Fresh produce keeps fueling Arizona’s economy

The bulk of the recent news we hear about when it comes to the border relates to migrant caravans and border security. But the topic that’s missing some of the spotlight is trade, specifically produce trade. While it may not be as controversial, the fact is items such as lettuce, onions and tomatoes are pumping life into our state’s economy like a healthy fruit and vegetable juice shot to our system.

Arizona’s port of entry in Nogales continues to be a large driver of economic impact for the state. A recent study from the Nogales-Santa Cruz County Economic Development Corporation highlights the impact of imported fresh produce. Nogales serves as the main entry in the country for everything from squash to peppers to cucumbers to tomatoes, which are literally the lifeblood of produce trade in Arizona.

We reported earlier this year that tomatoes are injecting $4.8 billion in the state’s economy and have created more than 33,000 full- and part-time jobs.

In November, more than 800 growers, harvesters, packers and distributors convened to not only talk about fresh produce, but about its role in the state’s bottom line at the 50th annual conference of the Fresh Produce Association of Americas (FPAA) in November. The FPAA accounts for more than one-third (39 percent, in fact) of all imported fruits and veggies consumed in North America. All tolled, about five billion pounds of produce come through Nogales every year.

The conference hit on NAFTA and the revamped deal that was signed at the G20 Summit by President Trump, former Mexican president Enrique Pena Nieto, and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

“The produce industry is complex, and our educational sessions reflect that,” said FPAA President Lance Jungmeyer, in a statement. “We try to touch on some of the key things impacting members of the industry and to bring the experts on these issues so that we can foster a good dialogue. We had more than 800 attendees at the convention, and it was one of the largest to date, which is no surprise given all of the great events and the extra-special emphasis on our 50th year celebration.”

The port of entry in Nogales has been a thoroughfare of trade for more than a century with many different political landscapes and personalities behind it. Leaders from the FPAA don’t really see a threat to their future or anything that could throw them too off course.

This can be seen in the rising demand for tomatoes in the United States. Demand has steadily increased over the years, representing a per person consumption rate of 17 pounds of tomatoes per year with an average of 9.4 million pounds arriving daily from Mexico into the United States.

Nick Esquer

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