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P.R.’s AgBio sector represents economic benefits, job creation

From left: José J. Villamil and Beatriz Carrión.

The companies that make up part of the biotechnical agricultural industry in Puerto Rico generate, for each invested dollar in the industry through incentives and tax credits, a return on investment of $5.36 for the local economy, with a net benefit of $65 million.

That finding was among several revealed in the “Economic Impact of the Agricultural Biotechnology Sector” study commissioned by the Puerto Rico Agricultural Biotechnology Industry Association (PRABIA,), which includes data from 2016 to the present.

The study conducted by the Estudios Técnicos research firm confirmed that the companies contribute $80 million annually to the local economy, incur in nearly $130 million in expenses on the island, pay some $5 million in Sales & Use Taxes, and in regard to induced, direct or indirect jobs, the industry helps generate $82.5 million in salaries.

“The report, conducted in an independent and transparent fashion, restates the importance of this sector for Puerto Rico and for the world,” said Beatriz Carrión, executive director of PRABIA, the entity that groups and represents the seven agricultural biotechnology enterprises that operate in Puerto Rico.

“Aside from propelling the island’s development through the economic activity and the employment it generates, the industry also plays a vital role in the communities in which we work. Agricultural biotechnology is more than seeds; it is an instrument toward the creation of a better life quality,” she said.

Carrión also stressed the international leadership role undertaken by the companies that make up PRABIA. Currently, more than 85 percent of the seeds used worldwide for biotechnological-based agriculture passes through Puerto Rico during its development.

The agricultural biotechnology industry “… has important economic benefits for Puerto Rico, particularly for the south of the island,” said José J. Villamil, chief executive of Estudios Técnicos Inc.

“In view of the economic situation in which Puerto Rico encounters, activities such as the ones represented by PRABIA assume greater importance, not only because of the economic impacts but also because of the projection of Puerto Rico as a jurisdiction with the capacity to host technologically sophisticated activities,” he added.

Villamil also said the enterprise’s activities contribute to furthering knowledge in the endeavors of academic through various research and development collaborations undertaken with public and private universities.

PRABIA-member companies provide study opportunities, professional practices, educational tours, and jobs to more than 700 students, aside from being the main employer of agronomists on the island, hiring 200 each year.

According to the report, PRABIA-member companies jointly rent nearly 5,000 acres of land at a cost lower than the average normally paid ($547 per acre vs. the average cost of $258,) for a total of $3 million or so paid in rent each year.

This, added to the nearly $40 million already invested in the purchase of land, amounts to multiple benefits for the landowners in question. The land dedicated to agricultural biotechnology on the island represents only 1.5 percent of land set aside for agriculture in Puerto Rico, the study showed.

Other alliances in this area include collaborations with the University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez campus, the Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico, the College of Agronomists, ARA (Agricultural Action and Reform, in Spanish), and the Puerto Rico Association of Farmers, among others.

PRABIA-member companies have contributed more than $2 million in humanitarian efforts in the wake of Hurricanes Irma and María. This, combined with various workshops and community programs, positively impacts more than 124,600 people.

Author Details
Author Details
Business reporter with 30 years of experience writing for weekly and daily newspapers, as well as trade publications in Puerto Rico. My list of former employers includes Caribbean Business, The San Juan Star, and the Puerto Rico Daily Sun, among others. My areas of expertise include telecommunications, technology, retail, agriculture, tourism, banking and most other segments of Puerto Rico’s economy.

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