Walmart Puerto Rico is pushing ahead with its goal of expanding its support of local agriculture with the addition of locally harvested white button mushrooms purchased from from Aibonito-based Setas de Puerto Rico Inc.
Company owners Rebecca Feliciano and Jimmy Delgadillo are gearing up to deliver the first shipment to the mega-retailer, 18 months after launching the business they turned to when they both lost their jobs. The company produces 15 tons of mushrooms per month, which is sold in five different types of packagings, company officials said.
Neither Walmart nor Setas de Puerto Rico disclosed how much the transaction is worth.
“We’re grateful for the support Walmart Puerto Rico has given us. Having that commitment to ensure the purchase of our first crops helped to maintain us at this early stage of the business, which is always more uphill because in the case of agriculture, revenue comes in when the harvest occurs and that not as immediate as when you sell other products,” Delgadillo said.
Setas de Puerto Rico is among the newest farming venture to join Walmart’s Agribusiness program created in 2008 to begin incorporating locally produced fruits and vegetables into the retailer’s inventory. The idea was to work with local farmers to achieve planned crops consonant with Walmart’s needs — something that was challenging to achieve at first, company officials have said.
At the time, only 20 farmers were able to insert themselves into Walmart’s supply chain, adhering to the retailer’s schedule and quality standards, Jaime Fernández Palacios as general manager for the Puerto Rico region said in a recent interview with Empresarios magazine.
“However, to date, with the help of the Department of Agriculture, we are working with more than 300 agribusinesses, buying from them 25 percent of fruits and vegetables that we sell,” said Fernández, indicating that in 2008, that figure was only 10 percent.
“Our goal is to reach 35 percent in the next 12 to 15 months, and grow to reach 80 percent, if we could, in the long term,” the executive said, adding that the plan also provides for increasing the export of local products Hispanic markets in the United States.
Walmart’s Agribusiness program has helped create more than 1,000 new jobs and has contributed to the development of new farming ventures on the island, including Setas de Puerto Rico, company officials said.