Agricultural bidding process for school lunchrooms said to be in limbo
By John McPhaul
The Puerto Rico Farm Bureau charged on Monday that farmers are still waiting for the General Services Administration to award the funds from the bidding that took place in November 2021 in which producers of various products such as vegetables, fruits and meat from the island participated.
“It is inconceivable that as of today two months have passed and farmers are unaware of the status of their applications,” Farm Bureau President Héctor Cordero Toledo said in a written statement. “What this attitude of incompetence leads to is a dislocation in production and planting planning, since it may be the case that when the adjudication arrives, the farmer cannot comply because it is outside of the planting season or because he does not have enough inventory to comply with his commercial and institutional commitments.”
The farmers leader said the situation has caused the absence of island agricultural products from the lunch trays in school cafeterias. This delays the food security plan, he said, and in turn stunts the development of children’s taste for local agricultural products since island-grown fruits, meats and vegetables would be replaced by foreign products.
César Borges of Ganaderos Borges, who is the spokesman for beef and pork processing plants, said they are the ones who supply school cafeterias through the Agricultural Business Administration, and who since the earthquakes of early 2020 and now the pandemic have been facing various difficulties.
“Since 2020, the business has endured, and then when the pandemic arrived, we couldn’t supply school cafeterias either,” he said. “Last November they conducted a bidding at the General Services Administration and it has not yet been awarded. We don’t know what has happened. Education has continued to consume products, they are throwing them into the open markets and they are buying intermittently. But we don’t have the full contract like before.”
“The education market for meat and pork farmers is extremely important because we cannot sell it in supermarkets, we can only market it through soup kitchens,” Borges added. “Fresh meat is the most nutritious; it has no hormones.”