With an investment of more than five $5 million, Puerto Rico Supplies Group announced Thursday a partnership with a farmers network on the island to boost production of and create jobs.
The agricultural project comprises eight private farms and five wholly owned farms exceeding 1,400 acres of land used to cultivate more than 25 local products among fruits and vegetables, PRSG executives said.
The local farmer’s network which will generate about 140 direct jobs and 700 indirect jobs, PRSG President Edwin Pérez said, adding the goal with these efforts is to impact the economy by promoting agriculture and sale of local grown products, while imports are reduced.
The private farms that are part of the local farmers network are: Dos Ríos in Adjuntas, La Tosca in Bayamón, AgroVeg in Santa Isabel, Solarium Hydroponics in Guánica, Cultivos del Campo in Utuado, La Luisa in Manatí and two farms in the town of Lares. Together, the farmers harvest romaine lettuce, hydroponic arugula, onions, pumpkins, papaya, coriander, oregano, varieties of tomatoes, sweet peppers, assorted lettuce, beans and pigeon peas, among other products.
The program includes several aspects from evaluating lands, advise on what products to grow, support and assistance to farmers, machinery, distribution and marketing of their crops, which assures farmers their income and that their product will be placed in the local market through PRSG’s distribution company, Agro Produce. That job will fall on agronomist Juan Bauzá-Salas, former Agriculture secretary and recognized consultant in agricultural technology and agricultural business development.
“Their experts visit us and help us with our operation. It’s positive that they are involved throughout the whole process and check on the conditions and the product. That did not happen before,” said Marilyn García, of Finca Dos Ríos in Adjuntas.
Through its investment, PRSG hopes to help local farmers expand production capacity to bring to the consumer a “fresh, 100 percent locally grown product” to be distributed by Agro Produce and marketed through the “Vive Bien” brand.
In its packaging, Vive Bien provides the retail consumer a variety of products ranging from arugula, romaine lettuce, mixed lettuce, grape, Roma tomatoes and tomatoes “on the vine,” to packages of pre-cut fruits such as pineapple, mango, papaya and watermelon. All of these fruits and vegetables are now available in supermarket chains and convenience stores throughout the island.
The work being done by the farmers network is coupled with production at PRSG’s farms — Cañón del Río Guajataca and Agro Banana located in the municipalities of Isabela, Guayanilla, Juana Díaz , Santa Isabel and Lares — where they cultivate pineapple, variety of bananas, papaya, “yuca,” “yautía” and plantains.
At the Cañón del Río Guajataca property, where new product development is done, PRSG is working on growing local products with high nutritional value such as soursop, guava, granadine, Caribbean cherries and lemons.
“Our fruits are fresher, juicier and high in vitamins. It is our goal to make these products available to the consumers, in order to support local agriculture. We are in a genuine attempt to balance the equation, looking to operate within our island that offers so many alternatives in the agro market,” said Pérez.