Mexican exporters meet with Philly importers to discuss weekly liner service

Driven by Mexico’s expanding economy, 10 major fruit exporters from Mexico toured the Philadelphia Port complex and one of the nation’s largest produce-storage and packing facilities in Vineland, NJ. The exporters also met in small groups with 15 importers from the Philadelphia region — speed-dating style — in an effort to find the right business match for their perishable products.

“We came here to find the right people to take care of our product. We are proud of what we produce and we need to know it will be treated well,” Jose Garibay, a berry grower and exporter from Mexico, said in a press release. “I’m certain — with consolidation — we can make this work.”

The tour is the culmination of a year-long effort spearheaded by Ship Philly First, a non-profit, membership organization of private business owners who operate port-related companies in the Delaware Valley, the Mexican consulate of Philadelphia, Philadelphia Regional Port Authority and ProMexico, the economic development arm of Mexico.

Together they are working to create weekly liner service between Philadelphia and Veracruz, Mexico, to generate more business for both ports and to bypass crippling congestion for trucks at the border. While the proposed five-day ocean crossing is cheaper, faster, cleaner and safer than traveling the countries’ highways, a regular shipping service between the two cities has not been available for an estimated 40 years.

Ship Philly First President Larry Antonucci, president of 721 Logistics, and former President Fred Sorbello, chief executive officer of Mullica Hill Group Cos., welcomed the visitors, along with Carlos Giralt, Mexican consul of Philadelphia, and Martin Caro, deputy trade and investment commissioner for ProMexico. Jack Murphy of Maersk and Anthony DeBari of MSC — shipping lines that have an interest in creating an ocean route between the two cities — also attended.

“10 billion a year in bilateral trade already exists between Mexico and our region. An ocean route makes a lot of sense,” said Sorbello, whose company is one of the largest meat importers in the United States. The next step, he added, is a trade mission for regional importers to Veracruz in July, which should solidify professional relationships.

Rusty Lucca, president of Lucca Freezer & Cold Storage, hosted approximately 80 guests at his 325,000-square-foot facility in Vineland. Visitors watched clementines from Chile and avocados from Mexico rumble down spotless assembly lines before being bagged, labeled and readied for distribution to major retailers, such as Walmart, Costco, ShopRite, Acme and Krogers.

“Exporters need to know their perishable products are taken care of, that they are placed in a clean, secure facility with state-of-the-art temperature control,” said Lucca, who provided a Mexican lunch for all in his 100-seat on-site cafeteria. “They also need to know their produce will be repacked in the most attractive way. This visit is an insurance policy. I am not the only game in town, but I am representative of the quality of warehousing and value-added service that is available in this region.”

Located on 44-acres in Vineland, Lucca Freezer & Cold Storage receives more than 200,000 pallets of fruit annually from around the world.

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