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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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