1. Could you comment on the importance of FPAA and the projects you are currently working on for the fresh produce industry?
There is only one US produce association with the primary mission to maintain market access for Mexican produce imports – the Fresh Produce Association of the Americas. At FPAA, we work with USDA, the Food and Drug Administration and Customs, to ensure that inspections are fair and reasonable for Mexican produce. When protectionist forces including growers from Florida attempt to put duties, tariffs or other restrictions on Mexican produce, we are on the front lines. In recent years, we have fought to prevent duties and maintain market access for Mexican items including cucumbers, bell peppers, squash, blueberries, strawberries and raspberries. And currently we are working within a coalition to maintain the Tomato Suspension Agreement.
2. The SouthWest International Produce Expo (SWIPE) is coming up, could you share a little about the event and how it benefits the membership?
I’m glad you asked, because we’ve been working to make the SouthWest International Produce Expo the most exclusive buyer-seller event in the industry. We have a space-limited expo, which means that fewer than 50 companies will have the opportunity to show their produce to the retail and foodservice buyers. We designed it this way, on purpose, so that it is a reduced-pressure event for the buyers, with a high-impact result for exhibitors. As of the middle of August, we have about a dozen booths left, so companies should act quickly.
3. What activities can we expect to see in this SWIPE edition?
The SWIPE has a big focus on outdoor, healthy activities. But also, if you’ve been to the FPAA convention before, you know that we throw a good party. Under the stars and at the foothills of the Catalina Mountains in Tucson, our event is balanced with networking, serious topics, a lot of fun, and golf at Loew’s Ventana’s renowned course. And for the first time we are offering a tennis tournament.
4. How will the general program be integrated?
The event formally starts the evening of Thursday, Nov.2, 2023, with our opening reception. We have a VIP reception for qualified sponsors. The next day, Friday, Nov. 3, we are offering a retail tour, and seminars later in the morning and through lunch. The trade expo is in the afternoon, followed by a reception. Finally, on Saturday guests have the option of golf, tennis, or a self-directed hike in the mountains.
5. How important is it to organize a gastronomic display of fresh produce? What will attendees see at SWIPE?
We are so proud to be working with the Mexican General Consulate of Tucson, for the annual Mexican Culinary Showcase. We invite schools of gastronomy, as well as noted regional chefs, to put their skills to the test with Mexican fresh fruits and vegetables that are in season. Every year, I am so impressed with the culinary creations. For the first time, we are incorporating the Mexican Culinary Showcase into the expo. All guests will have a chance to sample the truly extraordinary culinary creations.
6. According to your experience, what will be the main business opportunities for attendees?
The program is built to help build camaraderie and business networking. This will be meeting of old friends and new friends alike. With the golf, tennis and outdoor networking, this is going to be a great place to escape the cold of November.
7. How many attendees do you expect in this next edition?
We have enjoyed having over 600 guests at some of our events. With this being the first true expo, who knows?
The weather will be great, so bring shades and sunscreen!
8. How important do you consider the bilateral trade between Mexico and the United States for the fresh produce industry? How important is for the industry this type of event?
Fresh produce imports from Mexico, literally, are the fruits of the bilateral relationship. The first imports of oranges and tomatoes crossed from Sonora into Nogales, Arizona, by train in the 1880s. Since then, the industry has grown ever more sophisticated, now they are major employers in South Texas, Arizona and California, and have a major impact in the U.S. Economy too. The tomato importing industry alone accounts for over 33,000 US jobs and $3 billion in GDP, according to the University of Arizona.
9. Is there anything else you would like to add?
FPAA strives to represent the needs of importer/distributors all along the Southwest border, and for good reason. Researchers at Texas A&M estimate that imports of Mexican fruits and vegetables will provide a total economic impact of over $53 billion by 2030. Mexican fresh fruits and vegetables play a vital role in the future of North America. At FPAA, we are here to help eliminate headaches and make sure that your produce gets past all the red tape at the border. The FPAA is for US distributors. Growers, make sure your distributor is a member of FPAA. Learn more about FPAA at www.freshfrommexico.com, and register for the SWIPE event at https://swipeexpo.com.