The University of Puerto Rico’s Mayagüez Campus is getting $100,000 in financing from the Puerto Rico Industrial Development Co. to work with the island’s food and beverage industry to develop a nutritional labeling and lab testing program.
The goal is to ultimately equip the industry with the right tools to boost its competitive levels and help them export, university and Pridco officials said during a news conference in Hato Rey Tuesday morning.
The new incentive, which the private industry has agreed to match, has been granted via the UPR’s Food Science & Technology Program offered through the School of Agricultural Sciences, said José Pérez-Riera, who heads Pridco and the Economic Development and Commerce Department.
“Today we’re proud to announce the first phase of the technical support to the food and beverage industry program, which is to develop nutritional labels for products, consistent with local and federal requirements. This initial phase also includes other more specific chemical analysis for dairy products, starchy foods and fermented beverages,” said Pérez-Riera, accompanied by UPR Interim President Miguel Muñoz and Food & Technology Program director Edna Negrón.
During the meeting with members of the media, Muñoz said the alliance with Pridco will broaden the services that the UPR offers the island’s farming and industrial sectors.
“For many years, the UPR in Mayagüez has collaborated with the Agriculture Department in the food production phase. With this agreement, we’re expanding that collaboration by going beyond and inserting ourselves in the development phase,” Muñoz said.
“This represents an added value, as the industrial sector will benefit from technical and scientific expertise provided by the academic sector. For us in the university it is very important to participate in this type of initiative that contributes to strengthening food security and thus, to the development of competitive enterprises which in turn contribute to the island’s welfare,” said Muñoz, who is is an agricultural sciences professor and former agriculture secretary.
Meanwhile, Negrón said the alliance with Pridco is key to help establish new industries and strengthen those already operating. She also said it will fuel the research and development needed to develop future operations.
“Through this agreement we hope to encourage creative work, and basic and applied research so as to meet the needs of society, both locally and internationally, in cooperation with the environment, to preserve, transmit and advance knowledge,” Negrón said. “This way, we can provide an excellent service that contributes to our society’s sustainable and balanced development.”
At present, Pridco promotes 187 businesses within the food and drink segment, that generate approximately 11,500 direct jobs. Pérez-Riera said this economic sector is projected “as one of the industry segments with high growth potential and excellent export prospects.”
The technical assistance program announced Tuesday includes a second phase that will incorporate a series of specialized seminars focusing on food management safety, scheduled to begin in coming months.