Made in Puerto Rico, the trade group that champions on behalf of local businesses, believes kosher markets — not only in the U.S. mainland but worldwide — represent a “tremendous opportunity” for exporting and going beyond the island’s shores.
Reaching those markets will be the focus of one of the panel discussions in the group’s upcoming “Made in Puerto Rico Export Summit: Dare to Grow” event, slated for Nov. 8 at the Puerto Rico Convention Center.
Three weeks ago, representatives from the New York Board of Rabbis visited Puerto Rico, scouting for products that they could purchase, after they obtain their kosher certification, said Liliana Cubano, president of the Puerto Rico Products Association, which manages the “Made in Puerto Rico” brand.
“So far, we’ve had three meetings. One of the things they say is that because Puerto Rico abides by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s standards and follows all of the stateside production protocols, buying from Puerto Rico makes it easier for them to obtain the products they’re looking for,” she said.
For example, she said farmers producing coffee, beef, UHT milk, and cheese, could potentially strike deals with the Jewish community in the U.S. mainland, as well as abroad.
“For them, price is not an issue. Right now, there are about 400,000 residents of an area in New York, a Jewish community, that does not leave that area and only buy from themselves. One of the opportunities that exists is for our products to enter that space,” Cubano said.
The New York Board of Rabbis is looking to establish an office in Puerto Rico, to begin the process of certifying kosher products, said Marilú Otero, executive vice president of the Products Association.
“They’re looking for younger farmers, of which there are many who are willing to participate,” Otero said. “We’re working with the president of the Puerto Rico Farm Bureau to find those young farmers who dare to take a chance on exporting.”
Daring to export will be one of the challenges that will be thrown out to participants during the event, when experts will discuss the best strategies to apply and the legalities of delivering their goods and services beyond Puerto Rico.
“We’ve been hearing about the need to export for decades, but the truth is that after Hurricane María, a great need has arisen from entrepreneurs who have seen their local operations shrink, partly due to the reduction in population,” Otero said. “The local market has collapsed. So, they have to lose their fear, because they either export, or close shop.”
Also on the agenda of the upcoming event is discussing ways for local companies seeking to export their products and services to take advantage of the benefits under Act 20, which in the past year has undergone several amendments that could benefit that segment, said Francisco Luis, partner at Kevane Grant Thornton.
“Part of what we want to tell local businesses is that the Act is not only for foreigners who arrive to Puerto Rico and set up a business, but that it’s also good for existing businesses that can benefit from the 4% flat tax rate,” he said.
The tax breaks granted through Act 20 are recognized under the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management and Economic Stability Act, and are valid for 20 years, he said.
“What would be most painful is knowing that we have businesses that are exporting and not benefiting from Act 20 out of fear. If they are exporting, they can apply for the benefits,” he said.