Shipping & Transportation
The uptick in Mexican produce imports can also be ascribed to faster, more efficient shipping routes. According to the Center for North American Studies (CNAS), nearly 90 percent of all Mexican fruit and vegetable imports reach the United States via land ports in Texas and Arizona—and on a smaller scale, New Mexico and California.
As Texas and Arizona compete for market share, both states continue to offer improved transportation through technology and road remedies, from faster and more direct routes to better efficiency at ports of entry. This remains crucial as CNAS predicts produce imports from Mexico itself and other countries coming through Mexico will continue to rise over the next five years.
As Texas tries to attract more traffic, the Hidalgo Port of Entry and Rio Grande Valley remain a significant lure to distributors crossing into Texas. The region is home to Pharr International Bridge, frequently referred to as the “Intelligent Bridge” with all its bells and whistles. The 3.2-mile full-service commercial artery connects Pharr with Reynosa in Mexico, and remains a top produce route for exports into the United States.
For its part, the Mariposa Port of Entry in Nogales, AZ underwent a number of improvements several years ago to facilitate the expanding flow of fresh produce coming into the United States. And though both Texas and Arizona receivers have enjoyed this successful maneuvering, both were hit by difficulties earlier this year when part of the cross-country Durango-Mazatlán superhighway was shut down.
The 140-mile stretch of highway, which opened in late 2013, was damaged by a tanker truck explosion in January. Nearly 9,000 feet of this vital trade route was damaged on the El Carrizzo suspension bridge. Though the accident caused a major disruption to shipments headed to the United States, fortunately, two lanes of the bridge were reopened in April. The remaining lanes are slated to be open and fully functional by late August.
Omar Losolla, director of sales and marketing for GreenPoint Distributing, LLC in Rio Rico, AZ, believes imports are on the rise because Mexican growers have significantly raised the bar on quality and food safety. The shipper is grower-owned and has operations in both Rio Rico and McAllen, TX.
“We control the operation from seed to table,” Losolla points out and says new field innovations, state-of-the-art greenhouse operations, and enhanced food safety standards are all giving Mexico-grown produce a very real competitive edge.