Port Laredo offers strategic location for produce trade
Port Laredo, which sits about 90 miles northeast of the Rio Grande Valley on the Mexico-U.S. border, is touting its services as a strategic crossing point for produce heading from or to Mexico.
“We are located in a very strategic geographic location,” said Miriam M. Castillo, program administrator of the City of Laredo Economic Development, adding that the running of the port is a combined effort by several departments, including Laredo Bridge System, Laredo International Airport, Laredo Economic Development Department and Laredo Convention & Visitors Bureau.
She noted that Port Laredo is already ranked as the No. 3 port of entry in the United States, with $240 billion in trade value. Located just 150 miles south of San Antonio, Port Laredo has easy access to the most-well traveled north-south and east-west highways in the United States. The port has long moved automobile parts and other goods to and from Mexico, but over the last seven years it has made a concerted effort to increase its agricultural trade, with its produce imports increasing more than 130 percent.
Kent Richard, assistant director for the Laredo Bridge System, said it is the only Texas port that allows for the refrigerated inspection of produce, which assures that the cold chain is not broken. He said the port has stayed ahead of the game with a competent staff and efficient procedures to make sure product is moved through the port of entry as quickly as possible.
“Time is money,” he said, acknowledging that moving perishable product through the inspection process in an expedited manner is the top goal of any port of entry. He said the port has a Global Entry program that allows approved importers/exporters to expedite the process to even a greater extent.
Richard said Port Laredo also offers dual inspection services with U.S. and Mexico government inspectors working collaboratively to move products through more efficiently and quickly.
Castillo noted that the port has 400 Mexican custom house brokers and 200 U.S. custom house brokers working to help move product through the inspection and approval process.
She added that the port is working on many different projects to improve its services and expand its capacity. Castillo said that according to the Texas Department of Transportation, bridge capacity will double by 2050.
Richard noted that even though Port Laredo has increased its produce movement significantly in the last seven years it still has lots of room for growth. He estimated that at any given point in time, Port Laredo bridges are only operating at 30-50 percent of full capacity. In fiscal 2022, Port Laredo saw more than 4.5 million commercial trucks move between the United States and Mexico.
He said Port Laredo has become a much better strategic option in recent years as Mexico has improved its highway infrastructure. Port Laredo is the closest port of entry to several important Mexican growing districts in Central and
Southern Mexico. Richard said avocado imports have increased significantly over the past handful of years.
Alma Saldana Cruz, marketing manager for Port Laredo, said the port is constantly working to improve its services and tout those services to importers. But she added that as the No. 3 port in the entire United States, its existence is not a secret to most U.S. importers and Mexican exporters. “They are already utilizing Port Laredo,” she said, adding that the goal is to get them to use it to a greater extent.