Juan Barrera

Agribusiness Executive Director
ProColombia USA: Miami, FL

Years in Produce:

Age: 38

Personal Information:

Married; Four children

Hobbies: Cooking; shopping at farmers markets; reading; writing; camping; leads monthly Catholic children’s workshops for boys 6 to 9 years of age.

Motto in life: Engaged, today, now.

Work History: Barrera is an industrial engineer and holds an MBA from the University of Miami, with experience in international business, logistics and risk management. After working in the financial and port sectors in Colombia, he joined ProColombia (the Colombian Government agency responsible for promoting exports, foreign investment and tourism) eleven years ago. During his time at ProColombia he has developed the Puerto Rican market, the Midwest, and has worked as the agency’s manufacturing director for the United States. Five years ago, he was tasked to head the promotion of exports of Colombian agribusiness products to the U.S. market as PROCOLOMBIA’s agribusiness executive director. Since he started leading the food sector, he has targeted produce since he thinks it to be the future of Colombia. He has been a strong supporter of both U.S. and Colombian companies facilitating annual trade of more than $200 million with his team of which he is accountable for $85 million. Barrera is currently a part of the Global Development Committee of the Produce Marketing Association (PMA), in Newark, DE. He is also the president of Intrade, an association of trade commissioners from 14 countries, and is part of the advisory board for the Latin America and Caribbean Initiative from the University of Miami’s School of Business. He has been ranked as one of the top employees of ProColombia worldwide and last year was ranked as one of the top performers of the organization as well as voted as one of the top three employees by his piers from across the globe.

Questions & Answers:

Q: How did you begin working in produce?

Initially, it was the conviction that the produce industry will play a big role in the future of Colombia. The availability of land, diversity of climate and qualified workforce, as well as Colombia’s location, makes it a strategic current and future supplier of produce to the world. I am attracted by the idea of our industry being a contributing factor to the betterment of Colombian life in rural areas. That initial calling has transformed into a wider view of our industry worldwide. I believe produce to be a key element to bring together trade in all parts of the world. I see the connection that it creates by the people who play a role in our industry.

Q: Are you a Gen X-er or Millennial?

I actually think I am in the middle. For example I enjoy using Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn but also have fond memories of the cassette, Walkman, and have a blast with my parents and sisters while we look at old family albums. I think this also is the case in how I approach work: I utilize all available technology but I also have the need to talk to people over the phone, or even better meet in person, especially if it is over a cup of Colombian Coffee. Being brought up in a military family, I was accustomed to moving and adapting all the time.

Q: What do you know now that you wish you knew when you first started your career?

The importance of speaking Mandarin.

Q:What advice would you give someone new to the produce industry?

If you are passionate about produce commit to it by learning all aspects of the business, and find ways in which you can volunteer from the beginning. The more you learn, the more engaged you will feel.

Q: What do you think the industry can do to promote more produce consumption?

I think we should seek other spaces to promote produce consumption and bring key issues of our industry to a wider audience. For example, speaking at processed and specialty food and other industry shows and events.