Interview: Alejandro Plascencia Espejo – Agroexportadora del Noroeste S.A. de C.V.

Alejandro Plascencia Espejo is a Biochemical Engineer and for the last 10 years he has been the Certifications Manager at Agroexportadora del Noroeste, a farming company.

Interviewed by Eleven Rivers Growers, Alejandro shares his experience in the farming field, the most important challenges he has faced and the benefits of having food safety and social responsibility certifications for the farming industry.

1. Professionally, what benefits have you received from working in the farming sector?

Throughout these years, I have learned many things in this sector, in all the areas in which I am involved; from production until produce merchandising. I have benefited from the learning of all working areas and also from learning about their processes.

2. How important is continuous compliance with food safety processes for farming businesses today?

Very important, I would say. It plays a major role within farming companies, as it is the most effective manner to work with your personnel, your processes in the field and packaging facility.

3. What activities do you develop with the personnel working in your company to promote a food safety culture?

The responsible behavior involves all the members of an organization, with the purpose of producing and merchandising safe food.

The behavior of the members participating throughout the entire food supply chain generates safe food, which is why we are not discussing food safety programs, but rather a food safety culture. We develop training activities for all our employees with various food safety subjects, both field and packaging related.

4. What social responsibility practices do you develop with your company workers and which one do you consider to be the one that motivates them the most?

We have many good social responsibility practices within our organization; for example, in the health sector, we have a doctor’s office and medical attention for all the people living in our housing facilities.

5. Tell us about your experience in the process of obtaining a certification for the company?

In my experience, it has been very satisfying since I have a great team within the organization, and we always achieve the goals that we set for ourselves. It helps the company adhere to international standards and reinforce us as an organization in the international market.

6. What would you say are the main challenges the farming sector in Mexico is facing these days?

Labor in the field is a very important challenge in this sector, because year after year it becomes more difficult to bring people to work in the field. So, I believe it is a challenge for farmers to continue improving their social responsibility practices being in place for many years in farming companies.

7.   What is your take on the current requirements demanded by foreign markets for farming companies?

I believe that foreign markets are demanding more requirements on HR matters these days: how do people live within a farming company, how farming companies are committed to their personnel, if they live well, if facilities are adequate, if children have education supported by the company. In health matters, it is very important that companies have health facilities for all their personnel, the subject of food safety is essential on a daily basis; but foreign markets, in my opinion, are giving high priority to companies having social responsibility programs or schemes.

8. How has the way of work in a company changed by adjusting to foreign market requirements?

Well, the subject now is social responsibility. It has helped benefiting workers in many aspects such as education, health, infrastructure within the areas, compliance with government regulations, salaries, hours worked, moving from their city of origin, and everything starts from there. And training is fundamental so that all personnel are aware of food safety issues, fair treatment, among many other things.

9. How have Eleven Rivers Growers audits helped the operation of the company?

Personally, I think this program keeps us as an organization in a state of continuous compliance with our processes.

10. Anything else you would like to add?

I want to thank the entire Agroex team since we all contribute to an enormous effort so that improvement is continuous, and especially to Eng. Jose Maria Pablos since we have always found great support in him on food safety and social responsibility subjects.