Ace’s Flores says FSVP implementation will be a burden for most importers. “Many importers do not want to get involved as the FSVP contact and are either just the ‘selling agent’ or buying f.o.b. (free on board),” he remarks. “The FDA has put all the responsibility on the U.S. importer.”
Another issue continues to haunt every produce importer in the Valley: renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
“I think the toughest challenge by far has been the NAFTA renegotiation,” Bazan says. “Trade is continuing, but at the end of the day, there’s a lot of uncertainty… Based on the latest information we’ve gathered, the talks [will continue] through the first quarter of 2018.”
Flores has been in the industry since before NAFTA. “If NAFTA is voided and duties come into play, then the ultimate consumer will pay for the extra charge. Also, all U.S. customs brokers who do not have good operating cash flow will be hurt.”
Lucero’s hope is that the renegotiations will not affect the produce industry or the nation’s food supply. “Bottom line, anything they do affects U.S. consumers—and what they’re spending money on.”
Bazan says Pharr International Bridge has formed a NAFTA renegotiation team, including current and former board members, trade professionals, and even other ports. “At the end of the day, this affects us all—not just Pharr. It will affect everyone,” he says.
“We’ve been spearheading some initiatives. We went to Washington three or four times in May and June to visit with top ranking officials and put our unified voices out there to talk about the challenges we see in the distance,” continues Bazan. “We’re pushing for a flexible and fair trade plan that everybody can benefit from.”
Despite current challenges and uncertainties, suppliers in the Rio Grande Valley remain optimistic about the road ahead, and so do their fellow Texas residents.
According to research by Texas A&M University, the Lone Star State will account for 52.4 percent of all U.S. produce imports from Mexico by the year 2023, compared to 48.6 percent in 2015. This level of expansion could result in an estimated 7,700 jobs and an economic impact of $815.2 million—that’s something to look forward to.
Bazan narrows the focus a bit: “Regardless of the NAFTA negotiations or whatever is going on in Washington, we have to continue planning and doing our part,” he says. “Pharr is open for business; we have a positive outlook regardless of what’s happening at the national level.”
Images: FelipeS, Suzanne Stevenson, Sokor Space, Belokoni Dmitri, khan3145, NadezhdaG, Mikhail Martynov, Jiana Hongyan/Shutterstock.com