At this year’s Global Trade Symposium hosted at the Midtown Hilton in Manhattan on December 1 during the New York Produce Show and Conference, the path to global opportunities in produce was traced through its international culmination of speakers. One of which was Gualberto Rodriguez — president of San Juan, Puerto Rico-based distributor, Caribbean Produce Exchange — who enlightened attendees on the untapped sourcing potential from the country.
According to Rodriguez’s presentation, about 75 percent of Puerto Rico’s land is virgin and designated for agricultural purposes — providing tremendous opportunity for international buyers to harvest organic produce and/or traditionally seasonal commodities.
In addition to the plentiful rain, nutrient soil, and tropical climate factors, the benefits of conducting produce business in Puerto Rico reach beyond agricultural purposes. Because the country operates with the same legal and regulatory systems as the United States, American buyers can receive tax benefits from importing produce from the island. The country also provides manufacturing and renewable energy incentives among other benefits.
Thus far, the island has been a seed playground for companies such as Bayer CropScience and Monsanto. Puerto Rico also built relationships with retailers such as Wal-Mart and Costco, as well as growers such as Sunkist, Dole, Taylor Farms, and Driscoll’s. Business also touches upon the foodservice sector with participation from McDonald’s, Burger King and Subway.
As a third generation leader in the family business, which began in the 1950s by his grandfather, Rodriguez charges the company forward with his partnership in Semillero Ventures, which is an investment fund to assist corporations in generating stable production in Puerto Rico.