MARCELA VILLEGAS

Mexico 2021 | INDUSTRY & AGRICULTURE | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Marcela Villegas, General Manager of Central de Abasto, Ciudad de México.

BIOGRAPHY

Marcela Villegas Silva is an economist with a master's in economy and a PhD in social sciences. She has two post-doctorates from IPN as well. In 2018, she started her role as Executive Director of Innovation and Projects in Central de Abastos and oversees the food waste recollection project, ITACATE, and the sanitary strategy for COVID-19. In collaboration with the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization, she developed a circular economy model in CEDA.

What role does the company play in the Mexican economy?

Central de Abasto supplies to Ciudad de Mexico and the greater metropolitan area. It is the biggest wholesale market in Mexico and the second largest worldwide. We supply agriculture products and meat, though the meat business is significantly smaller. We receive products from all parts of the republic and from abroad. We generate approximately USD450 million per year. Most commercial transactions are realized in cash, so these sums are based on estimates. We commercialize 30% of the gross national agriculture production, and our activity represents 1.2% of GDP. We have 90,000 people working here, and almost 0.5 million people entering every single day, through vehicles, vans, trucks, and trailers, among others. We supply large retail stores, supermarkets, and even smaller stores. We play an important role in the country's food supply chain, and during the pandemic this market could not shut down its operations. We worked 24/7, though there is more activity in the market in the early morning. We developed a public health strategy that covers the entire market in order to minimize potential infections. We made use of disinfectant gels and made face masks mandatory. We also attempted to maintain as much social distancing as possible. The community of the Central de Abasto has accepted these changes and has been open to them, which has been extremely helpful.

What are your plans to improve the infrastructure of the market?

The government of Mexico City invested USD50 million to revamp the infrastructure. In the past, the market used to get muddy when it rained, and there were other challenges because the infrastructure was old. We have also launched other initiatives, including a food bank in an attempt to reduce food waste through agreements to deliver supplies to charities. Some 800 meals a day are served at the sole community dining room within the Central de Abasto. We also have other projects, such as a biodiesel plant and bio-reactor plant. We want Central de Abasto to be sustainable, which does not exist in Latin America. There is no Central de Abasto on the continent that follows a circular economy model, and we are working toward that goal. Meanwhile, we are implementing other policies to protect the environment and create more environmentally friendly operations.