PHARR, RGV – Sen. Juan Hinojosa says the State of Texas started to really recognize the importance of trade with Mexico about six years ago.

Since then, he said, $180 million dollars has been invested in infrastructure projects at land ports of entry on the Texas-Mexico border.

“The rest of the state, not just the Valley, now understands and comprehends the economic benefit the citizens of Texas receive from the trade and the work being done here by our partners in Mexico and on this side of the border,” Hinojosa said.

“To the point that TXDOT and the State of Texas has launched a 25-year master plan that will focus along the border and our infrastructure needs.”

Hinojosa made his remarks at an event held at the Pharr International Bridge to celebrate the start of the 2019-2020 fresh produce season. In the keynote speech, Hinojosa noted that Mexico’s “roots grow deep” in the southwest of the United States.

Hinojosa praised Pharr city leaders and the trucking companies that have made the Pharr International Bridge an economic powerhouse for the Rio Grande Valley. He noted that over $30 million in infrastructure improvements are planned at the land port of entry.

Pharr International Bridge is the No. 1 port of entry in the nation for the importation of fresh produce. Indeed, 70 percent of fresh produce imported from Mexico crosses at the Pharr Bridge.

It is also the fourth largest gateway on the U.S.-Mexico border and the 7th fastest growing port in the United States.

These statistics and more are contained in a publication called 2019 Pharr Trade Numbers, published by WorldCity. Copies of the book were handed out at the bridge, along with lots of fresh produce.

The book states Pharr does $35.38 billion worth of trade with the world, with upward trends for both imports and exports. Imports are growing at five percent a year, and exports growing at four percent a year.

The top imports crossing the Pharr bridge are TVs, auto parts, and avocados. The top exports are gas, auto parts and monitors.

Pharr overtook Nogales, Arizona, as the top bridge for fresh produce a few years back. The bridge was able to jump to No. 1 thanks, in large part, to the construction of the Superbien Mazatlan-Matamoros Highway.

This new interstate includes the Baluarte cable-stayed bridge that connects Sinaloa to Durango. The time it takes to move fresh produce from Sinaloa, Mexico’s bread basket, to the northeast of the United States was reduced considerably once the new superhighway was built, making Pharr a more desirable port of entry than Nogales.

The celebration at the Pharr International Bridge included speeches by Pharr Mayor Ambrosio Hernandez, Pharr City Commissioner Daniel Chavez, Pharr Bridge Director Luis Bazan, state Sen. Juan ‘Chuy’ Hinojosa, state Rep. Sergio Muñoz, Jr., and Texas International Produce Association President & CEO Dante Galeazzi.

Pharr Chamber of Commerce executive director Rebecca Arizmendi emceed the event.

The above podcast includes the speeches of the VIPs listed above.

In his remarks, bridge director Bazan said the annual celebration of the fresh produce season was fast becoming the Rio Grande Valley’s official produce festival.

Pharr International Bridge is to undergo a $35 million infrastructure improvement program, its director has announced.

In an interview with the Rio Grande Guardian, Bazan ran through some of the infrastructure improvements happening at the bridge.

“We are part of the donations acceptance program which is a CBP program. We now have a signed MOU with GSA and CBP to develop over $35 million of infrastructure inside our land port of entry,” Bazan said.

“We are going to be building some import lanes for trucks, some new exit lanes, but, more importantly as far as the produce industry is concerned, a new dock expansion with a cold inspection facility, and a new agriculture laboratory and training center for future entomologists.”

The above podcast features interviews with Pharr Bridge Director Luis Bazan and Pharr Chamber of Commerce executive director Rebecca Arizmendi.

Editor’s Note: The above story and podcast is the first in a two-part series on the start of the 2019-2020 fresh produce season. Part Two, featuring the analysis of Leopoldo Chow Meza, a delegate with CANACAR, the Mexican trucking association, will be posted in our next edition.