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Import trend continues for south Texas

by Tim Linden | November 22, 2009
It has been a trend that has lasted longer than a decade and there is no end in sight. South Texas continues to increase the amount of fresh produce items that enter the United States through its border towns with the help of its longtime produce operators.

"That continues to be the trend and I don't see that changing," said John McClung, president of the Texas Produce Association, operating from Mission, TX, which is in the middle of the Rio Grande Valley and about as close to Mexico as one can get. "What I am concerned about is how the extra scrutiny on the board to prevent drug trafficking and to stop unwanted pests will impact the imports coming into the country."

Mr. McClung said that the effect has been minimal so far but as that effort increases there can be unnecessary delays, which is never good for a perishable product.

One thing that has had virtually no impact on either shipment of product or the flow of illegal aliens into the United States is the "great border wall" that was built by the federal government in recent years. Mr. McClung called it a "multibillion-dollar tribute to government idiocy."

He said that the billions it cost to build it and the billions it will cost to maintain it are a gigantic waste of federal dollars that does nothing to stop those who want to from entering the United States. "It is offensive," he said.

By and large, construction has stopped on the wall, but even if it were to be finished, the wall was never designed to create an unending barrier. Because of the topography of the area the wall was always a series of walls rather than one continuous structure. The design might have inconvenienced those coming into the United States but never stopped them.

Mr. McClung said that another example of federal government bureaucracy not working the way it was designed was a recent pilot program conducted in Nogales, AZ, to test produce items on site for pesticides and contaminants. Currently, samples of product that come through the border are transported to inland labs for testing. Mr. McClung said that process adds days to the service and it was believed that portable labs on site could process the tests faster and come up with product profiles in a more timely manner.

"During the pilot program, the labs got so backed up that it actually took longer to process the tests," he said with frustration. "I was talking to some Nogales guys and they said be careful of what you wish for, you may get it."

In any event, Mr. McClung said that the winter produce season in south Texas is well underway with no apparent changes from previous seasons. Winter vegetables from both Texas and Mexico are being shipped from the area in normal amounts and the citrus season has gotten underway without a hitch.

(For more on the Tex-Mex deal, see the Nov. 23, 2009, issue of The Produce News.)