Mexican, U.S. produce players officially launch social responsibility alliance
After more than a year of negotiations, a group representing 90% of Mexico's produce industry has officially been launched to tackle social responsibility issues, with an open invitation to outside experts to contribute.
Discussions about the formation of what is now called the International Produce Alliance to Promote a Socially Responsible Industry (AHIFORES) were aired shortly after the LA Times report 'Product of Mexico', but one of the group's instrumental founders Mario Robles has emphasized it was in the works well before the publication.
The investigative story revealed instances of exploitation, indentured servitude and child labor that exist on some Mexican farms.
AHIFORES has pledged its mission is to "enhance the visibility of Mexico’s fresh produce industry’s long term commitment to the integral development of farm workers as well as to actively promote industry wide awareness and consistency in the implementation of socially responsible business practices".
The launch on Feb. 11 was attended by Mexico's Secretary of Agriculture Enrique Martinez y Martinez, who appointed Under Secretary of Agriculture Jesus Aguilar as his liaison with the group.
The alliance represents the vast majority of Mexico's fruit and vegetable industry, covering exports such as asparagus, avocados, berries, citrus, grapes, mangos, papayas and tomatoes, among others.
"I was honored to be part of the groundbreaking meeting which included leading innovators in Mexico's fresh produce industry," said Grupo Alta president Alan Aguirre, who will act as the interim chairman of AHIFORES.
The organization plans to use its network to disseminate best practices, educational programming, and the information resources it plans to offer.
"For years, leading Mexican growers have set new standards in social responsibility. Yet few have told the story of that commitment," said Robles, who is a director at Sinaloa’s Confederation of Agribusiness Associations (CAADES) and the AHIFORES industry spokesperson.
"It’s time that we share with consumers around the world the Mexican industry's history of responsible treatment of their workers. We are proud to be part of AHIFORES and look forward to contributing to the fulfillment of its mission."