If you’ve bought produce from Mexico over the past decade or so, there’s a good chance Eric Viramontes played a role in getting it to you.
From the day he graduated as an agronomist from a private university in Guadalajara to his present position as chief executive officer of Culiacan-based AMHPAC, the association of Mexican producers of protected horticulture, Viramontes, 37, has been involved with promoting products produced by Mexican growers.
He started out helping members of a Jalisco-based cattle union promote their livestock by hosting cattle shows and trade programs inside and outside of Mexico.
Then he was tabbed to direct training and communications programs for the Jalisco Produce Foundation, a job that led to his next assignment as director of promotion and trade programs for ASERCA, an entity of the Mexican Ministry of Agriculture (SAGARPA), during the Vicente Fox administration.
He helped growers and handlers set up promotion boards, look for new markets and new channels for trade and oversaw promotional campaigns for mangoes, avocados, eggplant and other commodities.
“We were looking at everything,” he said.
It was Viramontes who launched the MexBest program and its Mexico Supreme Quality seal.
His career veered into the private sector in 2005 when he joined Ciruli Bros. LLC, Rio Rico, Ariz., as agriculture manager, charged with developing synergy and communications between the growing and marketing segments.
“One of the biggest challenges in this industry,” he said, “is trying to get the grower to think like a marketer and the marketer to think like a grower.”
While at Ciruli Bros., he served as a volunteer consultant with newly formed AMHPAC.
His work creating strategies, securing resources and encouraging involvement from government and private sources became so time-consuming that he left Ciruli Bros. to accept a position as AMHPAC's full-time chief executive officer in 2008.
Chris Ciruli, partner in Ciruli Bros., is impressed by Viramontes’ energy and passion.
“We really had the feeling that he could do a lot of good for the industry,” he said. “You could see that energy carry through in his personality.”
Lee Frankel, president and chief executive officer of Salt Lake City -based United Potato Growers of America and former president of the Nogales, Ariz.-based Fresh Produce Association of the Americas, has known Viramontes throughout his produce career.
Viramontes is “willing to explore new ideas and try new things without fear of failure,” Frankel said.
In his current post, Viramontes has proved proficient at holding together a diverse group of growers from different regions who possess varying degrees of technology and helping them compete on a global stage, Frankel said.
Serving growers, setting goals and working tirelessly to help Mexico’s agriculture industry thrive have been touchstones of Viramontes’ career.
“It doesn’t take a genius to know what you need to do as an industry to improve,” Viramontes said.
“The secret is to develop a strategy and be loyal to that strategy, as difficult as it may be, and work it through.”