PHARR, Texas – There’s a reason the Rio Grande Valley has so many more fresh produce parks and warehouses than other border regions – the size of the local market.
If a company bringing fresh fruit and vegetables in from Mexico cannot move the produce north to other markets, because it gets damaged in transit, it can still sell it in the Valley.
This is the analysis of international trade expert and project manager for Dekal Industrial Park, William Millan.
The multi-million dollar Dekal project is being developed by two fresh produce companies, Delta Fresh and Kaliroy Fresh.
“How many people do we have in the Valley? One point two million? The Valley consumes a lot of produce,” Millan said.
“Laredo? They don’t have that. It is such a small place, in comparison. Some of the companies there that house avocados, they end up throwing their damaged goods away because there is no market. They end up throwing it away or sending it to San Antonio to see if they can recover some money.”
In the Valley you do not even have to sell the produce to a grocery store, Millan explained.
“People just knock on the door and ask, hey, do you have something to sell? Sometimes they knock on the door and they are looking for salsa product like tomatoes. Sometimes we have it and sometimes we don’t. But, we don’t sell retail. We only sell by the pallet. If you want a pallet, we will sell.”
Other warehouses will sell in smaller portions, Millan explained.
“They sell by the box. Perhaps they did not rotate it properly. They think, I don’t want to throw it away. Take it away, five dollars instead of eight dollars.”
Millan spoke recently about the fresh produce industry during a video interview with the Rio Grande Guardian International News Service. He was joined on the set by Pharr Economic Development Corporation’s executive director, Victor Perez.
Perez said there is no doubt that the Pharr International Bridge is the best crossing point for Mexican grown fresh produce that is being shipped to the east coast of the United States. Millan agreed, pointing out that in recent years Pharr has replaced Nogales as the top land port of entry for fresh produce.
In fact, Millan said he foresaw the growth of Pharr before it even happened.
“I’m 42 years old, but when I got here in 2004, I was 24. And I feel proud to say, like, and I don’t want to feel old, but I saw this growth coming, like 15 years ago.”
Millan studied international business at San Miguel University in the city of Culiacán, Sinaloa. In fact, he was the only student in his class who went on to make a career in international trade.
“I saw this growth coming because when I graduated in Mexico in 2004 they told me about this new bridge in Durango that was going to move most of the produce through McAllen and the Pharr area. So, I thought to myself, that is the spot I need to be.”
Millan remembers how his selection of Pharr as the base for his career came about. He said it all started when he was on a school trip to a warehouse in Nogales.
“It was my last year of university and we were on a school trip. The general manager of that warehouse was friend of mine. He was like, hey, you were born in the U.S., right? I said, yes. So he said, you have papers, you can have a job here. I was like, no way, I don’t want to move to Nogales. Send me me somewhere else and I’ll move.”
Unfortunately for that company, it had no operations in Pharr.
“They didn’t know about Pharr. So, I went back and started studying everything, and then a friend of mine started working for an oil company and he said well, we send some trucks to Pharr. I said, where the heck is that? So I checked online. Then I called my uncle, he’s actually a hunter. And he said, yeah, I have been there a lot of times. He said, it is better than Nogales. And I started applying online and over the phone, and I got a job. And I moved here by myself.”
The building of the Baluarte bridge in Durango allowed fresh produce to be shipped from Sinaloa, the bread basket of Mexico, to the east coast of the United States via Pharr much more quickly than via Nogales.
Millan said the new superhighway between Sinaloa and Tamaulipas was made possible by the Durango bridge. As a result, a lot of fresh produce started arriving in the U.S. via Pharr.
“When I got here there was only one produce park and three warehouses. Now there is a lot more. It is still hard to get land but it’s better than anywhere else. Elsewhere, the land is owned by one company and they want $600,000 an acre.”
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