Sam’s Club Puerto Rico announced Monday it has substituted another product line that was formerly imported with local produce from Puerto Rican farmers.
This time, the chain replaces whole seedless melons as a result of an alliance between its purchasing department and farmers of the island’s southern flank. This year, the retailer will replace 100 percent of the imported melons that were sold in its stores with locally harvested melons, store officials said.
In making the announcement, Viviana Mercado, senior manager of Corporate Affairs at Walmart Puerto Rico, said “our business model seeks to substitute imported products for local products and we feel more than proud that we buy more than $500 million in agricultural and local manufacturing.”
Juan Ramírez, market manager at Sam’s Club Puerto Rico, said: “Our melon program confirms the trust that exists between farmers and us for the benefit of our club members. The reception has been such that during the past two years the planting and harvesting of this product has multiplied exponentially to be able to satisfy its demand and to replace in its entirety its importation for the stores.”
Currently, about eight farmers participate in the Sam’s Club melon program, some of which doubled the amount of acres devoted to planting this fruit for this season due to last year’s sales success. The whole seedless melons are sold per unit, not per pound, at Sam’s.
Ramírez said “there are farmers who are experimenting with other varieties that would allow extending the melon harvest season to benefit our members who enjoy a local product’s freshness, since they are available in clubs for a maximum of two days of being harvested instead of the week that it would take them to arrive from abroad.”
Carlos González, the owner of Finca González in Guánica, said his participation in this program has brought great benefits to his business and his community. Among them, the diversification in the harvest that has allowed him additional income and the opportunity to offer jobs to more workers during the low season of his other harvests.
“Little is known about the multiplier effect that agriculture has, because for us to produce these melons we have to buy seeds, rent land, consume water and electricity, hire people, buy boxes for packaging, buy all the agrochemicals and agricultural inputs needed, hire truck drivers and even professionals who design the labels to classify melons by size specification,” González said.
“Most of these efforts are carried out locally, either because the services that are contracted are from local companies or the products are manufactured here, or are purchased through a company established in Puerto Rico. The impact of this business on the economy is huge,” González added.
Meanwhile, Mercado said 80 percent of goods sold at Walmart, Sam’s Club and Supermercados Amigo are procured locally. This includes produce purchased from more than 350 local farmers through its Agribusiness Development Program, which represents 25 percent of what is offered to the public in the fruit and vegetable section, which translates into 2,500 jobs in this industry, she said.
In addition to marketing local products in stores in Puerto Rico, the company is helping local business growth through the export of a variety of products to stores in the U.S. mainland.