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Putnam On Trade Trip: Florida Wins New Business But Faces Growing Competition

Adam Putnam via Twitter

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam has returned from a three-day trade mission to Panama. Putnam says the trip opened his eyes to both new opportunities and new challenges that come with Florida’s increase in trade with Latin America.

In the short term Putnam says the trip opened the door for Florida growers to send blueberries to Panama for the first time and increase the number of strawberries they export.

But while new customers are good for Florida’s agricultural economy, Putnam says the impressive size of Panama’s capital, Panama City, and the number of international banking establishments there set off an alarm in his mind.

“If we’re to maintain our hold as the gateway to the Americas and the financial center for Latin America, we can’t just rest on our laurels," he says.

Putnam worries banks could decide to locate in Central America instead of in Florida if the Sunshine State isn’t appealing enough.

Still, he says over the past few years, Florida’s exports to Panama have doubled. While touring grocery stores there, he says he was encouraged.

“You’re seeing Florida’s Natural products, for example, who traveled with us, on the trip, on the shelves. You’re seeing Tropicana, which is a hundred-percent Florida product, on the shelves. And that is growing as their economy continues to develop," he says.

New trade opportunities are why the state is investing more than $2 billion to deepen the Port of Miami. Putnam says, in a couple of years, it will be the first U.S. entry point for megaships coming through the newly-widened Panama Canal.