A NAFTA panel that addressed cross-border trade issues to a packed meeting room Nov. 2 during the Fresh Produce Association of the Americas’ 49th Annual Produce Convention included (from left) Canadian Produce Marketing Association president Ron LeMaire, Fresh Evolution LLC president Martin Ley, American Farm Bureau Federation trade economist Veronica Nigh, Fresh International managing member Javier Badillo and moderator FPAA president Lance Jungmeyer.
TUBAC, Ariz. — “It’s stupid.”
Those are the two words Fresh Evolution LLC president Martin Ley had for ongoing efforts to renegotiate the North America Free Trade Agreement.
Ley was part of a NAFTA panel that addressed cross-border trade issues to a packed meeting room Nov. 2 during the Fresh Produce Association of the Americas’ 49th Annual Produce Convention.
The panel discussion, moderated by FPAA president Lance Jungmeyer, gave panelists Ley, Canadian Produce Marketing Association president Ron LeMaire, Fresh International managing member Javier Badillo, and American Farm Bureau Federation trade economist Veronica Nigh a chance to dispel some misconceptions regarding NAFTA and its economic benefits.
Ley said NAFTA critics often fail to realize that the increased supply of fruits and vegetables thanks to NAFTA has created demand by U.S. consumers.
He cited the growth in blackberry and raspberry markets in the U.S. as supply creating demand to expand the berry category, benefiting U.S. growers as well as those in Mexico.
Similarly, Badillo said, increased supplies of fruits and vegetables from Mexico have fueled demand pull all along the value chain, spurring innovation in tomato variety development, new packaging technology and improved greenhouse technology.
Despite concerns over negotiations, a generation of increased economic ties between the three NAFTA nations makes the agreement’s continued success crucial.
“Compromise is key,” LeMaire said.
Presenter Lori Taylor — The Produce Mom — gave the crowd a short course in social marketing and personal branding, sharing the story of her journey from working in produce sales to launching her online produce advocacy career.
“Social media is what built The Produce Mom,” Taylor said.
Food Marketing Institute vice president of fresh foods Rick Stein came armed with a boatload of FMI’s fresh produce market research from the group’s Power of Produce Survey.
The survey suggests fruits and vegetables are enjoying growth in a grocery category that is flat overall.
Stein said produce’s health halo gives it a connection with parents of young children and that messaging involving balanced diet, portioning and preparation can help marketing efforts.
FPAA’s meeting continued Nov. 3 with the Top Dishes out of Mexico’s Top Produce culinary showcase, which included sampling of culinary creations from chefs using Mexican produce, cosponsored by the Mexican Consulate of Nogales.
James Chamberlain and Sylvia Chamberlain, founders of Nogales-based vegetable and tomato products distributor J-C Distributing, were honored with the Pillar of the FPAA award Nov. 3 during the Gala Event and Pillars of the FPAA Awards Ceremony in the Geronimo Ballroom at the Tubac Golf Resort.