Produce packers seek Philly sea link to Mexico, 'Belly of the World'

Philadelphia Wholesale Produce Market.

Mexican ocean shippers met with South Jersey vegetable growers and Philadelphia-area port executives at the Philadelphia Wholesale Produce Market on Essington Ave. in Southwest Philly today to try and convince shipping lines to establish a regular sea import-export service between the Delaware River ports and Mexico's chief Atlantic port of Vera Cruz.

The four-day Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic route would compete with deregulated North American trucking lines sending General Electric locomotive parts, Heinz pickles, Hersheys chocolates and Alcoa aluminum ingots and other Pennsylvania exports totalling $3 billion South to Mexico last year, while importing $3.4 billion of Mexican fruit, vegetables and electronics, including about one-quarter of the produce terminal's yearly volume, says PennPORTS, the state-backed port advocacy group.  

Supporters of the proposal in a meeting at the produce terminal include South Jersey fruit grower and shipper Fred Sorbello, CEO of Mullica Hill Group Cos. and president of the group Ship Philly First; Rusty Lucca, president of produce shipper Lucca Trucking of Vineland;  Carlos Giralt-Cabales, Mexico's consul-general in Philadelphia; Mexico's chief port administrator, Fernando Gamboa-Rosas, who calls Mexico "la panza del mundo" (Belly of the World) because of its Atlantic and Pacific ports and its high volume of farm exports; and Juan Ignacio Fernandez-Carbajal, director of the Veracruz port, which is the focus of a $5 billion expansion campaign designed to stimulate Mexican trade.