PALMETTO, Florida – Port Manatee is seen as an ideal gateway for Ecuadorian imports to burgeoning Central and Southwest Florida markets, according to a top trade official visiting the Florida Gulf Coast port today [Nov. 14].
“Opportunities are really growing for reaching Central and Southwest Florida by way of Port Manatee,” said Manuel Echeverria Castro, Ecuador’s trade commissioner for the southern United States. “We have a very high interest in Port Manatee.”
“We are looking to increase awareness that ports on the Gulf of Mexico, such as Port Manatee, offer great opportunity, in addition to traditional South Florida gateways,” said Echeverria, who noted that about 30 percent of Ecuador’s non-oil exports go to the United States, with approximately 40 percent of those products currently entering via South Florida ports on the Atlantic Ocean.”
Central and Southwest Florida markets combine to put nearly 10 million consumers within a two-hour drive of Port Manatee while attracting some 100 million annual visitors.
In recent years, shipments to Port Manatee from Ecuador have included bananas and fertilizer, but Echeverria sees those products being joined by mangos and other fruit, as well as dozens of other potential items, from shrimp to cocoa beans and chocolate to Panama hats. The latter haberdashery good, Echeverria pointed out, is, despite its name, actually made in Ecuador.
Echeverria was joined by Daniela Muñoz, business development manager in the Pro Ecuador trade development office in Doral, Florida, for a presentation at the Manatee County Port Authority’s monthly meeting, as well as a tour of Port Manatee, including the International Trade Hub at Port Manatee, and engagement at a Manatee County Chamber of Commerce luncheon.
“We greatly appreciate the interest shown in Port Manatee by Ecuadorian trade officials,” said Carlos Buqueras, Port Manatee’s executive director, “and we look forward to working together to advance mutually beneficial commercial ties.” The Ecuadorian officials’ visit to Port Manatee is the latest of several by Latin American trade leaders, augmenting those earlier this year by representative of Chile, Colombia, Guatemala, Costa Rica, El Salvador and the Dominican Republic. The International Trade Hub at Port Manatee has played an integral role in attracting for such activity since its opening in 2014.
Vanessa Baugh, chairwoman of the Manatee County Port Authority, cited Port Manatee’s recent completion of a record fiscal year for container volume and cargo tonnage and commented, “Growing trade with Ecuador and other Latin American countries seeking ready access to Central and Southwest Florida markets bodes to significantly enhance Port Manatee’s already impressive position as a critical economic engine for our region.”
Located “Where Tampa Bay Meets the Gulf of Mexico,” Port Manatee is the closest U.S. deepwater seaport to the expanded Panama Canal, with 10 40-foot-draft berths serving container, bulk, breakbulk, heavylift, project and general cargo customers. The port generates more than $2.3 billion in annual economic impact for the local community, while supporting more than 24,000 jobs, without levying ad-valorem taxes.