Eric Viramontes, AMPHAC president
Eric Viramontes, AMPHAC president

The Fifth Annual AMHPAC Technical Business Convention scheduled for Aug. 22-26 in Guadalajara, Mexico, will likely prove a venue for many topical trade discussions in light recent developments surrounding the U.S.-Mexico tomato suspension agreement.

AMHPAC, the Mexican association of protected horticulture producers, plans a lineup of speakers, roundtable discussions and workshops covering such areas as food safety, sustainability, branding and others trends affecting vegetable production and cross-border trade.

AMHPAC president and chief executive officer Eric Viramontes shared his thoughts on some marketplace developments affecting Mexico’s growing protected vegetable production.       

Busy agenda set for AMHPAC conventionQ: A recent U.S. Department of Agriculture report on Mexican tomatoes detailed the growth of protected agriculture, citing growth of about 13% annually. How long can the market sustain such a robust growth rate?

A: Protected agriculture has flourished around the world and in the U.S., Mexico and Canada because of the benefits seen in the products offered to the consumer. A major part of the growth has been the result of converting open-field production to protected agriculture. It is driven by demand, available financing and hard work. We are proud of our annual growth rates – recognizing it’s 20% of the total tomato production today. We expect it to continue to grow along with the demand for those products.

Q: Florida tomato producers are seeking to end the tomato suspension agreement that has been in place since the mid-1990s. Where do you see this leading?
A: Since NAFTA was implemented, U.S. and Mexico growers have agreed to work together to the benefit of the industry and consumers by setting a price floor on Mexican products coming into the U.S. The agreements have lead to a growing number of jobs in the US and Mexico throughout the supply chain. While history tells us that this will be worked out again, the alternative is tariffs and another potential trade war that benefits no one.

Q: What opportunities/concerns does Mexico’s protected horticulture sector see in this election year in both Mexico and the U.S.?

A: We expect to see a continued commitment by our new government to assist us all with improving the agriculture sector. Protected agriculture offers Mexican workers more consistent work without needing to migrate to different areas and countries, which is better for all concerned.

Q: What potential do you see for marketing Mexican vegetables as a brand along the lines of Idaho potatoes or Vidalia onions?
A: We know that the market sees Mexican vegetables as the high consistent quality and value product that we are proud to feed to our own families and friends here and around the world. There are already great brands produced in Mexico such as Desert Glory’s NatureSweet Tomatoes.

Q: What strides has your industry made in food safety and traceability in the past year?
A: Mexican vegetable imports to the U.S. are probably the most inspected products. Key to them being expedited through the supply chain is the aggressive adoption of the latest food safety practices and traceability technologies. Mexican growers are proud of their initiatives that provide consumers with the safest product we can — and the ability to address any issues as quickly as possible. The majority of our AMHPAC member growers are certified, and their operations are inspected regularly.  

Q: What do you hope to be the key takeaway for attendees at this year’s AMHPAC convention?
A: The fifth annual conference (on) Aug. 22-25 in Guadalajara will offer a number of sessions that will update attendees on the latest approaches in improving productivity, efficiency, food safety, food security. Our guest country is this year is Holland, and the speakers from this part of the world will provide some very interesting insights on their business models and the challenges they face.