Pilot Program Allows Produce Imports to Enter South Florida Ports

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Tallahassee, Fla. - Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam will depart Florida en route to Panama City, Panama, on Sunday. Joined by Florida growers and the director of PortMiami, Commissioner Putnam will receive a briefing on the expansion of the Panama Canal, meet with Panamanian officials and promote Florida products to Panama retailers. This is Commissioner Putnam's first trip abroad since taking office in 2011.

"The expansion of the Panama Canal represents one of the most revolutionary changes in global trade logistics since the opening of the Panama Canal one century ago," said Commissioner Putnam. "We're excited to learn how Florida, particularly Florida's $100 billion agriculture industry, can capitalize on this immense opportunity."

The purposes of the trade development mission to Panama are to: 1) expand Florida growers' access to Panama, one of the fastest growing markets in Latin America; 2) help Florida capitalize on the opportunities that come with the expansion of the Panama Canal; and 3) evaluate the pilot program Florida launched to prevent invasive pests from entering Florida on shipments of fresh produce through the Panama Canal.

On Monday, the delegation will receive a briefing on the expansion of the Panama Canal from Canal Administrator Jorge Quijano. The briefing will be followed by a tour of the Panama Canal and expansion sites.

Later than afternoon, the delegation will meet with U.S. Ambassador Jonathan Farrar and other officials at the U.S. Embassy in Panama.

On Tuesday, the delegation will meet with senior administration officials in Panama, including Oscar Osorio, Minister of Agriculture (MIDA), and Jose Pacheco, Vice Minister of Trade (MICI).

Also on Tuesday the delegation plans to meet with David Carius, President, American Chamber of Commerce in Panama, and Ricardo Motta, Vice President of Sales, Felipe Motta Grocery/Retail Distributor. Florida growers and marketing representatives from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) will promote orange juice and berries.

The delegation consists of:

· Adam Putnam, Florida Commissioner of Agriculture

· Bill Johnson, Director of PortMiami

· Dr. Robert Behr, COO, Florida's Natural Growers

· Joel Sellers, International Sales Manager, Florida's Natural Growers

· Gary Wishnatzki, Owner, Wish Farms

· Richard Gaskalla, Director of Plant Industry, FDACS

· Deb May, Marketing, FDACS

· Dan Sleep, Marketing, FDACS

· Marisol Alvares, Marketing, FDACS

Florida agriculture is a $100 billion industry that supports two million jobs for Floridians. Florida agricultural exports recently surpassed $4 billion per year to more than 160 other countries.

Panama is Florida's fifth largest trading partner in terms of agricultural products. Florida is a major provider of fresh tomatoes, strawberries and sugar cane products to Panama.

Florida's agricultural exports to Panama have grown 70 percent in the last two years, up to more than $168 million in agricultural products in 2012. The growth of Florida's agricultural exports to Panama over the last two years has created 1,800 new jobs for Floridians.