|Pharr, November 6 - Officials from the City of Pharr, a representative from Gov. Rick Perry’s office, and state Rep. Sergio Muñoz will set off for a four-day visit to the state of Sinaloa, Mexico, today.
The highlight of the visit will be a meeting on Thursday evening with Sinaloa Gov. Mario López Valdez at the Hotel Lucerna in Culiacan, Sinaloa. Discussions will center on how the City of Pharr and its international bridge can help facilitate the shipping of fresh produce from the Culiacan and Rio Fuerte valleys in Sinaloa to the east coast of the United States via a new superhighway linking Mazatlán to Matamoros.
The trade delegation will also include officials from the State of Tamaulipas, the Texas International Produce Association, and the Asociación de Introductores de Productos Agrícolas.
“We are very excited about this visit and fostering good relationships with the growers of Culiacan and Rio Fuerte and state officials in Sinaloa,” Fred Brouwen, director of operations for the Pharr International Bridge, told the Guardian. “There will be considerable savings for truckers shipping fresh produce from Culiacan to markets on the east coast of the United States by using the new superhighway and crossing in Pharr.”
Brouwen said the trade delegation will provide a power point presentation to the regional logistical and broker community in Culiacan, introducing them to the South Texas region and in particular Hidalgo County’s main commercial bridge in Pharr. He pointed out that with over 940,000 annual commercial truck crossings the Pharr Bridge is the seventh busiest commercial truck crossing port in the United States. “In terms of agricultural product crossing, we are No. 2 in the U.S. and No. 1 in Texas,” Brouwen said.
The new superhighway, which crosses the Sierra Madre Occidental mountain range, is being dubbed the Corredor Económico del Norte. The first major highway to connect the Pacific Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico in Mexico, the superhighway took six years to build at a cost of $3 billion dollars (American). The largest public works project ever undertaken by Mexico, the superhighway is something of an engineering marvel. It encompasses 60 tunnels and 114 bridges, including the highest cable-stayed bridge in the world, Puente Baluarte, which connects the states of Sinaloa with Durango.
Brouwen said the Pharr delegation will likely visit the Baluarte Bridge. “Ezequiel Ordoñez, our bridge liaison in Mexico, has visited the bridge on a couple of occasions. He says it is a marvelous feat of engineering. We want to see the bridge first hand,” Brouwen said.
Sinaloa is considered the breadbasket of Mexico, with between 70 to 80 percent of all tomatoes grown there. Most of the fresh produce currently gets shipped to U.S. markets via the Nogales port of entry in Arizona. However, the opening of new Mazatlán to Matamoros superhighway will allow shippers to transport produce to the east and south east of the United States more quickly and with lower fuel and labor costs. The superhighway is being dubbed the Corredor Económico del Norte. Experts say it will facilitate the import of nearly $4 billion of perishable product into the U.S.
Aarón Cuadras Bojórquez, a director of Grupo Jugas, will be part of the trade delegation visiting Culiacan. Grupo Jugas is currently building a giant truck stop, gas station, weigh station and dry port on the Reynosa side of the Pharr Bridge. The 40-acre park will include office space for customs brokers.
Bojórquez and Juan Gastelum, the owner of Grupo Jugas, hail from Sinaloa. “I am sure the growers in the Culiacan Valley will be interested in our message and that the trucking companies will want to ship their fresh produce into the United States at the Pharr International Bridge. With the new superhighway we are going to give them better service than they receive in Nogales,” Cuadras Bojórquez said.
Cuadras Bojórquez pointed out that connections between Sinaloa and the Rio Grande Valley are already being made in anticipation of the superhighway’s opening. “Cano Trucks of San Juan, Texas, has set up an office in Sinaloa to get new business. And, Mexican firms such as Suarez Customs Brokers, Emma Logistics, have set up shop in the Valley,” Cuadras Bojórquez said.
Brouwen predicted that by utilizing the Mazatlán-Matamoros superhighway, logistics companies taking fresh produce from Culiacan to the east coast of the United States will be able to save more than $3,000 in transportation costs on a round trip.
Brouwen said the the City of Pharr is preparing for increased truck traffic by providing an office for an agricultural products inspector and building six new cold storage warehouses. It is also working on plans for a connector to link its international bridge to Interstate 2 and the planned State Highway 45 in Donna.
“Our new industrial park will be ready by end of year. There will be 60 lots and 30 are already sold. It sits on 90 acres. Phase one of the park will be exclusively for fruit and vegetables. The second phase, covering 250 acres, will be dry, for the maquila industry.”
Brouwen said Reynosa and Tamaulipas officials are also improving infrastructure in readiness for more truck traffic. “The new loop to the south of Reynosa that will link Pharr and Donna international bridges to the Monterrey and Saltillo highway will result in a 45 minute saving for trucks. The officials in Reynosa and the State of Tamaulipas, know, just as we do, that the tsunami is coming.”