Well the coffee harvest is over, thankfully, and like a farmers everywhere we can hope that next year will be better.
There has been a glut in the world coffee market and prices are down plus this hasn’t been a good year for production in Boquete for farms at our altitude. We’re fighting coffee diseases, low prices, and the fact that it is difficult to get pickers. Many of the traditional Ngobe pickers headed to Costa Rica claiming they could get more money in Costa Rica. We had to pay pickers $2.25 to $2.75 a lata and the price we could sell coffee at remained at $6.60 per lata the whole season. Last year it was a high as $10 a lata.
My prediction: in ten years there will be no coffee growing in Boquete except for a few big producers at high elevations. There will be boutique growers, like boutique wineries, but the town once described in the following quote by Ken Davids from COFFEE REVIEW will be no more . . .
“ . . . Boquete Valley resembles California’s wine-growing Napa Valley. The Boquete terrain is more precipitous than Napa’s, its river more sparkling, its farms less pretentious, but the feel of an entire community focused with passion and sophistication on a single specialty crop is familiar . . .”
And please, no song and dance about this being the result of Gringos and expats moving to Boquete! It’s the result of market forces pure and simple. Panama is booming! Building is everywhere! Look at the building boom even in David. Indigenous can make more money as construction helpers than they ever could in agriculture and coffee.
So with the drop in coffee prices you can expect Starbucks and the other big coffee retailers to start lowering their prices. Right!
[Oh yes, the shirt I'm wearing . . . left over from the Just Cruising travel agencies we had years ago!]
Now . . . onto the FUN part of blogging . . . your comments and letters!
Only the healthy need apply?
Hi, Wondering where I can find info regarding any medical conditions I may have that would disqualify me from moving to Panama from Canada? Wondering if someone with diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, etc would be allowed to become a resident of the country? Any info would be appreciated. Thank you, Natalie
Yes Natalie, you do need a Panamanian doctor to give you an exam and certify that you are in good health. In my humble opinion this was a little like what I understand is the medical examination that will get you a license for medical marijuana in California! As I recall the doctor who examined me asked if I was alive and I replied yes! Seriously, I think they are looking for people who may be carrying infectious disease. Most people who get to retirement age have a lot of chronic medical issues and maybe the more important medical question is do you meet the pension and social security requirements for income from outside Panama. I know many folks down here with diabetes and other chronic problems.
Life must be meaningful . . . even in retirement! Maybe especially in retirement.
Hi. My wife and I have read your book, ESCAPE TO PARADISE and I follow you blog on a daily basis. Thank you. You have been a wealth of information and its greatly appreciated. My wife and I will likely retire to Panama but it’s still about 5 years away. Like yourself, I don’t think I would be totally content without finding purposeful work on a part-time basis . Besides the information in your book, are there other resources I could explore to identify work opportunities for expats in Panama? Thanks, Stewart
First Stewart thanks for your kind comments about ESCAPE TO PARADISE! Can I ask you and others who liked the book to do me a big favor? If you bought it through Amazon please take a few minutes and write a review: it helps big time!
It used to be you couldn’t work in Panama unless you were a Panamanian. Now the country and economy is growing so rapidly that the President has introduced a new residency program to encourage people from countries that maintain friendly, professional, economic, and investment relationships with the Republic of Panama to obtain a new type of permanent residency and be able to partake in professional and/or economic activities to the same extent as Panamanian citizens. They will also be subject to the same rules and laws for commerce and business. The application process is very straightforward and requires that the following documents be submitted through the National Immigration Service:
- Three passport-sized photographs
- A copy of the identification card or residency card from your home country
- A document that demonstrates your reason for seeking permanent residence or that details the professional and economic activity that you will be partaking in
- Proof of economic solvency, in the form of a banking certificate/bank account statement from the past month reflecting an account balance of no fewer than 4 digits or demonstrating sufficient monthly income
- A letter of responsibility, if necessary
- Documentation to verify family members and dependents accompanying you
There are also a number of other types of visas but not all, like the Pensionado Visa, allow you to work. There are many expats who get around this by offering services “under the radar” by word of mouth to other expats. There are folks who have their own tiny “cottage industries” making various foodstuffs (but with Health Department approval) that in Boquete they sell at the Tuesday Morning Market. There are a lot of people who continue working as consultants or whatever using the Internet doing things like gambling, day trading, selling items, running various Internet-based businesses, and even surgeons and radiologists who continue to consult using the Internet. Various companies looking to get into the Central American market are looking for folks to represent their products on a part-time basis if they are fluent Spanish speakers. And Panama loves to have extranjeros who will open businesses and hire Panamanians.
According to the government the unemployment rate is at 4.5%, which represents about 60 thousand people, yet in Panama City there are about 70,000 vacancies to be filled. Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli while visiting Spain last year, recognizing the need for qualified and trained workers, invited Spaniards to come to Panama and work noting that they already spoke the language.
I’m amazed at all the expats I meet who have found ways to “work” without pay by serving others. There are folks who come down to retire determined that now that they have the time they will invest their retirement in serving others in medical missions, community projects, etc.
In Panama there is always a little bottle of hot sauce!
Richard I was in Boquete in September visiting the area for housing and just to check out Panama as well. Enjoyed the country very much but I just couldn’t believe that the food was no bland. Is it me and my wife are is the food very bland our am I just eating at the wrong places. We tried a lot restaurants in and around the area but they all were bland. Do you have any special places to eat out. Hope to return soon and would like to try any you suggest. Thank you Virgil
My favorite places to eat out in Bouquete are “The Rock” particularly on Thursday night when they have all you can eat baby back ribs cooked in a mango BBQ sauce! Delicious! They also have a great regular menu with some Thai dishes and as you know they can definitely warm up Thai food. The other place I really enjoy is the Panamonte Inn which has been a Boquete institution and owned by the same family since 1914.
Folks like Teddy Roosevelt, Charles Lindbergh, Admiral Richard Byrd, The Shah of Iran, Ingrid Bergman, Richard Nixon, Sean Connery and me have all enjoyed eating at the Panamonte.
For the “ordinary” Panamanian “typica” cuisine . . . have you noticed that there are always bottles of hot sauce . . . hot and VERY hot sitting on the table? Guess why?
It’s not just me . . .
I want to thank two of my readers for sharing their experiences about living in Panama!
First, from Christine . . .
Richard – In addition to owning an apartment and land here in Panama, we also own houses in the Tampa area as well as Key West. As some have pointed out there are some much better deals in real estate to be found in particular areas of the US. Dallas, Ft Meyers, Tampa, St Pete, Miami . . .However, it is NOT the price of real estate that brought most of us to Panama several years ago. For me, it was about affordable and great medical care. Some may be of an age that have Medicare, or may have the means to pay the ridiculous prices in the US for care, but most of us middle class Americans do NOT! Two blocks from our apartment there in Panama City here is Hospital Punta Pacifica – affiliated with Johns Hopkins. Two blocks the other direction is Centro Medico Paitilla – I have heard is affiliated with the Cleveland Clinic. I had skin cancer removed there 2 years ago – $25 for biopsy, $75 for Dermatologist, $75 for Pathologist! And my doctor went to school at FSU in Florida and spoke perfect English. Buying and living here in Panama is more about the cost of living here. In Key West just one house costs us $12,000 in taxes and insurance – hurricane insurance is something to consider anywhere in FL and only getting worse. Plus we’ve gotten used to fresh shrimp and fish from the Mercado de Maricos – much less expensive than back in Key West! Living is affordable for us here. And life is good, NOT perfect, but we can live much better here, for much less than in the US. Christine
Damn Christine, here I am living in shrimp paradise and in my later life I’ve developed an allergy to shrimp. So, please, for me, enjoy an extra helping!
Then this from Tere
Hi Richard, I enjoy your blog very much. Your writings always make me ask myself the question of why I am in Panama?
I have experienced every single situation you mention, positive and negative and I am still living in Panama.
Right now I am in Ft. Lauderdale now awaiting the birth of my fifth grandson. It gives me a lot of time to think about my previous question and I realize that I have a love-hate relationship with Panama where love outweighs hate.
Reason number one to be in Panama: we are getting older, not younger. Sooner or later we will need personal help. I took care of my mother for the last four years of her life. She died at the age of 99. I do not want my kids to have to do that. It is draining. But also I do not want to go to a nursing home where you are more a number than a human being. In Panama I can afford twenty-four hour help in my home. I can even afford a chauffeur. You cannot beat that.
I see the comings and goings of my kids here in the States and I know it does not have to be like that. With what they pay for daycare for one kid here, they could have a maid and a nanny there. With two kids, they would have money left for rent.
Another important reason, I get supermarket shock every time I go grocery shopping here. Even though prices are going up in Panama, it is still a lot less expensive. Restaurants are another story. We went for pizza the other night in Boca Raton, the check was for $100. two medium pizzas, salads and drinks. Another shock! I had my oldest daughter’s baby shower at the Continental Hotel in Panama. The bill was $500. I just had a baby shower here in Ft.Lauderdale for my youngest daughter at our house, we made everything and I spent the same. Another shock!
In conclusion, I hate many things in Panama, the no customer service, especially the first weeks after I get back,
the traffic and the reckless driving in the city and sometimes the overall laid back attitude but I love my bay front apartment, my maid for $300 a month, the cleaners where they iron every single piece of clothing for 70 cents. I also love the fresh seafood, vegetables and fruits, especially pineapples for $1. And last but not least, the Pensionado discounts that give me among other things, 25% discount on plane tickets. I come to the States every couple of months, for special occasions, birthdays or anytime my kids need me and I see them more now than when I lived in Georgia. What else can I ask for! Tere
So there you have it! Day after tomorrow I’ll do some more mail. Again, thank you all for reading and for sharing your comments!