Doing business with Bolivia
It might not be the first nation that comes to mind when thinking of trading in South America, but Bolivia is somewhat of a hidden hunting gem with plenty to offer. Gun Trade World examines how you can make it work for your business.
Slowly but surely, Bolivia is growing its reputation as a first-class hunting destination. This humble South American nation really only has one main type of hunting available within its borders, but the high standard of it is getting the country noticed on the international stage
Bird hunting is that discipline, specifically dove and pigeon shooting, and it’s some of the best in the world. Bolivia is home to huge migrating and native populations of these birds – and with an increasing area of its land being farmed – these populations are only increasing with more food sources available to the birds. It’s not uncommon for anyone who has hunted in Bolivia to recount to you tales of the sky darkening because of the sheer volume of birds in the air.
It’s estimated that there are around 30 million doves in Bolivia but this is thought to swell to nearer 50 or 60 million in the key migration periods. Huge numbers like this mean that there are no bag limits on hunting these birds during the season, something fairly uncommon in world hunting.
With this major emphasis on wing shooting, the key sector in Bolivia is for shotguns, shotgun ammunition and affiliated accessories. These products are the main sellers and some international brands that already have a standing in Bolivia include Savage Arms, Remington, Century Arms and Henry Repeating Arms.
Outside of shotguns, there is very little market for much else. Rifles are minimal in Bolivia as most big game is not permitted to be hunted – some small mammals like hares can be taken with rifles and air rifles though. Pistols and handguns do have a place, mainly down to the sustained popularity and growth of practical shooting.
The sales chain in Bolivia is relatively straightforward, with many of the retailers dealing directly with brands in order to stock them. One of the country’s better known outdoor sports retailers is Casa CIR (www.cirbolivia.com), which is based in Tarija in the south of the country, close to the border with Argentina. La Paz also hosts several good-sized retailers.
Hunting tourism is a huge part of the market here, with several major tour operators and guides doing strong business taking foreigners hunting. Often these tours include accommodation, transport and hospitality, so they are worth a great deal to the economy overall.
One key tour operator is Bolivian Adventures (www.bolivianadventures.com), which was founded back in the 1990s by Colombian Jorge Enrique Molina, who discovered just how good the dove hunting was here while travelling around South America. The company now operates tours at its two fantastic lodges, Las Palomas Lodgo and Los Guaduales Lodge, which offer a premium accommodation and cultural experience to go alongside the first-class bird hunting.
Legislation and associations
Hunters who wish to own a firearm in Bolivia must apply for a licence, which only lasts for three years, after which time it must be reapplied for. The applicant must be above 21 years of age and can be subject to police background checks for criminal activity or mental health issues.
A test of firearms safety and the law must also be passed. Once this has been completed, hunters can hold between one and five guns. Sales and transfers of all guns and ammunition are recorded in Bolivia on a national register – especially sales conducted by registered firearms dealers. The legislation and restriction around guns here is fairly normal and meets similar standards to the majority of countries worldwide, so you should have no major difficulties with importing or exporting. The main problem could be import taxes and tariffs rather than regulations on firearms.
There are a few associations who deal with hunting and shooting sports in Bolivia. These include: The Asociación Paceña de Tiro Deportivo and Asociación Cruceña de Clubes de Caza y Pesca Deportiva (www.facebook.com/acccpd).
As Bolivia is famous (or maybe even infamous) for having no bag limits on the number of pigeons and doves that can be shot, the scope and importance of these associations is relatively small. In fact, much of the conservation that happens in the country is undertaken by hunting tour operators or hunting lodges and guides themselves. It is self-policed in many respects and, thanks to the incredible populations of dove and pigeon, it seems to work for the country.
Another association worth knowing about in Bolivia is the Federation of Practical Shooting of the Republic of Bolivia (www.ipscbolivia.org). This group represents the interests of practical shooting – a discipline where shooters complete target shooting simulations, often having to move dynamically from one area to another while shooting targets at multiple heights and angles. This is largely conducted here with handguns and pistols. The federation operates under rules of the International Confederation of Practical Shooting (ICPS) and has a history dating back to 1986.
Bolivia is fast becoming a ‘must visit’ for keen wing shooters and has sport, hospitality and infrastructure to start rivalling its neighbours such as Argentina. The industry here is still in its infancy though, so perhaps the best route to market would be to target the hunting tourism industry. Many people from neighbouring South American countries visit to hunt, as do North Americans and, increasingly, Europeans too.
The type of shooting that occurs here is well known on a global stage, so you don’t need to get your head around a completely alien discipline if you do decide to try and trade with Bolivia. Just be cautious that it is a developing market with limited experience in dealing with international partners due to previous restrictions.
Bolivia will almost certainly not help you make a ‘quick buck’ but, with some time, effort and attention, it has the potential to be a useful extra strand in your business.
Capital: Sucre/La Paz
Dialling code: +591
President: Evo Morales
Official language: Spanish
ECONOMY IN FOCUS
Bolivia is of course not one of the world’s super powers in terms of its economy, but it is one of relative simplicity and growth. For the most part in recent history, the Bolivian economy has been based on single commodities and natural resources from the country’s mining and farming. Productive exports over the years have included silver, tin, natural gas, zinc and cocoa. Over the last 20 years, the economy has grown based on harvesting these natural resources, however labour shortages have meant the growth has perhaps not reached its full potential. Nonetheless, since 2006, GDP per capita has doubled and the extreme poverty rate has decreased by over 20 per cent – so things are certainly moving in the right direction. The main export partners for Bolivia’s rich natural resources are its two large South American neighbours Brazil and Argentina, and further afield the United States and India.
One thing that has hindered economic growth in Bolivia is a history of Government policies and export tariffs that deter international investment, however the current President, Evo Morales, has taken steps to try and alleviate this – he recently passed an investment law and promised not to nationalise additional industries in an attempt to improve the investment climate. Another issue Bolivia has faced in terms of restricting its growth is the country’s poor infrastructure – the road and rail network has been severely lacking in recent times. However, there has been a keen effort to improve this in the last 20 years, which will only help.
The service industry is slowing taking a larger chunk of the economy in Bolivia, but that change is certainly slower than many other South American neighbours.
After a financial crash in the 1980s, the economy in Bolivia has been stable since the 2000’s, mostly down to the increasing prices of many of the abundant commodities it has. The limitations on export that previously made the country a difficult place to trade are slowly being changed and even lifted in some cases, making Bolivia a more attractive proposition for international companies.
One thing Bolivia does have in its favour is incredible natural resource when it comes to hunting – something that can definitely work in your favour.
GDP per capita: US$3,600
GDP growth rate: 4.3%
Unemployment rate: 4%
Top export partners: Brazil, Argentina, USA, Japan, India
Top import partners: China, Brazil, Argentina, USA, Peru
Estimated number of firearms licences held: 10,000
In the crosshairs
Bolivia is known for one thing in hunting terms, and that’s dove hunting. The country is an absolutely prolific place to visit for wing hunters, with doves and pigeons being so abundant; there are often no bag limits on shoots. The species that is the most popular and most common is the eared dove – a resident breeder throughout South America and particularly prevalent in Bolivia. Locals say that the sheer number of these birds is said to darken the skies when they are at their peak populations and shooting 1,000 birds in a day is not out of the question. The estimated population of these doves throughout South America exceeds 30 million.
The eared dove is around nine inches in length and is mainly brown in colour, with a black line behind the eye and ear coverts, which give it its name. They are ground feeders, grazing on seed, which can often see them become pests on farmland.
A quick search on YouTube can show just how incredible the hunting in Bolivia is – more birds than sky is a regular occurrence in peak season.
Hunting season: April to October
In among the huge numbers of dove and eared doves are some pigeons too – Bolivia has a healthy population of common pigeons, which are also targeted by sportsmen. Again, these birds feed on seed and grain in farmland, which has increased in Bolivia in recent years, making food sources easier to come by for these birds. There are no bag limits on pigeons either, so a good day’s shooting is almost guaranteed when you head out to target these birds.
Hunting season: April to October