García Padilla Highlights Results From Mercados Familiares Program
SAN JUAN — A program aimed at helping Puerto Rico’s farmers market their products at events held twice a month across island towns, while allowing beneficiaries of the federal Nutritional Assistance Program (PAN by its Spanish acronym) buy these products, has reached $37.8 million in sales since it began in 2013, Gov. Alejandro García Padilla announced Friday.
The Mercados Familiares (Family Markets) program began as a pilot project in August 2013, resulting from a partnership between the Family Department and the Agriculture Department. It has been endorsed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food & Nutrition Service as a permanent program for fiscal year 2017, which ensures continued funding for PAN recipients to this effect, while allowing more farmers to join the initiative.
“We have managed to revitalize our agriculture. It has grown from a marginal sector of the economy, to generate more than 7,000 jobs. In the process, we increased gross farm income by $180 million. We have done it in the midst of the worst fiscal crisis in Puerto Rico’s history,” García Padilla stated.
The Mercados Familiares take place twice a month in 44 municipalities across the island, creating more than 550 direct jobs, according to a statement released by La Fortaleza. More than 124 farmers have been certified to participate in the program, allowing them to sell their products to the roughly 645,000 people who have participated in the events.
García Padilla highlighted the various initiatives his administration has taken to ignite the island’s agricultural sector.
“When we add all these efforts, we see how in the first three years of my administration, purchases of agricultural products for institutional markets and the markets promoted by the government total $147.7 million. Of that $147.7 million, more than $80 million are a result of initiatives of my administration,” the governor noted.