we saw with Peru, that demand is there.

And I’ll tell you that plenty of articles I’ve come across repeatedly say that their survey respondents in their respective Latin countries wish to consume “healthier.”

Now, to be fair, what survey clients are going to say no to that type of question?

In many of the news articles I’ve read, we don’t know how they framed the survey questions.

Did they just ask them the following: “do you want to eat healthier?”

Who would say no to that?

Still, I’ll show you a few articles that come to mind.

First, let’s go back to Mexico as you can see here.

“Nielsen señala que las personas con mayor interés por llevar una vida saludable prefieren presentaciones pequeñas e individuales de productos light y orgánicos, mientras que el 50% de los mexicanos declaran que los precios son la principal barrera para consumir estos productos.”

Expanding on Mexico, we also have this information here:

“Demand for organic food products in Mexico has been growing over the last few years along with an overall trend toward healthier eating. Organic foods are perceived by many Mexican consumers to be healthier than conventionally grown foods. Mexico is now considered the second-most-obese country in the world, and the Mexican government has made it a priority to reverse this through education campaigns and new food nutrition laws targeting schoolchildren. As a result, a growing number of Mexican consumers are pursuing healthier lifestyles, which include better eating habits. This makes Mexico an attractive market for U.S. exporters of organic products. During 2014, organic baby food was the fastest-growing category, with a 28 percent increase in current value due to increased availability and consumer awareness.”

“Although organic products tend to be more expensive, the domestic market interested in consuming this type of products is growing by 10 percent annually. The generation born between 1979 and 2000 is driving this market, because they consider themselves to be healthier and more natural consumers, and also like to try ethnic and artisan foods.”

For Chile from this article here, we have various statistics regarding the preferences of Chilean consumers: “Más del 53% de los Chilenos prefieren alimentos naturales, libres de azúcar y colorantes. Fundación Chile presentó la sexta versión del estudio Chile Saludable, denominada “Oportunidades y desafíos de innovación para una alimentación saludable desde lo natural.”

And, as we have seen in other countries like Argentina as shown here before, you’ve had a noticeable increase of locals eating more organic food over just 5 years.

Next, we have this article here for those interested on the growing organic market in Uruguay as you can see here: “Varios años atrás no había tiendas especializadas ni orgánicas, ni para diabéticos o celíacos. Hoy se abren cada vez más. Lo noto porque me llaman todo el tiempo para averiguar por los productos”, concluyó Cardoso.”

And, for those curious, here’s a very small mention about organic food slowly becoming more popular in Panama also: “Una nueva corriente quiere echar por tierra el mecanismo extenuante y volver a los orígenes de la agricultura, a la orgánica, que sustenta el “respeto hacia la tierra”, según definen sus defensores.  En Panamá la corriente está germinando. Existen tiendas especializadas y un grupo de productores que es proveedor de vegetales, frutas, carnes, e incluso la oferta se ha extendido a mercancía para el cuidado de la belleza y otros para las mascotas.”

Next, we have this survey for the region here.

“The Latin American market is beginning to ripen in its demand for natural food and beverage products, which extends opportunities for organic offerings. Flavor producer Symrise has surveyed more than 1,500 consumers in Mexico, Argentina, Brazil and Colombia, with varied flavor preferences. While price remains an important consideration across the region, the survey found that high proportions of survey participants are willing to pay more for products that “embrace true naturalness.”

“In particular, Symrise reports that Latin American consumers are seeking great taste experiences and are positively influenced to accept a product by the explicit use of words such as “natural,” “organic” and “fresh.” In line with a theme that has already matured in other regional markets, consumers here have begun to reject ingredients with scientific or artificial-sounding names and prefer common and familiar preparation methods.

More consumers in the region are looking for organic and natural foods and beverages that suit their special diets. The study found that between 43% and 49% of consumers hold a health-conscious mindset; look for organic and natural food; follow a special diet like vegan, vegetarian or paleo; and avoid meat and consume more dairy products.

Across Latin America, the concept is associated with a combination of factors based on health benefits, little or no processing, low salt and sodium, no additives or artificial flavorings, as well as sustainability, transparency and authenticity of sources. Clarity and simplicity of ingredients are also important, with consumers responding favorably to products with familiar, easy-to-understand labeling and preparation methods.”

Ultimately, I could go on and on with actual survey results or just news articles mentioning the increasing popularity of organic food in various Latin American countries.

We have already established that there is obviously some demand for it in Latin America and that demand is increasingly growing with that demand growing faster in some Latin American countries than others.

….But can they afford it?

Ultimately, that’s what one important detail here as we all know that organic food tends to cost more than non-organic food in most cases.

Do we have any trends though that show Latin Americans are increasingly eating organic?

Any Trends on Organic Food Consumption?

As we have seen over the last few decades, most Latin American countries have developed economically.

A few like Venezuela or Cuba haven’t done as well but most have done much better.

With continued economic growth expected for most of the region in the coming decades, that should obviously allow more locals in Latin America to have more money to spend on organic food (and one could assume they likely would given the growing preference for a healthier diet as demonstrated before).

Having said that, there’s a few key quotes I have seen that indicate that we’ll see growing trends in the future that favor the domestic organic food market in Latin America.

First, we have this information here.

“According to the report titled- Latin America Organic Food & Beverage Market Outlook, 2026; a recent publication, the region is positioned as the least contributing region in the global market with a value of USD 0.96 Billion in the year 2015. The rapid rate of urbanization and the growth of emerging markets primarily drive Latin America’s organic food market. Even though the economy declined due to the Covid pandemic outbreak, it increased the need in the people to shift towards the organic intake. Through the forecasted period, the market is expected to grow with a CAGR of over 12%.”

Then we have this information here.

“According to Flores (2014), Latin American domestic organic markets are being developed in every country, and the most popular farmers’ fairs are being consolidated in many places. For instance, despite the economic crisis between 1996 and 2008, employment in the Mexican organic sector increased 26% per year (Salgado-Beltrán et al., 2013). An important well-known situation is that Brazil has the largest organic market in the region and that Costa Rica and Argentina ́s domestic markets are growing through farmers’ 409VOLUME 43 Nº3 SEPTEMBER – DECEMBER 2016 fairs (FIBL and IFOAM, 2014). Additionally, households from Ecuador shop organics mainly at supermarkets, followed by fairs and specialized shops (Andrade Ortiz and Flores, 2008). In the particular case of the Peruvian organic domestic market, the year-on-year percentage growth is stimulated by the gastronomy movement, which has been contributing to the steady growth in local demand for high quality ecological and indigenous food (FIBL and IFOAM, 2014)”

In short, various studies out there do predict a growing trend for higher consumption of organic products in Latin America within this decade of the 2020s at least.

Having said that, let’s go onto some miscellaneous points that I would like to bring up.

Other Challenges to the Organic Market in Latin America

While I have looked into the topic of organic production in Latin America over the years, I’ll be honest here in saying that I haven’t looked at it in about 4 years now and am definitely not the greatest expert on the topic given I don’t work in the industry.

Therefore, I admit that there are obviously details to the industry that should be considered when contemplating its market growth in Latin America that other experts mention that should be considered when considering the future of this industry in Latin America.

According to this source here, these are some of the factors:

“The major challenges for the organic sector in order of importance are access to capital, sourcing ingredients, cost of ingredients, technical sourcing expertise, and sourcing ingredients near the facility and manufacturing in the region. The organic sector in Latin America feels the responsibility to improve the institutional regulations and control systems in place for the production, taking into account the perception of organic foods as healthier for people and more environmental-friendly. Currently, the key consumer group of organic products is high-income individuals. A significant factor for this low customer base is the current economic scenario, higher unit price items of organic products accompanied by recovering consumer expenditure. However, sales are expected to increase in the short and long term in line with the predicted economic growth and due to an anticipated increase in consumer awareness.”

We also have this information here:

“Nevertheless, only a few countries have produced national-level estimates of volume sales (Andrade Ortiz and Flores, 2008). Availability and supply scarcity, a lack of trust, and a shortfall of knowledge re- garding the product and the price premium have been found to be major constraints to the growth of the organic market (Stolz et al., 2011). Thus, most Latin American organic products have been sold in external markets with non-added value.”

Why Many Agricultural Producers in Latin America Don’t Go Organic

As we have seen, there is obviously a market for organic products and plenty in Latin America do try to satisfy that market (even if 99% of it is outside Latin America).

Still, what I’m trying to say here is that the demand is going to influence heavily what is supplied in Latin America.

While we have covered how there is some demand for organic products in Latin America and that demand is growing, it is currently (as of 2022) still largely dominated by the US, Canada, some countries in Europe and China.

For that reason (and perhaps other reasons that are tied to profitability and harvest efficiency), you have a lot less organic production in Latin America than what a typical gringo new to Latin America visiting a market would think.

But I can’t do this section anymore justice than what this article here did when it comes to fertilizer use in Latin America.

It did a good job already covering the frequent use of fertilizer and other tools in Latin American farming so check it out here with some key quotes below to hit home what this section of the article is about.

“Without pesticides, the foods you’re growing can be preyed upon by insects, birds and beasts of the field. They can be squeezed out by weeds who are stronger competitors for sunlight and water. They can be made sick or killed by viruses. By using common pesticides, farmers increase their harvests by up to 40%. From a business standpoint, who wouldn’t use them?”

“if you want to know what your country’s farmers use, simply visit the biggest store in your city’s farm supply district. I’ll save you the trip. They have EVERYTHING: all the pesticides conveniently labeled in Spanish, steroids and antibiotics for the livestock and genetically-modified seeds. And that’s just what the small farms can buy over the counter.”

And, thanks to that article cited, we have the link to some FAO data regarding the tonnage of pesticide used in countries around the world that you can find here.

Going back to the original article cited, here are the top 10 users of pesticides:

“China: 1.8 million

United States: 408,000

Brazil: 377,000

Argentina: 198,000

Canada: 91,000

Ukraine: 78,000

France: 71,000

Malaysia: 67,000

Australia: 63,000

Spain: 61,000”

As the author rightfully pointed out, there’s plenty of countries in Latin America that almost definitely also use plenty of pesticide but use smaller amounts in total (not on a per-capita basis) for various reasons (smaller population, smaller industry, perhaps more government restrictions on imports or exports, etc).

Which brings us to the next point!

Situations Where Organic Food is More Prominent

In Latin America, there are sometimes situations involved where the producers make organic food in part because of restrictions placed on the farmers.

In fact, we have this quote here from a previous article cited that I thought summarized the issue well:

“You might find accidentally organic foods in areas where government-imposed import controls (Venezuela), low buying power (Haiti) or difficult geography (un-navigated Amazon) restrict access to common technology. But those are exceptions to the rule.”

Going back to the example of the Zapatistas and their coffee, it’s not hard to imagine why a bunch of small farmers with their cooperatives who live in rural Chiapas under conditions that involve relative isolation, poor local development and attacks by paramilitary groups would make it difficult for farmers to use fertilizer and other tools to produce their food for sale.

It's a delicate issue obviously as you can learn more about here.

Similarly, right across the border from Chiapas is Guatemala where we also find challenges that local, small producers might find that make it hard to produce non-organically. Here’s an interesting research paper that dives into the issue.

“En el contexto de la agricultura guatemalteca, existe muy poco conocimiento sobre la agricultura orgánica; solamente algunos de los productores conocen y utilizan los beneficios de ésta. En las comunidades más alejadas de las áreas urbanas, se practica una agricultura orgánica sin llamársela con este nombre, en su mayoría, se debe más a la pobreza extrema que no permite a los agricultores comprar insumos químicos, que al hecho de que tenga o no conciencia de ella.

Actualmente, la agricultura orgánica aún es un movimiento pequeño, pero importante, está ganando espacios en producción y comercialización de productos agropecuarios diversos. Este movimiento de agricultura orgánica trata de unificar los criterios entre las organizaciones no gubernamentales que la promueven, el sector privado, el sector académico que impulsa el conocimiento y la tecnología, y el gobierno, que regula las políticas públicas del agro.”

In short, you have organic producers in very rural areas of Guatemala who do produce organically without calling their products as such in part because they live in extreme poverty where they simply don’t have the chemicals to expand their production and also, while the organic agricultural movement is small in Guatemala, it is growing. The next few paragraphs that follow the last paragraph look into who is promoting the organic movement in that country.

Next, we have the interesting example of Cuba when it comes to how government policies can impact local organic production.

While the original article cited in this section of the article referenced Venezuela as an example of “government-imposed import controls,” you can also see it here in reverse where “government-imposed export controls” or an embargo basically can force small agricultural producers to produce organically.

“In Cuba, shortages are a way of life.”

“The struggle has spawned some far-reaching innovations. Cuba may be in something of a time warp, but its isolation has spawned solutions that could help the country in the future. A stroll through Havana reveals one such initiative: sharing the grey streets are pools of lush, leafy greenery.

A new form of farming has taken root in Cuba.  "This is a far more holistic approach to agriculture," says Dr. Fernando Funes-Aguilar of the Havanna-based Grupa de Agricultura Organica. "Is this good for Cuba? Sure and it's getting better. We have had many advances in the last few years."

The energetic farmer is part of a growing movement that has transformed the island from one of the most lagging agricultural producers to a leader in alternative farming approaches.

In just a decade, cities and towns throughout Cuba have filled vacant lots, old baseball fields, rooftops, and any scrawny spaces with gardens - many of them free of pesticides and herbicides.”

“Urban and organic farms, Funes says, are growing because of basic needs, hardly surprising in a country where necessity is indeed the mother of invention. "In Cuba, a lot of the farming is organic by default," says Ralph Martin, a professor at the Nova Scotia College of Agriculture in Truro who has done extensive research in the Caribbean nation. "They haven't had the money for herbicides and pesticides, so they've had to come up with ways to farm without them."

The transformation began in 1989 when the Soviet Union, barely coping with its own economic depression, staunched the financial aid that had poured into Cuba for more than 30 years. In a matter of months the island was pitched into its darkest economic crisis, no longer able to rely on highly subsidized imports from Russia, or on the inflated revenues it received from sugar sales to the Soviets. The impact was intensified by the Helms-Burton act, U.S. legislation that put the squeeze on businesses trying to set up in Cuba, and punished those companies already operating on Cuban land that Washington believes was illegally expropriated from Americans.”

“Cuban President Fidel Castro responded by introducing severe restraints and cutbacks in 1989, euphemistically known as the "Special Period." Electricity, fuel, clothing, medicine, and food would be in much smaller supply. Between 1989 and 1993, Cuba's total imports shrank by as much as 70 per cent.

Agriculture was one of the industries hit hardest by the Soviet withdrawal. Pesticides and fertilizers needed to grow food for domestic use and for export were gone.”

Much more to that story here for those curious.

Anyway, let’s move onto wrapping this article up.

Quick Thoughts on Non-Certified Organic Products

I’ll keep this simple.

Personally, I think sometimes folks should give a chance or trust to non-certified organic products.

You do have those small farmers – like in Chiapas for example – who simply can’t afford organic certification but they do produce organically.

You folks do have to understand that the cost of getting certified can be costly and also time-consuming from what I remember (which is one reason also why some small farmers try to work together as a cooperative to get that certification by dividing up the cost, among other benefits to having a cooperative structure).

Having said that, I also understand why plenty of consumers will ONLY go for certified organic products.

After all, you don’t necessarily know if the producers on the other end are being honest, and it is your money and not my place to tell you how to spend it.

So I’ll leave it at that.

Final Verdict: Is the Food in Latin America Organic?

The gringo walks into a market that has a bunch of food.

Everything looks more informal.

The food looks “less prepared” so to speak.

“It has to be organic!” he thinks.

Not necessarily.

Without question, Latin America does play a fundamental role in producing organic food on the world market but almost all of that food (with numbers around 98% to 99%) do not stay in Latin America.

So the food you typically see being sold in Latin America is almost never organic.

In fact, there’s a great irony here.

The gringo who thinks one of the benefits to living in Latin America is because of the organic food but he left his own country where most of the organic food is being exported to.

He’s going the wrong direction!

 Having said that, you absolutely can find organic food in Latin America because there is some demand for it locally with that demand growing every year.

While most of the food in Latin America isn’t organic anyway, I would argue that, if you live in Latin America right, you could maybe afford it easier down here than up in the US.

Granted, organic food in both regions has a premium price to it so you aren’t getting around that.

And, to be fair, I haven’t been in a market in the US in years because I live in Latin America now.

I’ve heard they have a lot of inflation these days in 2022 (so does Latin America though) but I have seen food prices seemingly be crazy up there while they seem normal down here to me.

So perhaps organic food is cheaper in Latin America than the US. I have no idea how true that is but it’s something I could see maybe being the case.

Regardless of it is though, we all agree that your average cost of living in Latin America is cheaper than in the US.

I know people living down here on just 500 to 1,000 USD a month (granted, they don’t have kids or medical bills from being old).

Regardless of your exact budget living down here though, I would argue that it is easier to live a healthy life in Latin America with a more organic diet not because more of the food is organic but because you should have more room in your budget to afford organic food more regularly than in the US.

This is assuming you aren’t working a 6 or 7 figure income job in the US of course and are just an average person making a 4-digit income.

So, in a way, the gringo who says that it is easier to live a healthy life in Latin America is correct.

He’s only wrong when he claims that most of the food in Latin America is organic.

It isn’t.

In fact, 99% of the food is not organic.

It’s just easier, in my opinion, to have a lifestyle with only organic food down here in your diet than it is in the US because you should have more room in your budget and it doesn’t require working a very well-paying job that would demand more of your time to afford that type of grocery bill (with all the stress that said job might bring to the table).

But that’s all I got to say on this topic.

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