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Marriott Int’l, Avendra, Walmart work with Clinton Foundation to back P.R. farmers

At a meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative Action Network on Post-Disaster Recovery held in Puerto Rico last week, the Clinton Giustra Enterprise Partnership (CGEP) announced a commitment to launch an assessment in Puerto Rico that would evaluate feasibility to increase sourcing from local farmers, connecting new customers and improving incomes for farmers in the region.

Marriott International, Avendra, and Walmart have
already committed as partners for this project, supporting the assessment and
committing to source products meeting quality and price standards once the
pilot has begun, the companies confirmed during the meeting hosted by President
Bill Clinton and Secretary Hillary Clinton.

The commitment aims to provide a boost to Puerto
Rico’s agricultural sector after Hurricane María hit the island in 2017. In
recent years, the agricultural sector has been growing at a 3 to 5 percent rate
annually — however Hurricane María impacted approximately 80 percent of the
island’s crop value and caused estimated losses to crop, livestock production
and infrastructure of more than $2 billion.

Before Hurricane María, 85 percent of Puerto Rico’s
food was imported – since María that figure has jumped to 95 percent, the nonprofit
said.

This assessment will chart agricultural capacity
across the island, identifying both potential crops that could be sourced,
tropical fruits like watermelon and pineapple, and companies that can serve as
buyers for these products.

Following research and feasibility analysis, CGEP will
work to establish a social business that will purchase these crops and source
them to buyers – creating new demand and higher income for smallholder farmers
on the island.

CGEP, an initiative of the Clinton Foundation, brings 12
years of building social businesses, including supply chain building in the
agricultural sector.

“Our social businesses have had significant positive
impacts on the lives of farmers in El Salvador, Colombia, and Haiti,” said
Frank Giustra, co-founder of CGEP. “I am excited to see our successful model
being assessed for other regions, like Puerto Rico, where I hope we can help
bridge the gap between farmers and buyers.”

Steve Contos, senior vice president, Caribbean and
Luxury Portfolio for Marriott International said, “We’re proud to support Puerto
Rico’s farmers and these efforts, and our partnership with CGEP reinforces our
longstanding commitment to the island and to empowering the local community. Marriott’s
sustainability and social impact platform, Serve 360, also aligns with this
project and our global goal to locally source 50 percent of our produce, in
aggregate, by 2025. It’s a win-win.”

“We’re excited to be a part of this CGEP effort and
see it as a foundational building block toward a better supply chain in this
region,” said Patrick Poncet, Avendra’s vice president
of the Caribbean, Mexico and Central American region.

“As a leading procurement and supply chain services
company, this initiative provides us an opportunity to lend our expertise and
collaborate with key stakeholders across the value chain to deliver a
locally-focused, effective solution,” he said.

Meanwhile, Walmart brings both support and years of
experience working with a network of local farmers to the partnership.

“We are very pleased to be part of CGEP’s efforts
because our commitment of more than 25 years to Puerto Rico and the well-being
of its communities is directly related (aligned) to the organization’s
objectives,” said Iván Báez, director of public affairs and government relations.

“Currently, Walmart Puerto Rico is working very hard
to increase the annual million-dollar investment in products harvested on the
Island to contribute to the development of the agricultural industry and, therefore,
promote job creation and greater local economic activity,” Báez said.

The assessment and potential agribusiness will build
on CGEP’s expertise in building social businesses that help smallholder farmers
and fishers around the world, including in Haiti, El Salvador, and Colombia.

In El Salvador for example, purchasing by partner
buyers from local farmers has increased by more than $7 million since launch of
CGEP social business in 2014. CGEP builds social businesses to generate social
impact and financial returns by addressing market gaps in developing countries’
supply chains. Through this model, CGEP seeks to help people work themselves
out of poverty.

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