PUERTO RICO: Star Kist in trouble
Star Kist Caribe, a Heinz subsidiary, recently celebrated 40 years of operation in Puerto Rico, yet the plant has not lived up to its true potential. According to management, the government has not come through with promised upgrades to the Bay of Mayaguez that would have made it possible to increase both production and cost competitiveness. The finger of blame was pointed at the Industrial Promotion Company of Puerto Rico (Pridco), the ports authority, and the corps of engineers for not dredging a channel which would have allowed heavier ships to enter the port of Mayaguez and leave off their cargo at the plant. Star Kist plant, which has a cooking capacity of 16 tonnes, is a leading employer in the region and, until recent years, generated 36 percent of the industrial jobs in Western Puerto Rico. Since then, the lack of a deep channel has eaten into the plant's ability to compete with others in the Pacific. This in turn caused the layoff of more than 1,500 workers. The plant now employs 1,700 workers and has an annual payroll of US$25m.
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