Mexico Trade Increases Produce Companies Cluster for Further Growth

Aug. 1, 2000
Despite infrastructure and distribution problems, Mexico continues to accelerate its produce exports to the United States. Overcoming obstacles to increased

Despite infrastructure and distribution problems, Mexico continues to accelerate its produce exports to the United States. Overcoming obstacles to increased trade opportunities for Mexico was the focus of Fresco Tuxpan 2000, the third annual produce conference held at the Port of Tuxpan, Veracruz, Mexico.

Attending the conference were about 200 produce grower-packer-shippers and representatives of ports, shipping lines, and cold storage and logistics companies from Mexico, the United States, and Europe.

"About 90% of Mexico's exports go to the US," said Arturo Salcedo Carabez, director of industrial promotion for the Mexican Secretary of Economic Development. "Mexico supplies about 18% of total US imports of fruit and 59% of vegetables. However, Mexico's share in the US market for processed fruits and vegetables is only 9%.

"Opportunities for produce trade with the US and other countries will increase as we organize our many small and medium-sized producers into market clusters. When we organize, we can be competitive with other countries and not just remain an isolated enterprise."

Though exports are increasing, many Mexican food producers have inadequate transportation to handle their products, Salcedo said. Transportation and harvest costs mount up to decrease profits. But when shippers band together, they have increased buying power.

Mexico introduced its national clusters development plan for all industries in 1995. Produce processors have organized clusters in Campeche, Colima, Michoacan, Nayarit, Sonora, Veracruz, Tabasco, and Zacatecas. They process various items ranging from potatoes to oranges to garlic to tropical fruit.

"Industrial participation among fruit shippers in Tobasco, Veracruz, and Campeche is contributing to the increase of exports to the United States," Salcedo said.

The industrial clusters are organized by geographical region, and they get support from state and federal governments in Mexico. But they must address serious problems in marketing, technology, and information flow, he added.

Exporters Association Better marketing of Mexican-grown produce is also the goal of Anexpho, a nongovernmental national association of produce grower-shippers and exporters, said Enrique Ruelas Vallejo of Anexpho.

"How many times have clients paid you inadequately for your fruit and vegetable products?" Ruelas asked the audience. "Have you ever considered that besides selling your products in the national market, you can export?"

Exporting produce to the United States requires legal contracts that detail cost responsibilities in the event shipping mistakes occur. "To avoid problems, shippers must have licenses that are recognized in the US," Ruelas said. "We have to know the rules, because if we make a mistake in shipping and they don't accept the goods, the fault is ours. We have to meet their requirements."

Contracts are for the protection of produce shippers, too. They should set time limits for receivers to communicate any problems. For instance, if the receiver claims the product wasn't refrigerated properly, an inspection should be made immediately. "The receiver makes a report and can send the cargo back within 24 hours," he says. "If you don't agree with that report, get independent inspectors. Get photos taken and sent over the Internet."

Of course, invoices must be sent with the product. Payments should be required within 20 to 30 days. "You have to consider which of the products the receiver pays for - the ones he actually sells or the ones he doesn't sell," Ruelas added. "Many rare fruits raised in Mexico don't sell in the US."

More information on the export process is available in Agronegocios De Anexpho, a newsletter published by the association, Ruelas noted. The association's web site is

Distribution Problem Inadequate distribution is the biggest problem Mexican produce shippers face, said Juan Antonio Ayala, CEO of Grupo Compro SA de CV, based in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon. Grupo Compro is a logistics company offering a full menu of services including refrigerated transportation and cold storage throughout Mexico, the US, and Canada.

Lack of infrastructure and technology keeps growers in Mexico from being as competitive as they could be in the international market. "We must bridge the technology gap between Mexico and the rest of the world," Ayala said. "We have to act now."

For example, distribution of flowers is hindered by poor infrastructure, he said. And stronger packaging is needed for long-distance transport of broccoli, packed in ice. For perishables distribution in general, transport equipment must have reliable refrigeration.

Grupo Compro owns facilities with 565,040 cu ft of refrigerated storage, Ayala said. Another plant providing 2.1 million cu ft of cold storage is under construction. Grupo Compro rents space from other cold storage companies throughout North America.

"We operate 68 refrigerated trucks in Monterrey," he said. "And we have access to 120 refrigerated trailers through our association with another trucking company."

Grupo Compro works with customs brokers and transportation lines to coordinate import and export, he added.

Warehouse Construction Mexico's infrastructure for perishables distribution will be improved by a new cold storage facility in the Port of Tuxpan on the Gulf of Mexico. Built by Remaconst SA de CV, the Frigotux refrigerated warehouse opened in August, according to Betty Castellanos, port spokeswoman. The warehouse covers 3,200 square meters (about 34,000 square feet) and has refrigeration capability ranging from -25 degrees C to 10 degrees C (-13 degrees F to 50 degrees F).

To ensure that exports from Mexico are shipped properly, Frigotux is teaming up with Ebrex, one of the leading logistics companies in the Port of Rotterdam, the Netherlands. Ebrex will help manage the Tuxpan warehouse.

"Often the key to success in international trade depends on finding the right company to work with, which shares the same philosophy and interests," said Kim Riddell Riegel of Logistica Ebrex, Mexico City. "It's just as important to use the right logistics partner as a link between the supplier and receiver. We will act as your eyes at the gateway to Europe."

Rotterdam has the world's largest container port and is a major trade and distribution center for fresh produce, Riegel added. From its warehouse facilities in Rotterdam, Ebrex tests fruit on arrival at the port to determine shelf life. The company provides storage and repacking, prepacking, labeling, stock control, and shipment advice.

Working with Ebrex will be SGS (Societe Generale de Surveillance), a worldwide inspection services company for food and nonfood products. "We will help protect the interests of Mexican shippers at both the shipping and receiving ports," said Javier Arizmendi Ruiz, commercial director of the SGS Agricultural Services Division in Mexico City.

SGS also has an office in the Netherlands and will work with Ebrex there as well as in Tuxpan. "We can do port inspections to ensure imports meet Holland's quality standards," Arizmendi said. "We can send digital pictures from our offices in one port to the other."

SGS can issue quality certificates for exporters and importers, whose products are inspected and found to be in good condition. "This certification relieves our customers of major trading risks and accessory worries," Arizmendi said. "We arbitrate and aid in determination of liabilities for discrepancies in product quality between ship loading and discharge.

"The cornerstone of our services is preventing defective product from being shipped and assuring that only those shipments that meet the quality agreed on between exporter and importer will reach final destination. Thus, transparency is attained and risks are minimized."

QuickCheck Reads, Captures Engine Data Cummins Engine Co Inc has unveiled the QuickCheck system designed to read and capture SAE 3 15 87 engine data from electronic diesel engines. QuickCheck has been designed to operate with a Palm handheld device, which must be purchased separately. Once the QuickCheck datalink adapter is plugged into the vehicle harness, engine data can be viewed in real time or saved for downloading. When the Fault Screen is chosen, QuickCheck will alert the user to any problems.

With the Parameter Screen, a range of engine functions can be checked in real time, including engine speed, coolant temperature, boost pressure, intake manifold temperature, oil pressure, fuel rate, engine load, engine hours, throttle and output torque. With the Trip Screen, an operator can download engine data for a trip overview, and view data such as maximum speed, cruise set, idle hours, idle fuel, vehicle distance, engine hours, vehicle hours, PTO hours, and fuel used. For more details, contact Cummins, Box 3005, Columbus IN 47202-3005.

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Thermo King to Distribute MovinCool Products Thermo King Corp's participating dealers are distributing MovinCool portable air-conditioner products throughout the United States. Designed for harsh environments, MovinCool's Classic series has a cooling capacity from 10,000 to 60,000 Btu/hour with up to a 25" temperature drop. Units are maintenance-free and self-contained.

MovinCool also has developed the Office Pro series, designed for computer room and office environments that require lower room temperatures (65" to 90" F).

Shockwatch Device Controls Forklift Usage Shockswitch ID is a new instrument from Shockwatch whose relevance is enhanced by the new OSHA standards 1910.178(l). The device, available as a dealer installed accessory on some new lift trucks, or as an aftermarket add-on for older trucks, controls who may operate a specific forklift. The patented new device helps companies that own and operate fork trucks manage and document fleet operation in terms of who, how, and when.

Shockswitch ID requires every driver of a forklift to prove his or her identity before the lift can be operated. Access features may determine whether the operator has proper training qualifications, as well as authorization for the truck. The operator and management can be notified of a pending lapse in certification or a need for scheduled maintenance. Log-on is accomplished with a touch memory "i-button" that cannot be duplicated. Shockswitch ID also monitors for excessive forklift impacts and assigns any such impacts to the driver's ID number. Log-on history, impact, and forklift utilization information can be retrieved from the Shockswitch ID with the department manager's touch memory "i-button."

For further information, contact Shockwatch, 7929 Brookriver Dr, Suite 200, Dallas TX 75247.

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Report Summarizes Warehouse Capacity The United States Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Statistics Board has issued its 40th report on Capacity of Refrigerated Warehouses in the United States. The report covers data through Oct 1, 1999.

This report covers public refrigerated warehouses, private and semi-private refrigerated warehouses, and apple and pear storage facilities. It focuses on public, private, and semi-private space only. All data is from current and previous Capacity reports, with summaries and calculations using USDA data.

PRW space in the United States now exceeds 2.147 billion cubic feet (60.8 million cubic meters). PRW industry growth in the period documented in this summary-1995 to 1999-has exceeded 600% and now accounts for 73.9% of total refrigerated warehouse space and 80% of total freezer space.

The number of PRW facilities has varied in the 700 to 800 range for the past two decades as older facilities were replaced by new, strategically placed facilities. While the number of PRWs dropped from 807 to 798 (1.1%) since the preceding capacity report, the average size increased 5% to 2.7 million cubic feet (76,456 cubic meters).

For more details, phone the International Association of Refrigerated Warehouses at 301-652-5674.

Safety Council Issues Summer 2000 Catalog The National Safety Council's Summer 2000 Product and Services Catalog is available free of charge. This color, 88-page catalog features the NSC's newest safety and health training programs, reference manuals and publications, periodicals, newsletters, posters, booklets, videotapes, and software. The catalog is designed as a resource for safety, health, and environmental professionals. Discounts on products and services are available for NSC members.

To receive a free catalog (product #00007-1867) and a membership information packet, phone 800-621-7619 or fax 630-775-2068. Mention key code 46071867 when ordering.

Plastic Lobster Crate Gains Market Share Rapidly A returnable lobster crate designed by IPL Inc has achieved more than 25% market share in less than a year, says the firm.

Because it reduces the need for handling, the FlapNest lobster crate reduces lobster mortality rates by 10% to 20%. Other benefits of the totes are their light weight and that they maximize cube usage in trailers.

The 29-gallon plastic tote can contain 100 pounds of live lobster for transport from boat to lobster pond. It has the same length, width, and capacity as wood crates. Tote collar buoyancy allows it to float with the lid opened or closed so lobsters remain submerged while the container stays afloat. Cover security features permit containers to be floated in rough seas.

Because the FlapNest crate has a consistent tare weight of 16 pounds, lobsters need not be removed to determine accurate weight. Lightweight totes also enable distributors to load more lobsters on their trucks. Nestability of the crates reduces freight costs on the return trip. The empty, nested containers have a 2.5:1 return ratio. For more details, contact IPL, 10 Forbes Rd, Northboro MA 01532.

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Alcoa Revamps Next Generation Wheel Alcoa Wheel Products International offers the new Next Generation hub-piloted wheel, which replaces the earlier New Generation version, offering even more payload potential to weight-sensitive fleets and owner-operators. Next Generation wheels can boost a rig's payload potential by as much as 630 pounds over steel hub-piloted wheels and up to 724 pounds over steel ball-seat wheels. This wheel carries a 7,300-lb load rating. Wheel sizes are 22 x 8.25 (PN 883620) and 24 x 8.25 (PN 983620), and weigh 47 and 55 pounds, respectively. All wheels are 10-hole hub-piloted mounting with 285-mm bolt circle. For more information, contact Alcoa, 1600 Harvard Ave, Cleveland OH 44105.

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Raymond Corp Enhances Pallet Truck The Raymond Corp has added ergonomic and productivity enhancements to its Model 113 center-controlled pallet truck.

Improvements include a repositioned rabbit switch, newly designed back pad and load back rest, a reshaped back pad to conform to varied operator heights, a cushioned ergo floor mat, and a redesigned height battery retaining wall for more usable compartment space.

Options available on the Model 113 include a 60" back rest on the 6,000- and 8,000-lb-capacity trucks, rear-mounted lift/lower and horn controls, an enlarged operator compartment to facilitate cross-aisle order-picking, and a compartment limit switch with override. Other options are dual stretch wrap holders, steel bumper guards, plastic pallet cantering guides for use where the bulk of the product is handled on plastic pallet skids, and a 32" battery retaining wall for use with batteries up to 31" high. For more details, contact Raymond, Greene NY 13778.

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Foss Farrar

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