Imports are Killing Puerto Rico and Delivering Bad Food to its Citizens

Puerto Rico is forced to import 90% of its fresh produce because its family-run farms have been destroyed by frequent hurricanes. A further lack of aid and awareness has left the agricultural sector in ruins. Fusion Farms is standing behind Puerto Rican family farmers to help solve the food crisis.

Fusion Farms is standing behind Puerto Rican family farmers to help change their fate and that of the island’s communities. Puerto Rico is facing a #foodcrisis and is forced to import 90% of its fresh produce from foreign shores, paying exorbitant amounts of money for it. Furthermore, given the often thousands of miles this produce is required to cover (#foodmiles) and the amount of time it spends in Puerto Rican customs, its often already beginning to rot by the time it arrives on grocery store shelves.

Puerto Rico is currently importing upwards of 90% of its organic produce from the United States, which travels a minimum of 1,500 miles for weeks at a time.

Food that is expensive, sub-par in quality, freshness, and nutrition, and costly to the environment: how can bad food be a problem on a fertile, tropical island like #PuertoRico? The answer, in part, is the Atlantic Ocean hurricanes that have destroyed much of the island’s agriculture. With many of these being family-run farms (and with disaster aid from the mainland being in short supply), they have been unable to recover. Consequently, Puerto Rico relies on imports from foreign shores.

Discover the devastation of Hurricane Maria (September 2017) on Puerto Rico.

Impact on Food Quality

Shipping fresh produce from abroad poses a myriad of problems, not only for U.S. citizens on Puerto Rico but also for the global environment.

Food miles: Every mile that food has to travel to get from farm to plate exhausts #greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, contributing to global environmental issues like #climatechange. Purchasing fresh produce from a local farmers market comes with a price tag of only a few food miles – certainly no more than 10 or 20. Purchasing “fresh” produce from a grocery store on Puerto Rico comes with a price tag of several thousands of food miles – often 1,000, 2,000, and more!

Freshness: Travelling from the United States, Mexico, Chile, and other countries from where Puerto Rico receives its imports takes time – days and weeks. Then, when it arrives in port, it’s forced to languish in customs for further days and weeks while the usually lengthy bureaucratic processes play out. By the time Puerto Ricans gain access to this “fresh” produce, it’s often already in the beginning stages of rotting.

Nutrition: Fruits and vegetables rapidly lose their nutritional value with time. Exposure to heat, light, and oxygen causes the vitamins, antioxidants, minerals, and other nutrients to leach or degrade, which means that by the time this produce is available for purchase, it’s lost a substantial amount of nutrition.

Spinach can lose 90% of its vitamin C content within 24 hours of harvest, and 50% of its folate and carotenoids within a week. By the time Puerto Rico receives its imports of “fresh” fruit and vegetables, it’s often WEEKS old. How nutritious is the food you’re eating?

Cost: To add insult to injury, fresh produce is substantially more expensive on Puerto Rico because it has to be imported and because the island remains under an archaic shipping law (the #JonesAct) that decrees that only American-made, owned, captained, and crewed ships may serve the island.

It’s quite clear that imports are killing Puerto Rico and delivering bad food to the U.S. citizens living here. Thankfully, there is a solution….

Fusion Farms: Bringing Whole, Locally Grown Fresh Produce to Puerto Rico

#FusionFarms aims to establish the Puerto Rico’s food sovereignty and relieve its reliance on imported fresh produce by building hurricane protected aquaponics farms on the island. Through this method of sustainable, closed environment aquaponics (CEA), this start-up farming initiative will establish a reliable, locally grown source of fresh fruits, vegetables, and fish protein.

Extensive scientific research on looped aquaponic ecosystems has paved the way for repeatable, scalable food production, which represents an innovative advance in the way food supplies will be grown in the future. And in few places on Earth is such a system so desperately needed as it is on Puerto Rico.

For more information about Fusion Farms and to become an investor in this opportunity, go to www.fusionfarmspr.com or email Info@FusionFarmsPR.com

The Jones Act: Is the 100-Year-Old Shipping Law Contributing to the Ruin of Puerto Rico?

Jones Act

In 1920, Congress passed a law designed to encourage American prosperity after World War I. Unfortunately this act has, since, had the opposite effect and in few other places is this detrimental effect felt more profoundly than the unincorporated American territory and island nation of #PuertoRico.

The Jones Act as it was called – named after its sponsor, Senator Wesley Jones, from Washington State – has allegedly done immeasurable damage to Puerto Rico’s economy. If a figure were to be supplied, it would be in the region of $1.5 billion, according to an article by Caribbean Business.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the #JonesAct, its economic and environmental impact, and what’s currently been done to undo this outdated legislature.

What is the Jones Act and why is it Damaging Puerto Rico?

Almost 100 years ago, the Merchant Marine Act of 1920 was passed by Congress and enacted into law. Section 27 of the Merchant Marine Act is known as the Jones Act and it stated that all goods transported by water between ports in the United States and its territories (of which Puerto Rico is one), be carried on American-flagged ships that are American-built, American-owned, and are substantially crewed by American citizens.

The intention of this act was to encourage American trade, commerce, prosperity and naval prowess after World War I, which makes sense in theory. However, #theJonesAct has had several unintended consequences. Predominantly, the costs of transporting merchandise from the U.S. mainland to Puerto Rico in American built, flagged, owned, and run vessels are much higher. Additionally, Jones Act ships aren’t always available and are not always able to supply the goods/volume of goods Puerto Rico requires.

Overall, the Jones Act has:

  • Reduced waterborne coastwise trade (because it’s ships are so expensive)
  • Harmed the environment (because there is a preference for cheaper land freight, as well as trade originating from further afield, from foreign countries),
  • Measurably harmed the economy of Puerto Rico, not only because of steeper consumer prices but also because there aren’t always Jones Act vessels available to ship the goods Puerto Rico needs to import.

In spite of this, this outdated law remains in effect and continues to limit the ability to ship products by water throughout the United States and Puerto Rico.

Steep price tag for Puerto Ricans

The Jones Act: a Legacy of Economic Ruin for Puerto Rico

Where other U.S. states have the option to transport produce by land, Puerto Rico, being an island, is forced to make use of Jones Act ships, should it wish to ship produce in from the mainland. According to two independent investigations, this has cost Puerto Rico $1.5 billion in higher prices for goods, as well as in its effect on competitiveness and lost jobs.

One study titled The Impact of the Jones Act on Puerto Rico was the first on the Jones Act following Hurricane Maria and was commissioned by a coalition of Puerto Rican government, hospitality, legal, and other institutions, including the Chamber of Marketing, Industry and Food Distribution (MIDA in Spanish acronym), the Puerto Rico Restaurants Association, the United Retailers Association, and the Puerto Rico Bar Association.

The report was compiled by Advantage Business Consulting (ABC), which was hired to investigate the true cost of transportation from both the mainland United States and the various international ports with which Puerto Rico frequently trades. ABC sent out a survey and of the companies contacted, a significant 70 percent responded, which demonstrates the keen interest of importers with this issue. The results of the survey were surprising, although not entirely unexpected.

Puerto Rico pays 151% more to transport goods from American ports than from foreign ports

What it found was that transporting containers from the United States costs, on average, 2.5 times or 151 percent more than transporting from foreign ports. For example: shipping a container from the U.S. East Coast to Puerto Rico costs $3,063 but shipping the same container to nearby Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic costs only $1,504; and to Kingston, Jamaica, $1,607. This is because they’re not using Jones Act ships. These figures were arrived at after corresponding adjustments for size of container and distance.

Using this data, ABC then calculated an impact equivalent to a Jones Act tax of 7.2 percent on food and beverages alone, which translates into an increase of $367 million in additional costs to the local economy. In other words, food and beverages on Puerto Rico cost $300 and $107 more respectively per person, thanks to the Jones Act.

Studies peg cost of Jones Act on Puerto Rico at $1.5 billion

Further Jones Act limitations

The second independent study performed was done by the New York firm, John Dunham & Associates (JDA). Having worked for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the Port Authority of Philadelphia, and the Ports and Commerce Department of the City of New York, Chief economist John Dunham has extensive experience in the maritime transport sector.

Their report read: “All the calculations concluded that there was a significant impact. From this analysis, the firm chose and adapted the sources to make their own recommendation, concluding water transportation costs to Puerto Rico are $568.9 million higher, and prices are $1.1 billion higher than they would be without the Jones Act limitations.”

A further impact of this is on jobs for Puerto Ricans.

“If this is the case, Puerto Rico has 13,250 fewer jobs than it would have were there a free market for ocean freight,” says John Dunham. “Those jobs would pay residents $337.3 million in wages and would result from nearly $1.5 billion in increased economic activity.”

He also said that overall tax revenue would be $106.4 million more were the island to be exempt from the Jones Act’s provisions.

Environmental considerations

The Jones Act doesn’t only deliver a blow to business’, consumers’, and the economy’s pockets… owing to this legislation, Puerto Rican businesses have limited viable shipping options, which has compelled them to purchase more from foreign countries. In fact, many Puerto Rico companies opt to import goods from Canada rather than from the United States in order to avoid the cost premium from the Jones Act. Additionally, the island, imports almost no heavy cargo from the U.S. since ships are not available to carry it. And with goods having to cover longer distances by other modes of travel, particularly land transport, Puerto Rico’s #carbonfootprint is unavoidably large.

The road forward

“With the results of these two economic studies, we have enough data to demand that we be heard here as well as in the United States Congress,” says president of the Puerto Rico Chamber of Commerce, Kenneth Rivera. “The numbers are clear, the impact is devastating for the economy of our island and even more so being as vulnerable to natural disasters such a as #HurricaneMaria.”

José Salvatella, president of the Puerto Rico Restaurants Association, has also said that Puerto Rico’s food security is directly tied to its “extreme dependence” on imports: “We had great difficulties in meeting our clients’ needs, to the point that one of our partners had to import food by plane at a cost 10 times higher than what it would have cost by sea due to the lack of service.”

And so, rather than achieving any of the goals set forth in 1920, the Jones Act has severely hampered the development of the merchant marine and shipbuilding industries in the United States. It’s time for change.

It is Fusion Farm’s mission to bring about change by re-establishing local agriculture (in hurricane-protected facilities) and reducing Puerto Rico’s dependence on food imports.

For more information about Fusion Farms and to become an investor in this opportunity, go to www.fusionfarmspr.com or email Info@FusionFarmsPR.com