(Nov. 6) After more than a dozen years working for the Mexican government promoting Mexico’s agricultural products, Gerardo Lopez Noriega has switched to private industry.

Lopez Noriega joined So Fresh Produce as senior business development manager based in Mexico City, said Arthur Fringer, senior director of So Fresh’s Fresno, Calif. office.

Fringer said So Fresh, a subsidiary of Loblaw Cos. Ltd., Brampton, Ontario, is looking to Mexico because the country’s weather offers year-round marketing of produce and lower cost of production. He declined to reveal the company’s produce-buying volume.

Among the many Loblaw holdings are nearly 70 supermarkets throughout Quebec and Ontario.

Fringer said Lopez Noriega’s many contacts throughout Mexico’s agribusiness industry should help So Fresh increase grower-shipper relationships.

He said he would meet with Lopez Noriega in the coming weeks to establish goals for 2007.

Lopez Noriega spent seven years as minister for agricultural affairs at the Mexican embassy in Canada. More recently, he was back in Mexico for five years as general coordinator of trade promotion and foreign market development. In that position, he oversaw MexBest, 5 a Day and Mexico Supreme Quality. He resigned that post last November.

Lopez Noriega said he’s excited about the challenge to obtain better and fresher produce for So Fresh. While most of his efforts will focus on Mexico, he said he also would seek grower-shippers in South America.