With draft revisions to the U.S.-Mexico tomato suspension agreement finally in place and a new venture to tend to, Eric Viramontes is stepping down as chief executive officer of Culiacan-based Asociacion Mexicana de Horticulture Protegida A.C. — AMHPAC.

He’s held the role since 2008.

Viramontes will remain on the board but otherwise focus on his own company, Vision and Services.

“We’re helping governments and companies develop special projects in terms of opening new markets and communications strategies, something we’ve been doing all along with AMHPAC,” he said.

AMHPAC had not confirmed a successor as of Feb. 8.

“One of my last actions was being part of the negotiating group with the tomato suspension deal,” Viramontes said Feb. 4. “I’m finished with that so I can happily move on, proud of the organization we have built.”

The draft suspension agreement released by the Commerce Department has drawn mixed reviews in Arizona and Florida, but Viramontes sees progress in its inclusion of all Mexican exporters.

“I think it will make for a stronger industry,” he said. “The agreement is about maintaining order. It’s not about filling anybody’s pocket. Best of all, it avoided a big dispute between our countries.”

“One of the things that has to happen on either side of the border — Mexico or Florida — is that you have to be more efficient, you have to deliver a better product, be more productive and sustainable,” Viramontes said. “If you’re able to accomplish that, it’s going to be fair for you.”

Before the AMHPAC role, he was agriculture manager with Ciruli Bros. LLC, Nogales, Ariz., from 2005.

One of his early roles in the industry was directing training and communications for Jalisco Produce Foundation. He later became director of promotion and trade for ASERCA, an entity of SAGARPA, the Mexican Ministry for Agriculture.

He helped set up promotion boards, find new markets and oversee promotional campaigns for mangoes, avocados, eggplant and other commodities. Viramontes launched the MexBest program and its Mexico Supreme Quality seal.

AMHPAC has about 360 members from the Mexican greenhouse industry.

“We’re still growing, but more slowly,” he said. “The industry is reaching its peak in terms of numbers of companies.”

AMHPAC and its members have multiple ongoing initiatives on various fronts including the Food Safety Modernization Act, the Global Food Safety Initiative, and traceability.

The guiding concept, Viramontes said, lies in the Spanish word blindaje — in translation, armor or shield.

“Whether you’re talking about tomatoes, cucumbers or squash, when it comes from Mexico your reputation can lie in the weakest link,” he said. “We don’t want any weak links.”