A group of 100 farmers and agricultural executives participated in a handful of activities last weekend in Puerto Rico and stateside that could generate more than $1 million in sales of local products both locally and abroad, the Agriculture Department said Monday.
While dozens of coffee, cheese, dressings, mango, ornamental plants, hydroponic, citrus, poultry, meats, teas, cured meats, organic vegetables and egg producers, among others, participated in the Marketing, Industry and Food Distribution Chamber’s annual convention in Fajardo, a smaller group of farming entrepreneurs specializing in honey, aged cheeses and specialty coffee headed to Washington, D.C. to take part in this year’s Fancy Food Show at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. The local delegation joined a group of nearly 40,000 event participants from around the world.
Agriculture Secretary Javier Rivera Aquino said Monday as a result of the exposure farmers got during the MIDA (as the Chamber in known in Spanish) event, talks are underway with several hotel, retail and restaurant chains including Walmart, Econo and Selectos to begin marketing local products.
“Presentations by guest speakers at the convention, the results the Consumer X-Ray study and the exposure by our agency’s staff, revealed to distributors and supermarkets the importance of increasing the supply of local agricultural products, to attract consumers,” said Rivera Aquino, referring to a seeming concensus for a need to push the growth of the island’s agriculture.
“We selected a group of agricultural entrepreneurs with quality products, good presentation and the ability to meet the inventory that businesses associated with MIDA may require. That way, we can fill the need for new trends in the food industry, with the supply of our agricultural entrepreneurs who are ready to meet them,” said Rivera Aquino, noting there is “opportunity and interest” for local products both on and off the island.
Already, local specialty coffee producers — including Café Lucero — are working on potential business ventures to deliver their high-end products to markets in Russia and Austria, due in part to their participation in the Fancy Food Show, Rivera Aquino said.
Meanwhile, three other participants — Pique Mi Madre, Apiarios Caraballo and Quesos Vaca Negra — are also negotiating to sell their hot sauces, honey and aged artisanal cheese products in Egypt, New York, Carlifornia, Orlando and Los Angeles.
“There is opportunity and interest from retailers and chains for agricultural products, both on the island and in overseas markets,” the public servant said. “So we’re encouraging our farmers to present their products at those levels, which we know are highly competitive.”
Aside from participating in those two initiatives, another group of about 40 farmers spent several days last week split between the farmers market in Plaza del Caribe in Ponce and the Country Fair at the Puerto Rico Convention Center. Agriculture estimated total sales from those events at $50,000.