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Challenges, opportunities explored at AMHPAC’s fifth annual congress

The Mexican Association of Protected Agriculture held its fifth annual Business & Technical Congress Aug. 22-25 in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico, featuring a global perspective of the challenges and opportunities faced today by protected agriculture.

Attendees included representatives from five countries, federal and state government agencies, international associations, products and services suppliers, as well as leading growers, distributors and marketers from the North American produce industry.

The four-day e1096John Giles, divisional director of Promar International Ltd., with Eduardo Razuck of Kuehne + Nagel México and Fried De Schouwer, president of Greenhouse Produce Co. LLC.vent had a record number in attendance, with more than 500 local and international leaders from the fresh produce supply chain. Attendees had the opportunity to analyze and discuss the most relevant issues, and reassess and address the major short-, medium- and long-term challenges and opportunities within the protected agriculture sector.

On Aug. 23 as part of the business congress inauguration, a collaboration agreement between AMHPAC and the Netherlands embassy’s office in Mexico was endorsed. The agreement was signed by Carlos Cueto, AMHPAC’s chairman, and Gabrielle Nuijtens-Vaarkamp of the Netherlands embassy. That was followed by a round-table discussion, where market opportunities were addressed by John Giles, divisional director at Promar International Ltd. and global market expert; Fried De Schouwer, president of Greenhouse Produce Co. LLC; and Eduardo Razuck of Kuehne + Nagel Mexico.

“The strategic options for Mexican growers are simple: produce in the most efficient possible way, be the most innovative, and be close to the customers and consumers,” said Mr. Giles. “But whatever you do, be efficient at growing — and even better at marketing.”

Mr. De Schouwer stated that Mexican protected agriculture grew nearly 250 percent in the last six years, while the United States and Canada only grew 17 percent and 28 percent, respectively.

“The main advantage Mexico has over the Unites States and Canada is the ability to grow during the winter months at a lower cost,” said Mr. De Schouwer. “The main disadvantages are dealing with high capital costs, the food-safety reputation, quality concerns and distance to market.”

As part of the technical congress’s third day of activities, one of the topics of greatest interest for attendees was the Food Safety Modernization Act, which was addressed by Froylan Gracia, counselor for agricultural affairs at the embassy of Mexico in the United States. “One of the reasons the implementation of this law has been delayed is the lack of federal budgeting. There are however funds already in place such as information access (section 101). It states that as of March 1 of this year, any agricultural-related company in Mexico or in any other country exporting to the United States is subject to the visit of a FDA inspector. If the company does not allow the inspection of the required records, it would run the risk of being unable to keep exporting to the United States.”

On Aug. 23-24during the conference, trade meetings took place with the purpose of giving local growers the opportunity to establish relationships with important marketers, retailers and wholesalers from United States and Canada.

Also on Aug. 24, a field tour was held, compliments of the state of Jalisco, which included a visit to Desert Glory’s greenhouses, where foreign country marketers saw first-hand the technologies and quality processes used in operations growing Mexican vegetables.

On the last day of the congress, a series of interactive workshops was held for the first time. Attendees had the opportunity to debate the meaning of alliances and also the implementation of corporate government practices within their companies — in an amusing and dynamic fashion.

“As with every year, the AMHPAC congress rose to the occasion to address the current circumstances and challenges we face as industry,” said Mr. Cueto, AMHPAC’s chairman. “It is a great satisfaction for me to see the enthusiasm of colleagues from many parts of the country who leave their businesses for few days to enter into a dynamic that allows them to share knowledge and learn from different local and international experts. All of this is surrounded by an atmosphere that invites analyses and reflection over protected agriculture’s future.”