Maritime shipping company Horizon Lines, Inc. announced Wednesday it has sold certain container terminal assets at the San Juan port to Luis Ayala Colon Sucrs, as well as reassigning its lease with the Puerto Rico Ports Authority effective immediately.
The agreement follows Horizon Lines’ announcement on Nov. 11, 2014 to cease providing liner service between the U.S. and Puerto Rico by the end of 2014, which actually occurred in early January 2015, and to terminate San Juan terminal services by the end of the first quarter of 2015.
The company’s exit came 56 years after it began offering cargo services between Puerto Rico and the U.S. mainland.
An island that imports about 85 percent of what it consumes is apparently already feeling the effect of Horizon’s exit from the route.
On Wednesday, Puerto Rico Farm Bureau President Héctor Iván Cordero said a shortage of food already evident on supermarket shelves is a reflection of the dent Horizon is making on maritime imports, which are also carried by shippers Crowley and Sea Star, among others, who have ramped up operations to cover the vacated routes.
He said Horizon’s exit has “temporarily affected the food supply,” according to importers.
“In recent weeks, we have seen a drop in certain products on supermarket shelves due to the decrease in transport containers to the island, and this has served as a simulation of a scenario that would happen if due to some global or catastrophic event we are cut off by sea,” said Cordero.
As a result, Cordero called on the government and the general public to give priority to agricultural activity.
“It is extremely important that we take the issue of agriculture seriously and we promote agricultural development in an orderly manner so that we can address a real food crisis,” said Cordero, who is a dairy farmer in Aguadilla.
He argued that there are alternatives to increasing local agricultural production, and there is a high interest from farmers.
“To achieve this we have to organize the process, not plant for the sake of planting or breeding to breed, but create a list of needs upon seriously analyzing the consumption basket and focusing production toward those markets,” Cordero said.
The head of the agricultural trade group noted that the local food crisis has worsened because several important agricultural sectors are vanishing, namely poultry and egg production, as well as cattle and pork inventories.
“This is a gloomy picture, especially when Puerto Rican diet is high in animal protein,” said Cordero.