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Department Of Agriculture Promotes Development Of Six Processing Plants

Project calls for a joint venture between local farmers and private-sector businessmen


June 7, 2001
Copyright © 2001 CARIBBEAN BUSINESS. All Rights Reserved.

The Department of Agriculture is promoting a joint venture between local farmers and private-sector businessmen to develop six agriculture processing plants–mostly on the south and southwestern coasts–to process, distribute and market garden vegetables, farinaceous foods (foods rich in starch), grains, rabbits, ornamental plants, eggs, and citrus fruits.

The public-private sector investment for the six plants is $20 million, not including an additional $3 million to be provided by the government for a marketing campaign.

Some of entrepreneurs-farmers who are interested in the project are Ramon Gonzalez, Pablo Rodriguez, Juan Santiago, as well as the owners of rice processor Nutrimix.

"Our idea is for local farmers to process produce on a year round basis, not only during the harvest season," said Puerto Rico Agriculture Secretary Fernando Toledo. "We want our farmers to import and produce locally. The active participation of the farmers will make this project a success."

According to Toledo, the grain plant will begin processing by the end of June, while processing for garden vegetables will begin in July, farinaceous foods and rabbits in August, ornamental plants in October, and eggs and citrus fruits by the beginning of January 2002.

The Department of Agriculture is anticipating that the private sector will invest 49% of the capital to build these plants, while the collective farmers will provide 48% of the funds with the help of government infrastructure and guaranteed loan programs, along with tax credits. The Land Authority will invest the remaining 3%.

"The Land Authority has the capacity of issuing bonds and creating investment funds," Toledo said. "In return, it becomes an investor and receives income from the project that will help create funds for further agriculture development projects."

In the case of citric fruits, the farmers will have to invest 97% of the funds to build the processing plant and the Land Authority will put in the remaining 3%.

"The farmers involved in processing citrus fruits will put up most of the funds because it’s not a plant that will pack and distribute the goods, instead it will process fresh squeezed produce."

The government has contracted project managers to handle the six plants, of which four [excluding citric fruits and ornamentals] will also have a further processing plant.

Toledo wants these new plants to manage the local produce and take it into further processing [a step beyond the regular processing of products] to accommodate the tendencies and styles of modern housemakers and professional consumers who want to buy products already cooked, partially cooked, or already seasoned.

Despite the southern location of the plants, processing garden vegetables and farinaceous foods will impact the central region of the island because that’s where the receiving areas are, to classify and package the produce. In the case of grains, it will impact the island’s central and coastal regions.

"We are also going to start planting beans because this type of farming grows well in Puerto Rico, especially in Guanica," Toledo said.

The Agricultural Development Services Administration (ASDA by its Spanish acronym) will be conducting focus groups this week to determine how consumers perceive its proprietary brand called D’aqui. It is still not definite if the D’aqui brand will be used, however, other alternatives could be del campo or del patio, all phrases that denote local content.

"We are going to market our produce under our own brand name," said Toledo, referring to the $3 million advertising campaign to be launched in July.

This Caribbean Business article appears courtesy of Casiano Communications.
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