Four vertical rows of shipping containers

The largest project at the Panama Canal since its original construction should be complete in 2016.

To determine how the state’s agriculture industry can best capitalize on the opportunities tied to the expansion of the canal, Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam visited Panama City in January 2014. Joining him on this briefing and tour was Joel Sellers, international sales manager for Florida’s Natural Growers, one of the largest cooperatives of independent citrus growers with more than 60,000 acres of groves located in the heart of Central Florida.

“We see great opportunities and benefits for Florida’s citrus growers as a result of the investment in that market,” says Sellers. “Our business in Panama is up about 70 percent versus last year, and that’s quite a significant growth since we’ve experienced growth each of the past four years we’ve been back in the market.”

However, it’s not just exports to Panama that will be positively impacted by the canal’s expansion. “We supply about 70 countries with our products and much of the growth is presently occurring in the Middle East and Asian markets. So we are looking forward to when the canal opens and accommodates larger vessels with greater capacity, which will help supply markets in the East.”

As for South American countries like Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru, which are also hot spots for juice exports, Sellers anticipates these markets will also benefit from more stable freight rates going forward. It’s a win-win all around.

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