Panamei steps up to help Puerto Rico
With a significant presence in hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico, Miami, Florida-based supplier and distributor Quirch Foods is stepping up its efforts to help the island’s residents and get its business back up and running.
Hurricane Maria, which made landfall on Puerto Rico on 20 September, destroyed hundreds of homes and businesses and knocked out power throughout the island. Maria followed on the heels of Hurricane Irma, which hit Puerto Rico on 7 September. Like most other residents, Quirch’s more than 70 employees on the island have since been suffering power outages, food shortages and a lack of clean water.
“It is a huge strain on employees’ lives,” Jorge Roza, marketing director for Quirch, a meat and seafood distributor that markets the Panamei brand of frozen fish portions and shellfish to retailers, told SeafoodSource.
Quirch Foods, which operates five distribution centers in the U.S. encompassing nearly 600,000 square feet of refrigeration and freezer space, including a 85,000-square-feet distribution center in San Juan, Puerto Rico, moved quickly-delivered food, potable water, and generators to employees to help them get back on their feet.
“Our first priority was to get on that island, and the second was to drop off supplies to employees,” Roza said. “We are working with the governor of Puerto Rico to provide canned chicken, water, and other supplies.”
The company itself was fortunate, as its San Juan facility suffered only cosmetic damage from the storm, and generators were able to keep its frozen seafood inventory safe.
While Roza expects it will be months before power is fully restored to Puerto Rico, “We are starting to see the island come back to life a bit, with the National Guard getting more involved and President Trump’s visit.”
As a result, some of the island’s supermarkets were able to open in early October and Quirch resumed seafood deliveries to them.
Puerto Rico is an essential part of Quirch’s strategy to expand its presence across the Americas, Roza said. In the United States, the Panamei brand is sold at Walmart, Kroger, and other national supermarket chains. Quirch, which is celebrating 50 years in business this year, is now focusing on international expansion in Mexico, Central America, and other areas.
“Our export and international market is growing every day. We are starting to establish trade partnerships in Colombia and Mexico, so now we have got our product in those markets, and have good relationships with the major retailers there,” Roza said. “We have introduced Panamei to a much broader audience, including Honduras and Nicaragua.”