Interview: Sergio R. Esquer Peiro

Mr. Sergio Esquer Peiro is CEO of Agrícola Chaparral, Agroindustrias Tombell and a company located in Nayarit for summer production: Agroindustrias Villa Santiago; is a producer and marketer of fresh vegetables and fruits and the main products they grow are: tomato (ball, saladette, grape) and bell pepper. Mr. Esquer is an active member of the agricultural guild, currently the president of the Culiacan Growers Association, A.C. and a member of the Board of Directors of Eleven Rivers Growers.

  1. How did you approach Eleven Rivers?

I participated from the beginning, is a concern that we had as producers, to make a certification to add value to the marketing of our products, which had a distinctive, an advantage that would give us greater competitiveness in the market.

17 years ago, we had a company called EcoAgro, where we expressed that concern before the issue of processes and food safety came. This was led by Roberto Tarriba and myself, and we managed to work together on agriculture. At that time, we worked with the engineer: Lorena Santana, who developed the first manual of good manufacturing practices of packaging; the concern we had at that time was the same as we do with Eleven Rivers, we observed that a topic of great importance would be food safety.

We seek our own brand, however, the recommendation of our business partners in Nogales was to work with some of the best-known certifying companies in the United States, that’s when we started with companies like PrimusGFS in the United States, it’s a big company today, and we worked with them from the beginning.

We as a company have been operating a culture of food safety for many years and we work with various certifications required by the market.

When the Eleven Rivers initiative came; coordinated by the Commission for Research and Defense of Vegetables (CIDH), we agreed to be part of it, because the subject of certifications was very important, since compliance with food safety and quality standards is a requirement of buyers and each time they become stricter.

Eleven Rivers fills our goals for the system it has, regardless of what accompanies it as training and other; is a weekly review system unlike other certifications, because those reviews were every season and it is not the same.

The goal we are pursuing with Eleven Rivers is to achieve that differentiation, that plus we must be certified. We have not done so until now, but we are already on track.

  1. What do you expect in the future of Eleven Rivers?

The differentiation of our products, that is the key, that we achieve through this certification an additional value. One of the advantages we have with Eleven Rivers is the reduction of the risks of incurring an epidemic or serious illness that we can cause for our product, it helps you to provide a better reliability of the food safety of your products.

The consumer has already changed his behavior a lot, is buying a product and is looking at what is behind, the consumer seeks to buy a harmless product, and even increasingly, the issue of social responsibility, is what consumers are already looking for, especially young people.

They look for a product that has a good presentation, but above all that also behind the production chain have good treatment of their workers, that their characteristics are clear in the policies of the company and they want to see it in the media, mainly in social media, thats the way consumers are behaving.

  1. What was farming like before the Eleven Rivers certification and how is it after?

It is another after Eleven Rivers because it is the strictest certification. It is the highest grade we have had as a company with this certification. I do not deny that there was already a lot of advanced culture, but it was not easy. Even if you have the culture, they are much more stringent requirements. And in the internal matter, it is something else; is another culture. I believe that organizational culture has improved considerably at all levels.

  1. What aspects do you consider that are the most important that Eleven Rivers reviews?

Everyone, Eleven Rivers encompasses many things, comprehensively reviews all company procedures and even issues of social and environmental responsibility. Basically, they are the two fronts we are looking for: food safety and social responsibility, responding to what the final consumer is looking for.

We consider that one of the most important aspects that this certification reviews is the order and processes, are aspects that have benefited us enough and are sometimes complicated to implement and maintain, aspects that we have achieved in the company and all this is achieved through the accompaniment of the Eleven Rivers Technical staff in conjunction with the company staff; is a work that involves a lot of will and effort on both sides.

  1. Would you recommend Eleven Rivers?

Yes, totally, for the discipline. This is the future theme, we are already living in the future has reached us, what we saw 5, 10, 15 years ago already reached us. The consumer is increasingly informed and requires that his product meets various characteristics, such as food safety and social responsibility.

The food safety of the products we offer is vital, if you produce food, you have to respond for what you are producing and it is what we seek to offer our consumers, a product of the best quality, with food safety and social responsibility.

Hopefully, as in other countries, in Mexico we will have a food safety law in the future.

  1. Anything else you want to add?

Congratulate the Eleven Rivers team. It is not easy, because there are several levels of command that companies have, it is a topic in which you must engage in processes and dedicate time. You must have a practically specialized department; we are on the right track. It is what the consumer demands the most, we are in what we must do.

This is a continuous improvement, because they are going to be updated, new standards will come out eventually. Eleven Rivers is already participating, and may already have an opinion on any reform that may be required by law. Excellent organism and very professionally managed.