Buying and Selling

flag Guatemala Guatemala: Buying and Selling

In this page: Market Access Procedures | Reaching the Consumers | Distributing a Product | E-commerce | Organizing Goods Transport | Identifying a Supplier

 

Market Access Procedures

International Conventions
Party to the Montreal Protocol on Substances That Deplete the Ozone Layer
Party to the Wassenaar Arrangement on Export Controls For Conventional Arms and Dual-Use Goods and Technologies
International Economic Cooperation
Guatemala is part of the FTAA: Free Trade Area of the Americas, as well as the Central-American Common Market 
Non Tariff Barriers
Guatemala's import regime is fairly liberal. All food industry products have to be registered with the Registration and Control of Foodstuff Department (Ministry of Health). The labeling has to mention all the ingredients, the registration number and the use by date.  Pharmaceutical products have to have a Ministry of Health "sanitary inscription" before they can be commercialized in Guatemala.
Customs Duties and Taxes on Imports
5.8%


Customs Classification
Guatemala uses the Harmonized Customs System. The customs duties are calculated Ad valorem on the CIF value. Customs is managed by the Ministry of Finance (Spanish only). Guatemala applies the Central American Tarif schedule (SAC) in the context of the Central America-European Union Agreement (Guatemala, Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua).  The SAC has set a customs ceiling of 15% and a minimum of 0%.  Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador have more or less eliminated customs duties between their countries.  Industrial products and equipment goods not produced in the agreement countries are mostly taxed at 0%.  To find out about customs in Guatemala, refer to the Mininstry of Economy of Guatemala. (Spaninsh only with some documents available in English).
Import Procedures
Guatemala uses the Harmonized Customs System. The customs duties are calculated Ad valorem on the CIF value. Customs is managed by the Ministry of Finance (Spanish only). Guatemala applies the Central American Tariff schedule (SAC) in the context of the Central America-European Union Agreement (Guatemala, Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua).  The SAC has set a customs ceiling of 15% and a minimum of 0%.  There is however, a certain amount of flexibility when applying the said agreements as much on the validity date of the harmonization as on the coverage. Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador have more or less eliminated customs duties between their countries.  Industrial products and equipment goods not produced in the agreement countries are mostly taxed at 0%.  To find out about customs in Guatemala, refer to the Ministry of Economy of Guatemala. (Spanish only for the documentation on SAC ).
Importing Samples
It is allowed to import samples which do not have commercial value. The importer has to show documentation on the product with a price estimate of the product.  When going through customs, the value of the sample will be determined and an import tax will be charged based on this value.  Refer to the importing samples documentation on the SAT (in Spanish) (in Spanish).
 
 
For Further Information
SAT (Superintendencia de administración tributaria). Guatemala customs information website (in Spanish)

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Reaching the Consumers

Marketing opportunities

Main Advertising Agencies
Guatemalan Union of Publicity Agencies (Spanish only)
Peter Jordan
Autentica

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Distributing a Product

Evolution of the Sector
Economic activity is concentrated around the capital Guatemala City and to a lesser extent around the cities of Quezaltenango, Puerto Barrios, Huehuetenango, Totonicapán, Escuintla and Antigua.   Guatemalans spend more than 50% of their income on food purchases. According to the National Institute of Statistics (INE) the basic food basket in 2016 cost $492 per month. The basic food basket includes: vegetables (tomatoes, onions, squash, potatoes, green beans); corn tortillas, black beans, rice, coffee, sugar, and dairy products (cheese and sour cream.)
The retail sector in Guatemala is dominated by three supermarket chains: Pricesmart, Wal-Mart Mexico y Centroamérica, and Unisuper (La Torre/Econosuper.) These supermarkets target middle and high income consumers; however, the two largest supermarket chains—Walmart and Unisuper—also have stores that service the lower-middle to lower income consumers. The three largest supermarket chains in Guatemala have a regional office that imports/distributes products within their stores in Central America. Importers work directly with brokers to lower the costs of transportation and prefer brokers, most of them located in Miami. In the past (before Walmart was present in the country), supermarkets relied on local importers to display imported products; now, supermarkets prefer to import directly but through their holding groups, especially during peak seasons.

There are still ample opportunities for growth in the retail sector since only 30% of total food sales are made through supermarkets.
Market share
There are three main retailers operating in Guatemala:
- Walmart Mexico y Centroamérica is Guatemala’s largest supermarket chain. Total stores in Guatemala were 218 in 2017: Supertiendas Paiz (28), Walmart (9), Despensa Familiar (152), and Maxi Despensa (29)
- Unisuper is the second largest supermarket in Guatemala with 73 stores under the names of La Torre (65) and Econosuper (8).
- Pricesmart, a U.S. warehouse company that operates membership club stores in Latin America, and the Caribbean. In Guatemala, there are only 3 membership stores located in Guatemala City and Fraijanes. Pricesmart is the only membership club in Guatemala.

There are other smaller supermarkets in the country that are trying to gain market share in the retail sector, but these supermarkets are more targeted to the lower-middle and lower income consumers. They are smaller than a regular supermarket and in consequence have smaller shelf space to display their products. These supermarkets are:
- Super Elmar, S.A. is a family-owned company and has eight stores within Guatemala City
- Comercializadora Gigante, S.A., also known as La Barata, has 17 stores which are mainly located nearby the open-air markets within Guatemala City and its surrounding areas such as Mixco, Villa Nueva and Amatitlan.
- Super Del Barrio started its operations in 2007 and presently has 18 stores.
Retail Sector Organisations
American Chamber of Commerce in Guatemala
Guatemala Chamber of Commerce
Ministry of Economy Guatemala

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E-commerce

Internet access
According to the U.S. Census Bureau Report, there were 6.2 million internet users in Guatemala in 2017, making the penetration rate 37%. Partially as a result of high connectivity costs, just a small share of Guatemala’s population are connected to the internet, making it one of Latin America’s least connected countries. Internet access is available throughout Guatemala, but it is mostly concentrated in and around urban areas and touristic destinations. In 2017, the country joined the Alliance for Affordable Internet, making it the first country in Central American to do so. As part of their strategy to lower prices, the government intends to develop a clear and strong broadband plan and provide concrete steps for ensuring digital inclusion for all Guatemalans.
E-commerce market
Guatemala's e-commerce market is currently in its early stages, and most purchases are made from international websites. However, the market is growing rapidly in the country, and some large banks, supermarkets and associations have begun to adapt to e-commerce. Even some government agencies have recently launched websites that offer interactive services, acknowledging e-commerce as an important market. According to the Guatemalan Association of e-Commerce, in 2017 internet purchases reached US$ 540 million from foriegn websites and US$ 50 million from local shops. Guatemalans still prefer face to face interaction, but younger generations are moving away from traditional retail and using technology more. Only 17% of Guatemalans own a credit or debit card, so most transactions are cash based. Only 1% of the population uses mobile money as a form of payment. Mobile e-commerce is increasingly popular, with 18% of people in Guatemala currently using trading or e-commerce apps, according to a UNCTAD study. Low connectivity and infrastructure, few credit card users and difficulties with delivery are still challenges for e-commerce to grow in the country. However, the market has been showing growth in spite of those challenges. The Government is working on a set of laws to renew the existing legislation against fraud and customs smuggling, which is expected to positively impact e-commerce. Some of the most popular e-commerce websites in the country include kemik.gt, grecom.gt, olx.com.gt, and global giants Amazon and Ebay.

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Organizing Goods Transport

Main Useful Means of Transport
The road network is in the middle of expansion. It is becoming modern and allowing for a much wider capacity of goods circulation: Of note is the price of fuel in Guatemala which is much cheaper.  The railroad network counts for only 800km of tracks and is highly inadequate. It is only used to move agricultural products towards the departure port:  The 5 main ports are: Santo Thomas de Castille for containers; Puerto Barrios on the Atlantic, Puerto San Jose for liquids, Puerto Quetzal for grains and Champerico for peaches.  Santo Thomas de Castillo is the most important port with regard to industrial merchandise volume.  Pueto Quetzal has the most modern equipment.  These two ports alone have a total of 80% of the maritime traffic.
Ports
National Port Commission of Guatemala
Airports
Guatemala Directorate of Civil Aviation (in Spanish)
Mundos Maya international airport (Stanta Elena)
Sea Transport Organisations
CPN - Guatemala
Ministry of transports
Air Transport Organisations
National Directorate for Transport
Road Transport Organisations
Ministry of Transports.
Rail Transport Organisations
Ministry of Transports

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Identifying a Supplier

Type of Production
For the resources for businesses on managing the manufacturing and the supply chain risk due to the outbreak of the Covid19 pandemic, please consult the report COVID-19: Managing supply chain risk and disruption (Deloitte Canada, 2020), as well as the insights on COVID-19: How to fortify your supply chain (Kearney, 2020).
The World Economic Forum's COVID Action Platform provides useful information on the latest strategic trends regarding COVID-19 implications for businesses, including manufacturing and supply systems. The report Outbreak Readiness and Business Impact (World Economic Forum in collaboration with the Harvard Global Health Institute) offers insights on handling coronavirus by businesses and strategies for effective response and resilience.

The Manufacturing industry represents 12.6% of the GDP. With the Central American Common Market and the FTAA, Guatemala has at its disposition an advantageous market which it makes good use of.  With the establishment of maquilas ("in-bond" industries), the maquiladoras sector has become one of the most important sectors for the country.
Guatemala also has a considerable and competitive chemical industry.
The other important sectors are: the cosmetic, paper, metal products, construction materials and crystal industries.

In conclusion, the production structure of the Guatemalan market is oligopolistic, which tends to be a handicap for competition but which has the advantage giving the investors a large choice and the country is not dependant on a single sector.

Business Directories

Multi-sector Directories
All.biz - Guatemala - Directory of companies in Guatemala
Central America Data - Guatemala - Business directory in Guatemala
Deguate - Guatemala's online business directory
Expat.com - Guatemala business directory
Guatemala Business Directory - Dun & Bradstreet
Maps.me - Guatemala business directory
South America Business Directory - Guatemala business directory
Yellow pages - Business directory in Guatemala.
 

To search directories by industry in Guatemala, check out our service Business Directories.

 
Professional Associations by Sector
26 professional associations listed for Guatemala.
 
Trade Agencies and Their Representations Abroad
Guatemala Chamber of Commerce (Spanish only)
General Professional Associations
Agexport
Association des PME du Guatemala
 
 

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Latest Update: April 2022