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A familiar face in the Chilean produce industry has joined The Oppenheimer Group's Santiago team.

Industry veteran Bill Lewis became the company's South American trade manager on Dec. 9. In his newly created role, he will concentrate on developing Oppenheimer's export programs, which currently include the destinations of Asia, Europe and Central America.

Mr. Lewis brings three decades of industry expertise -- the last two of them spent in Chile -- to the position. Most recently, he served as a director and consultant to Santa Elena, a consortium of Chilean grape growers focused on European exports, in Chile and Delaware. Mr. Lewis spent the majority of his career as general manager with Pandol Chile in Santiago, beginning in 1989 and ending when Pandol Brothers' Chilean operations were closed in 2008. His role entailed many aspects of the business, including oversight of farming operations from Chile's third through 10th regions (Copiapo to Orsorno). Earlier, he worked as the western area manager and senior buyer for Topco Associates in Visalia, CA, and began his career as an inspector for the California Department of Agriculture.

His background spans a wide range of disciplines, including category management, marketing, procurement, grower relations, supply chain efficiencies and export.

At Oppenheimer, Mr. Lewis will lead the company's Chilean-based export team, with the initial task of refining and implementing key export strategies.

"In the past, Oppenheimer's Chilean exports to markets other than North America have been fairly modest," John Anderson, Oppenheimer's chairman, president and chief executive officer, said in a Dec. 28 press release. "Many of our growers handle their own exports. We will continue to support these efforts, while Bill's expertise, relationships and knowledge of the U.S., European and Asian markets will enhance our approach. With his help, we'll connect more of the right varieties with the right customers so we can broaden the global customer base for our grower family."

Over time, Mr. Lewis will also play a key role in indentifying areas where Oppenheimer can deliver greater value throughout the supply chain, according to Mr. Anderson.

Mr. Lewis was attracted to the role at Oppenheimer "by quite a remarkable list of reasons," he said in the release. "Certainly the company has built an excellent reputation over the last 150 years. I have known about Oppenheimer as an organization, but also have had friendships with key individuals in the company for nearly 30 years. This gave me a lot of confidence in the level of professionalism within the organization, and in my short experience with the team in Santiago, I have not been disappointed."

The Oppenheimer Group markets a full range of items from Chile, including grapes, stone fruit, kiwifruit, apples, pears and citrus.