The widely reported violence along the U.S.-Mexico border has little effect on what’s coming through the border crossings.
“My observation has been that in terms of the volume of product coming across the border, it has had no effect,” said John McClung, president of the Texas Produce Association, Mission. “We’re still bringing in the same number of 18-wheelers that we have for quite some time.”
McClung said grower-shippers adapted their working relationships to ensure personnel safety.
Border violence has been escalating over the past two years, with kidnappings and shootings regularly reported in places like Laredo, Texas.
In Nogales, Ariz., the Arizona Department of Agriculture banned produce inspections on the Mexican side of the border, reportedly because of drug cartel violence.
“The biggest reason was violence over the border,” a department spokeswoman told Reuters of the department’s decision to not send its inspectors to produce warehouses in Sonora, Mexico. “They drive miles south of the border into Mexico where … you read stories of innocent bystanders caught in the crossfire, and it’s not worth the risk to have our people put in the danger zone.”
So far, the Rio Grande Valley’s news is relatively quiet.
“What has changed is the way business is done,” McClung said. “It used to be routine for importers to go to Mexico to meet with growers. It’s now more common for the Mexican grower-shippers to come to the U.S. than it used to be.”
Curtis DeBerry, owner of Boerne, Texas-based Progreso Produce Ltd., said he hasn’t had any issues.
“At this point, it hasn’t had a negative effect on anything we’re doing,” he said. “Most of that seems to be more relevant along the border zones.”
DeBerry said his company, like others, is cautious.
“Of course, just for driver safety and personnel safety, we’re taking whatever precautions we can out of sheer necessity,” he said. “It hasn’t had any effect on the supply or flow of product.”
So far, McClung said most companies are being cautious.
“I don’t think there was any major shift in the way business was done until the last year or so,” he said. “Now there’s an increasing awareness that there is some risk involved.”
“All of this said, there has not been one incident that I can tell you about a grower-shipper going to check his stuff in Mexico that has resulted in a kidnapping or extortion.”
In the Rio Grande Valley, construction on the U.S.-Mexico border fence is complete, save for a few disputed areas to the west, McClung said.
The original plan was to have fences built along the southern levy for the Rio Grande with gates for growers to access their crops.
“They never put in the gates because they cost more than the wall did,” McClung said. The resulting 45,000 acres of farmland south of the fence is accessible through gaps every mile to mile and a half.
“It’s affecting absolutely nothing,” McClung said.