Industry, community leader named Importer of the YearTUBAC, Ariz. — Jaime Chamberlain, president of J-C Distributing Inc., Nogales, and past chairman of the Fresh Produce Association of the Americas, won The Packer’s Importer of the Year award March 13 at the America Trades Produce conference.

Several board members who had served with Chamberlain said he provided strong leadership not only within the association but also to the community in which he lives.

Alejandro Canelos, FPAA chairman, credited Chamberlain with helping the association gain more prominence within the political arenas.

“He really led the way for the association to become more focused and get more involved at the local, state and federal levels,” said Canelos, also vice president of Apache Product Imports LLC, Nogales. “He really gave of himself in order to get our message out there. He understands how important that is for the industry and the association.”

During the tomato dispute of 2012-13, for example, Chamberlain became the face of family-owned Mexican tomato import businesses in the media.

“He definitely played a big part in the media, which was absolutely fantastic,” said J.J. Badillo, general manager of Delta Fresh Sales LLC, Nogales, and a childhood friend.

“He always made sure he was giving not just the view as a Nogales distributor but as a tomato distributor, and he did it in a very positive light.”

Chris Ciruli, chief operations officer of Ciruli Bros., Rio Rico, and also a childhood friend, agreed.

“One thing about Jaime — he’s not afraid to be in the media, and he does a good job,” he said.

The dispute involves the Florida tomato industry, which continues to contend that the Mexican tomato industry has dumped product into U.S. markets since 1996.

In March 2013, the commerce department suspended its investigation into the most recent anti-dumping charge and negotiated a fourth suspension agreement with the Mexican tomato industry. It sets minimum prices for four categories of Mexican tomatoes.

Ciruli pointed out that Chamberlain has dedicated much of his free time to traveling to Washington, D.C., Mexico and Phoenix to advocate on behalf of the industry.

Barilla said Chamberlain also is thoroughly involved in the industry and is always looking for ways to improve it.

“He’s tirelessly trying to make sure the industry is viewed in a positive light,” Barilla said. “He’s always protecting the industry’s reputation, and that’s a very big piece to take on as an advocate.”

Chamberlain puts that same energy into the community in which he and his family live, Ciruli said.

“He’s a community leader,” he said. “He understands the importance of giving back to the community. Not only does he run a very good importing business, he, as well as his family, is philanthropic through the community” whether it’s raising funds for the Boys and Girls Club or St. Andrew’s Children’s Clinic, Nogales.