Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Mexican project likely to boost local produce imports

PHARR — Danny Burton expected to make the same profit from the truckload of cucumbers and eggplants he was carrying to a Shelbyville, Ind., grocer as he would have pulled in 15 years ago.
Burton has made thousands of similar trips delivering produce in his 36 years as an independent truck driver, a career where he’s learned to be frugal in the face of escalating operating costs. Even on the hottest summer nights, Burton never sleeps with the air conditioner on in his cab, and he’ll carry cheap freight at cost if it gets him to a destination where he can find a more lucrative rate.
"We have to watch every nickel, dime and penny. You’ve got to cut corners or you don’t make it," the Lynchburg, Va., resident said last month at a Pharr distribution warehouse as he waited for the load of fresh produce that would pay him $1.67 per mile. "That’s why I say if they’ve got to build roads to get it in here quicker, build the roads."
Otherwise, the produce — and the profits — could be rotten.
Industry experts say a massive road construction project underway in Mexico could be a boon for the Valley as the highway directly connects fertile farmland in western Mexico to population centers in the northeast United States. Already a logistics center for a variety of Mexican imports, the Valley has seen four cold storage warehouses recently expand or open with the latest — a 227,000-square-foot distribution center in the first phase of an 87-acre Edinburg produce park — expected to come online by December.
Savvy investors who built the warehouses anticipate the Valley will become ...
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