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importing products
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Importing Products into Costa Rica

Importing Products into Costa Rica

A foreign company can import a product directly to a Costa Rican company or resident without a local representative in Costa Rica. For example, Dell Computer Corporation, based in the U.S., directly exports computer hardware from the U.S. to Costa Rican residents and companies with the warranty product required by Costa Rican law, without a local representative.

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However, it is recommended that foreign companies establish local representation (options are described below) or a local sales office in Costa Rica to avoid potential international lawsuits that would prevent them from distributing or selling their products in Costa Rica or Latin America, and to better interface with the Costa Rican government system as well as to market successfully the product in the Costa Rican private industry. 

Any foreign company that produces products outside Costa Rica may freely do business in Costa Rica: 

  • through its own foreign representative

  • through a local representative (Representante de Casa Extranjera)

  • through concessionaires


Exports and imports are registered by the Costa Rican Commerce Marketing Company (Promotora de Comercio Exterior (PROCOMER) and General Customs Management (Direccion General de Aduanas), for statistical purposes.

Licenses and Permits:

Import licenses are required for products such as food, solvents, chemicals and cattle. For other products, import licenses are not required.

Foreign companies must have an import license valid for five years issued by the Health Department of Costa Rica and must register the product in the Health Department of Costa Rica and the General Customs Management Office for statistical purposes if they want to import pharmaceuticals, drugs, cosmetics and some chemical products, such as solvents and precursor chemicals.

Foreign companies must register food products - if importing for the first time - with the General Customs Management once for statistical purposes. They also must bring a plant/herb health certificate and/or animal health certificate duly authenticated by a Consulate of Costa Rica to the Department of Agriculture and Animal Control (Ministerio de Agricultura y Ganaderia) in Costa Rica.

Foreign companies, importing animals into Costa Rica, must present animal health certificates duly authenticated by a Consulate of Costa Rica to the Agriculture Department of Costa Rica per each pet.

Foreign companies, importing arms and munitions into Costa Rica, must have a license from the Costa Rican Public Security Department (Ministerio de Seguridad Publica), division of Control of Weapons and Explosives, and the Congress of Costa Rica if you are importing war weapons.

Importing Agricultural Products:

As of December 1999, no import permits, other than plant health certificates and animal health certificates are required for imports of grains, poultry, meat, dairy products or any other agricultural product per the terms of Costa Rica's GATT accession agreement.

Distribution channels do not vary significantly among the different food products. Fresh fruit requires technical handling knowledge, because of its sensitivity; and refrigerated warehousing because of environmental conditions.

Private companies make consumer food imports. Several wholesalers, dedicated to the food import business, distribute products to supermarkets as well as medium and small stores. Some of the larger supermarket chains buy from local representatives and, if they import something, they will do it through companies that import products and are owned by the same supermarket.

Grains: The import grain business is controlled by a limited number of companies.

Wheat: National Production Council (Consejo Nacional de Produccion) and two private companies import wheat into Costa Rica.

Corn & Soybeans: DEMASA, a Mexican owned company based in Costa Rica imports white corn. Two private companies import yellow corn and soybeans.

Rice: Granos Basico de Centroamerica, National Production Council (Consejo Nacional de Produccion), and the Rice Office are in charge of importing rice into Costa Rica.

Information for Exporting Companies:

Foreign companies can contact Costa Rica's Office of Agricultural Affairs for a list of importers, wholesalers and distributors. U.S. companies can obtain a list of major Costa Rican importers of consumer-oriented foods from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA.) The most important commercial agricultural partners of Costa Rica are: 

  • The United States of America - thanks to its geographical location, quality and wide selection of competitively-priced products

  • Mexico - enhanced by the Mexico-Costa Rica Free Trade Agreement went into effect in January 1995

  • Chile - enhanced by the Chile-Costa Rica Free Trade Agreement that went into effect in 1999

  • Guatemala - they provide canned fruits and vegetables, snacks, wheat-based products, fresh fruit, and candies

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