No more seeds

Over the almost nine years I have lived here I have imported small packages of seeds. Never an issue before. But, it apparently just became a problem.

I have always just had them mailed. More often than not the envelope/package said "seeds" on it but sometimes said "samples". This time, instead of seeds, I have four pages of government paperwork. They are:

  • The typical Aduana Postal form with four signatures and two stamps saying what was in the package. You can never read this as it is copy three or four of the form.
  • A "Bulletin de verification" that seems to be in French. The only thing on the front said is "USA" and "var a dorso". Section four on the back, Autres Irregularites, has information in English and Spanish about what was in the package and some other interesting stuff. My favorite is "please note to your administration to income from a small package USA in the office #129 JFK". The operative part, however was "Observation: The MAGFOR did total confiscation".
  • The original and a copy of the "acta de decomiso/destruction" from MAGFOR. This is a whole page of hand filled out information including three reasons for "decomiso" and the law that was violated. It is supposed to have the place and date of destruction but only has the place. It does, however, have five signatures and five stamps.

While I would rather have my 0.04Kg (their number) of seeds, I did get a lot of work on the part of the government at no cost.

What's my problem with this? Change. If there was a practical way to import a few packages of seeds, great. But, to the best of my knowledge, there is not. If you want to import a tonalada or a container there are procedures that do make sense. But, as I understand it, one would need to follow the same procedures for 0.04Kg.

While seeds are the issue here, the same catch 22 exists for communications devices. Based on the law, if you bought a $10 FM broadcast receiver or a regular wired telephone you can import it but you need to get a permit from TELCOR. If you want to do this yourself you would need to go to Managua to pick up the paperwork from Aduanas, take it to TELCOR, fill out paperwork and pay for the permit and then take it back to Aduanas. If this is something you sent through postal mail then you then need to wait for correos to process this paperwork and deliver the package to you. For someone living no where near Managua nor a post office, allow at least a day of your time and a week of elapsed time to accomplish this.

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Importing seeds not like importing DVDs

This comment is meant to contribute to the general knowledge about plants and seeds, and their importation.

Phytosanitary certificates are quite normal in import/export of plant material of any type. They are to ensure that the plant material (seeds, live plants, whatever) complies with laws of the importing country. This is especially important with regard to plant dieases which can be spread in importing country, invasive species which displace native plant populations, and now in the age of Monsanto's evil empire, genetically modified seeds with consequences yet unknown (at least one can hope that importing countries will not want these).

It used to be almost without restriction to bring anything into Nicaragua, no one cared. Even unvaccinated pets. It probably is still easy to bring certan things in, depending on time and place, and who's in charge and willing to break or bend rules.

With seeds, the best solution is to save your own seed. Look to other folks, campesinos, agronomos to share seed.

There used to be many old seed varieties shared by campesinos which are becoming lost in an age of agricultural industrialization.

I was pleased to fond this article I Googled, which showd that Nicaragua has been saving and cataloging its native seeds:

How about creating a list here of seeds/plants that Doug, Phil, or whoever has and is willing to share/trade for others? Then a wish list of seeds that no one has. Maybe we can look into the cost for a big common order?

Still in the USA, but in NIcaragua in 3 years mas o menos, NG

Nice theory

but you are more likely to bring in an agricultural pest on your shoes or vehicle undercarriage than in a fractional oz. picture packet of seeds from the US. Seed saving starts by get the best seed possible and then paying attention. Starting with average or inappropriate seed is a bad way to start.

"You can avoid reality, but you cannot avoid the consequences of avoiding reality." Ayn Rand

New Man in Charge

I was told by the guy who runs Trans Express that a new General, appointed by the Sandinistas, has taken over Aduana. Aduana is to now strictly enforce all the taxation laws. My mother recently sent a package for my girl of no more than $20 dollars worth of items and the tax bill was $60. I let them keep it. He told me that he and the other importers have gone and spoke to this person about the taxes explaining how it would hurt their business and possibly the economy. What he told this group of ppl was " If someone can afford to buy something off Amazon and have it shipped here, then they can afford to pay the taxes." This is what I was told buy my buddy at Trans Express. I do not know if this has anything to do with the confiscation of seeds, but I suspect it does.

I agree

"If someone can afford to buy something off Amazon and have it shipped here, then they can afford to pay the taxes".

Whats wrong with that statement?

Some of you guys are the first to spout of abut US jobs and Immigrants and how Chinese products are costing the US economy yet you expect to bring in stuff to a third world country without paying the proper taxes.

Nicaragua slapped a 40% tax on import cheese a few years go.....we still get pizza.

And, they make a good stretchy Mozzarella in Chinandega.

Again, try doing it the other way.

My Nicaragua wife had to be so squeaky clean on her recent trip through the USA to Canada as TSA and Migracion were just looking for a reason to say "No, not today".

I agree Janno - Nothing wrong with that statement.

Paying 300% taxes for things we can afford from Amazon is a privilege for gracious guests in Nicaragua!

Likewise expats who can afford to start and run a business can also afford to get a cedula like the law requires & pay the 15% IVA tax to the DGI that foreigners usually pay. Some instead put the business in their esposa's name, work illegally, & only pay the insignificant quota fija tax rates that Nica natives are usually assigned. However most expats like you and I who live here full time are squeaky clean & respect and obey Nica laws and happily pay the taxes and even a little extra like good people should.

The Trans Express rep here told me that Aduana would no longer allow the $500 Tax exoneration every six months through their service that Nica law allows. If you can afford to buy something through NicaBox you should not expect to bring in stuff to a third world country by paying the proper taxes - You should pay a lot more. Since we can afford it we will bring in more and more things from Amazon & the Nica citizens will soon be flooded with new job opportunities and benefits that these taxes provide. And that solves our obligation to help the new General appointed by the Sandinistas who has taken over Aduana.

You ppl are insane!

Paying 300% is fair and a privilege? Just like back home you think taxing is the solution.

Nica citizens will soon be flooded with new job opportunities and benefits that these taxes provide.

I was told that their business is down 50% in the last 3 months since he has taken over. Soon, they might have to lay ppl off because of this. This is just one of them and I am sure the others are suffering to. So much for the new job opportunities. I and several of my friends now have others bring in our items since we have access to a steady stream of ppl. The goverment will get no money from me nor will the local business. I am not the only one doing this my buddy at TE said ppl will just find other ways of getting their stuff in. All this does is hurt the business owners and will reduce revenue. This is what happens when you put someone in charge that knows nothing about business or taxes. Kinda like appointing a judge that has no experience with the law, ask Jason how that has worked out.

Funny you should mention Jason

As in Jason Puracal.

A little known fact is that as well as his Remax agency, he did have a Compras y Entregas agency handling import and export through Aduana in Managua.

In light of that and who is now in charge of DGA (a man who fought and beat Lenin Cerna for the job!!), I would want to be squeaky clean as an NGO type working in Nicaragua.

Your "Buddy" in Aduana could be a large S Sandnista posing as a small S... or even the Aduana CPC Rep.

"Walls have ears" they used to say.

Just sayin.

The solution for this problem is eminent.

There is a light at the end of the tunnel.

The new Canal law has passed & it has been widely reported that investors from all over the world are lining up to buy the new Canal Bonds although temporarily they had they have to be turned away. The bonds have not been printed yet because the presses are all tied up printing bonds & labels for some guy's new business growing and producing a new line of Nicaraguan gourmet coffee.

The revenues from the canal will soon ramp up and these import taxes will probably be reduced to a reasonable level of something like 250 %. That will solve the tax problem for those who can cannot afford a trip back to our home country to smuggle things back tax free and instead have to buy something off Amazon and have it shipped here.

I dont mind taxes....

but I think 300% is little ridiculous. So, now I just have people bring my packages down and the goverment gets no money and the local business lose also and soon ppl will be losing their jobs. My buddy at Trans Express said business is down over 50% and he doesn´t know how long they can survive like this.


I am not sure their business being down 50% reflects all imports being down 50% or down at all. I am having my next TransExpress episode. It looks like this so far:

  • Mfgr to TransExpress in Miami: 3 days
  • Miami to Managua: apparently one day
  • TransExpress gets package through aduanas: 2 weeks
  • I deposit payment in TransExpress bank account: 1 hour after "ready" message
  • A week later I ask what happened. A day later I get a message that the amount they told me to pay was wrong and send me the corrected amount.
  • The next day I spend five hours to pay the balance and send a shitty email to them
  • That was Tuesday. Not a word (or package) since.

I mostly send stuff through correos. Strange as it may seem, it takes less time than TransExpress.

300% is the norm

For most all Latin countries. Brazil, Venezuela, Colombia all have these duties of 300%. An iPad in Brazil costs $1500 USD for example. Even though Brazil currency is down 25% vs. the US dollar over the past year still has not stopped the hordes of Brazilians coming here buying name brand stuff and returning home without the original packaging. Brazilians are by far coming in the largest numbers and spending the most (all borrowed money but that is another story). All the malls are filled with Brazilians and they love Wal-Mart. And Amazon they know well as many hotels accept shipments on behalf of incoming guests so when they arrive some have sometimes dozens of packages waiting for them. Brazilians tourists are keeping this place humming for sure.

New restrictions just in last weeks prohibit sending laptops or iPads using the US Post Office which was by far the cheapest way before. FedEx cost 3-4 times as much. Because of the batteries exploding they say and new regulations are being developed and will be announced at end of year I was told. .

It was just 3 weeks before this restriction that I shipped a used laptop by the US Post Office to India. Cost me $75.00 and the person for whom laptop was intended had to basically get on a train and travel 200 miles to get it. She had received a card by bicycle messenger informing her there was a package.My error I did not include any paperwork in the box so they valued it over $200 which means duties kick in of 200% of value. This person called me on my cell at 4am EST (2:30pm India time approx) agitated with this bad news and I apologized (it was a gift) as I assumed it was a loss as I was not going to pay $700 or more dollars they wanted for duties for a laptop that was worth $400 or so here. She was in the customs office far from home and things did not look good after traveling some 5 hours. Just ready to give up I told her I would send a receipt as pdf file to her email. I made up a document on Word template showing value of $198.50 bill of sale from a fictitious computer recycler company. She went to an internet Cafe printed the document and returned to Customs just before 5PM (closing time) with my aforementioned Document in hand.

ACCEPTED! She got back on the train for the 5 hour return trip with her new (well used) laptop in hand!

Btw it cost 50 rupees (less than $1.00) to get a train ticket to travel 200 miles in India.


i went to buy some dvds from Amazon today, and they said order was not shipable and refered me to a series of 2 international shipping pages. One gave price and shipping time to Nic. and the other said they onlt ship to selected countries, the nearest 2 being Mex. and CR. Don`t know if it is an amazon thing or what.

Anybody bought DVDs lately from abroad?

"You can avoid reality, but you cannot avoid the consequences of avoiding reality." Ayn Rand

The Canal Will

fix all of these problems. And as the linked press account states, Nicaragua's canal will have 4% of international shipping by 2012, so we don't have long to wait.

The Promised Land is right around the corner.

Nicaragua is determined to remain down there with Haiti, "Poor By Choice".

I have lost...

the last three seed orders I had sent here. All I could make out from the fourth layer , unreadable carbon sounds the same as yours, Fitosanitary Certificate and Certificate of country of origin seemed to be what was lacking. The other itemsin the box got throughbut the box had a big yellow Magfor sticker. The last package was some cereal, quinoa and amaranth, both packaged for eating from Rancho Gordo.

-Doug ©

If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the precipitate

Off track?

I know we are really good at getting off topic but I think here we are off track. In other venues I would probably use the expression "conspiracy theorist". With close to a decade here and with a Nicaraguan family, I think there is a generic explanation that doesn't involve a retalatory plan one the part of the government. That doesn't mean it isn't irritating but I don't think it is any retaliation against Gringos.

If anything, I think it is all rather random. I think it is just what we see of a the actions of a small, underfunded government attempting to enforce the laws on the books. Let me offer some data points.

  • When I first moved here, I opened a bank account because (at the time) a bank manager was willing to open an account for someone without a cédula. He was basically de-regulating the truth a bit by saying the person had applied for one but the paperwork wasn't there yet. At that time, other branches of the same bank would not do this.
  • I got a Nicaraguan driver's license because a friend basically strongarmed the transit police into giving me one.
  • I have had packages marked as containing a router go through postal aduanas with no problem but, other times, have the same thing retained because it needed a TELCOR permit.
  • I wanted to import a pair of used 27MHz CB walki-talkies. I checked with TELCOR and was told no permit was needed. When the package arrived, postal aduanas told me I needed a TELCOR permit. I sent them the email from TELCOR stating that I did not. No matter, postal aduanas would not release the package without me getting the permit that didn't exist.
  • Packages labeled as "electronic replacement part" and "samples" usually (but not always) get to me unopened.
  • When I bought a new Nokia 770 (this is a palm-top computer, not a phone) there was no import issue other than paying the duty. When I imported a used Nokia N800 (also a palm-top computer), DHL did the dirty work of fighting with aduanas. Someone in Aduanas had decided that Nokia only made telephones and they require a TELCOR permit.
  • I bought two identical replacement hard disks which were sent to Ana, a native Nicaraguan. While the total cost was less than $200 and she had not used her $500 exhoneration, postal aduanas decided it was a commercial import and she had to pay duty. The rational was that because it was two, not one, she was going to re-sell them.
  • Various times I have been told to email invoices to postal aduanas (because their FAX was broken). Other times I have been told they don't have email and I have to FAX them or hand deliver them to Managua.
  • I have been told by two long-term postal employees that what happens is that postal adunas will open everything and enforce the law for a while. Then they get a big backlog and just let everything go through. The evidence which supports this is that I have had multiple items received two weeks apart in Managua appear unopened in Estelí on the same day.
  • The definition of "original invoice" seems to depend on the phase of the moon. In general, having a color laser printer seems to be a big help. :-) I think this issue is global in nature. While I know customs agents with a big rubber stamp that says "ORIGINAL INVOICE" when I imported a huge generator from China the paperwork came with three very official looking invoices, all saying ORIGINAL INVOICE. This was not stamped but part of the form.

In most countries with bigger government, there tends to be expensive and complicated systems of taxation to support the government. Here there is no such system. Barter and cash transactions within the country are the norm. In many restaurants, the question "do you want a receipt" translates to "do you want to pay IVA" (sales tax). The actual purchase price of most everything from used vehicles to real estate is not what any sane person puts on the paperwork.

The limited government decides to address a tax issue in one area and might succeed. But, all in all, I see no reason to think there is any anti-Gringo plot here. It just reminds me of a conversation I had with a friend about a phone call she had just completed with her business partner.

Their business was fair sized. Her partner was complaining that a bunch of business tax laws had just changed. She explained that it was not that the profit of the business would go down. She said it just meant that you had to decide how much money you wanted and then figure out how to do the paperwork to maintain that profit.

I think we have the same thing here. The government wants your money and you do too. To me, the difficult part is that while the laws here don't change the rules of the game do. For the big players this is a small expense. For those of us with a $20 seed order, it is a pain.

Not sure but..

I had a FedEx pouch that wound up at Aduana by the airport. I will write out the whole story later but it wound up costing me about C$ 4500 for some letters and 8 DVD's, I will have to wait to write when I can relate it without all the four letter words that seem to pop into my head when I think about it.

I was the only 'gringo' there and after 8 hour of waiting I was the last person to get my package, just a coincidence I am sure

-Doug ©

If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the precipitate

Basically, Nicaragua is not libertarian....'s a poor country that can't afford to enforce all of its laws and a country that has a culture of figuring out how to work around things like tax laws because people are poor or really don't want to risk becoming poor.

I had to pay $124 US on one of the camera lens imports because the box didn't weigh what the invoice said it weighed. I was supposed to go to Managua with the original invoice (on-line transaction). I went into the PO here and let the girl read the invoice to the guy over the phone. They wanted me to come to Managua or pay $124 to have Correos send the box to Jinotega. I elected to pay (I'd already brought in camera stuff worth over $500). Worth it not to have to deal with Managua customs or post office. Every time I've gotten a package here, a post office worker hands me scissors to open the package and we go through it to make sure all the stuff is there, but most of the time all I've had to pay was five cordobas processing fee.

Rebecca Brown

the one time

i bought stuff other than books the package arrived at correos completely open. they had me go through the package and inventory it. $20 worth of stuff was missing, but it was documented ^^not in box when opened by customs^^ so correos was off the hook. That`s the last time I ordered general merchandise by mail--about 5 years ago.

"You can avoid reality, but you cannot avoid the consequences of avoiding reality." Ayn Rand

I haven't had any trouble with things going missing

...either in private packages (twice) or with things ordered on line (camera gear and SD cards for cameras). I sweated the first camera order. B&H stopped shipping by mail, and I'm more nervous about UPS here (they swear they deliver to houses in Nicaragua).

Things can be stolen by employees of the USPS -- I was on a grand jury in NYC that indicted a postal employee for stealing (coins out of kids' mail to buy comic books or something like that, really small change).

I don't know in which direction the weight discrepancy on my second B&H order went, but Correos was taking it very seriously and wanted to know what I expected in the box before sending it up to Jinotega (and charging me $124). If it was underweight on an insured package and something was missing, I'm not sure which postal service is liable.

Rebecca Brown

You're Right

of course, it's just Nicaragua, nothing intentional.

Points about working within the system are well taken. To do otherwise is to wind up with a bloody head from banging it against one wall after another.

I have my fingers firmly crossed on the property waiver renewal. I hope cooler heads prevail. Non-renewal of the waiver has the potential of being used as an excuse for ANYTHING that goes wrong with the Nicaraguan economy over the next year.

but since govmint employees

are Sandinistas, it wouldn`t surprize me if some took the iniciative to to jerk people around. I prefer to work within the sistem, but if the system doesn`t work I can just live without and vacation in CR.

"You can avoid reality, but you cannot avoid the consequences of avoiding reality." Ayn Rand


I ordered some seeds a few months ago but the vendor sent them to my billing address not my Nic address. I thought it was a mistake, but maybe he knew what he was doing. i specifically ordered from an outfit outside the US because many US companies are not set up for export. The seeds got to the US OK.

Or maybe it was just the fickle finger of fate and your order got dumped and the next one will get thru. Probably not worth the hassle.

In theory, this is a business opportunity for somebody, but I don`t think the market here is big enough to support a company importing seeds for hobbyists. Maybe one of the current importers will add to their pitifully small line of flower and garden seeds.

I`ve toyed with the idea of getting a phytosanitary cert in the US to send some stuff down, so maybe this will push me into looking into it the next time I`m in the States.

"You can avoid reality, but you cannot avoid the consequences of avoiding reality." Ayn Rand

Not too encouraging

Much would hinge on whether Nic. requires an import permit. Another issue is that the Nic agencies are probably geared to agricultural crops and ornamental stuff may not compute. If they don`t know what it is, the big NO would be real handy.

"You can avoid reality, but you cannot avoid the consequences of avoiding reality." Ayn Rand

From the MAGFOR paperwork

This is hand written so I am guessing at some of it but, more or less it says

291 Ley Salud animal y Sanidad Vegetal y Regltes (?) Art 32 y 56 del reglamento.

In the "causa de decomiso" there is:

  • Permiso de importacion
  • Certificado de origin
  • Certificado fitosanitario

In other words, doesn't look good.

Note that I have imported a lot of seeds from the US (Sustainable Seed, for example, can handle international shipments) but also from the UK and Paraguay.


Basically this paper says: Permission to export/import; Certificate of origin; Certificate of sanitation.

Sounds like your basic Nica regulations. You can either find out where to get the certificates (a hassle) or send them wrapped in bubble wrap or newspaper in a sturdy envelope. This is if you're sending & not receiving.

Most seed catalogs have rules about where to send. If you're getting seeds from a friend somewhere, they can bubble wrap them & don't mention "seeds." A sturdy envelope can easily hide the seeds.

BTW: do they have post office boxes in Jinotega or Matagalpa?

Also, leaving the postman (if they have one) small gifts here & there helps a lot! As long as they're veggie or flower seeds, no biggie. Anything else (such as pot seeds) NOT RECOMMENDED.

Josi P.

Has Anyone Else

had the problem?

Maybe it's just part of "make life difficult for the Gringos" ahead of the property waiver decision.

Using Iranian and Nicaraguan in the same sentence is (very effective) demagoguery, especially if something breaks in the Persian Gulf.

Rubio has gained a national voice with his potential VP status, and he's a very well-spoken, personable guy with an attractive all-American family; Most pundits consider Floria to be in the Republican column come November, but who knows?

Obama has been pandering to every possible constituency in order to salvage his re-election chances. If swatting Nicaragua, unfairly or not, gains him a few potential votes he will definitely do it. Until November, EVERYTHING is about re-election.

Or most likely, someone just wanted your seeds :) They're probably already in the ground.

This year's seeds are currently selling at deep discounts; what are you looking for?

Aduanas has recently

Aduanas has recently confiscated seeds from air shipped packages of mine, where before they let them in without any problem. At first they said I had to agree to the confiscation/destruction or they could ship them back to the US. I told them to ship them back to the US and then they changed their mind and said the seed could only be destroyed [aka given to the boss' brother]

If it's packed as popcorn for popping,

it appears to go through just fine. I had to unpack the last package (hummingbird feeders, cotton towels, a finger puppet, and three different kinds of popcorn) when I picked the package up.

Economy must have improved so they're enforcing laws they didn't bother/couldn't afford to enforce before.

As for the aid Nicaragua gets from Iran and Venezuela, it's really not any of the US's business.

The US acts like a crazy ex where things Nicaraguan are concerned. Iran's a bit nutty on its own, but it's also another country where the US is the crazy ex.

Rebecca Brown

Unfortunately, We May

see some annoyances like the seed issue as retaliation for the up-coming property waiver non-renewal. I believe that there is more to the "transparency" issue than is publicly known.

I see this as more of a long term problem:

Nicaragua needs to wean itself from dependence on handouts. One way would be to encourage sensible development of its resources and talent.

" . . .As for the aid Nicaragua gets from Iran and Venezuela, it's really not any of the US's business . .." True, but if the aid is being converted (and I don't know that it is) then the US is certainly not going to put more money into Mr Ortega's pocket, whether it's through direct aid, or loan guarantees, or access to funding organizations like the IMF.

and the soviet aid

that the sandinistas received was nobody`s business until they started giving soviet weapons to communist guerillas in El Salvador... a pity some Salvadoran didn`t sue Nicaragua for for $50 billion in a propaganda lawsuit!

But back to seeds: I doubt it has anything to do with anything. Most laws are drafted to include everything, and the govmint overlooks piddly stuff like little picture packets of seeds until there is a problem or until some young turk in the bureuacracy is looking for something to do.. I went thru a similar thing on the electrical inspection on the second house. Not only were they pickier, but the bombero had obviously been to some training. He had an idea of what he was doing. I asked him if there was a new law and he said no, they were just enforcing the old law. Again, I was used to this mentality from working in a public utility. Every year when we had our state inspection they gave us a short list of things to correct. These things were nothing new, we just never did them right because of inercia and the staggering cost of of testing and documentation. the next year they would give us another short list of stuff we had been doing wrong since the hills were young.

The transmission of plant insects and diseases is possible from seeds, although not real common from seeds from major producers who are already inspected by state Ag departments.. Although in the states you can pretty much send seeds in small quantities freely from state to state, some seeds are restricted by states like CA and AZ that have big agricultural sectors and subtropical climates in particular. Seed producers have to jump thru the hoops of testing and permits to sell in those states. You will see the restrictions in major seed catalogs.

Not doubting that here will be fallout from the worsening rlations between US/NIc., but if they really wanted to impact expats they would not be fooling with garden seeds, they would be going for the import of bourbon and tequila.

"You can avoid reality, but you cannot avoid the consequences of avoiding reality." Ayn Rand