Blog Archives

Trucker strike impacts Colombia’s reliability overseas, says fruit exporter

At the time of writing on Friday, a trucker strike in Colombia had been going on for 39 days straight. While some growers closer to the coast had been left relatively unscathed, others had been forced to leave entire crops on trees as long as possible. At we catch up with Productora Agrícola del Caribe manager German Pardo, who grows pineapples, papayas, avocados and mangoes over an area of 450 hectares.

Pardo says while 60% of the company’s production was near the Caribbean coast, 40% comes from the country’s interior, specifically from the departments of El Cesar and Santander.

In these areas, the national truck driver strike has halted not only harvests, but exports too.

“Yes, it has affected us a lot. Initially we had some problems with the transport of the fruit to the ports, but now the biggest worry is that we have had to suspend harvests to avoid fruit being damaged or decomposing en route, and that losses could be very large with trucks stopped on the roads,” he says.

In the first two weeks alone the company lost 160 metric tons (MT) of fruit, and it was three weeks ago that Productora Agrícola del Caribe decided to stop harvests in the interior.

If the problem persists, fruit will be lost in the fields as well. Agricola Productora del Caribe - pineapples

“The fruit continues the ripening process and eventually it also decomposes and is lost. We only have cold storage facilities for pineapples, so we haven’t been able to resolve the problem with avocados and papayas,” Pardo says.

He says the fruit still has to be picked eventually, and if they can’t be traded they will be disinfected and used as organic compost.

“This situation affects Colombia’s reliability in overseas markets,” he says.

Pardo says the company has customers in Switzerland, Belgium, Austria and Germany, and the current situation has led to an inability to fully comply with commitments.

“Evidently we are failing, and they have to explain to the supermarkets what’s happening. This affects the whole chain and our image of reliability, both for companies and the country. We hope this is overcome soon.

“We agree with the truck drivers’ right to complain, but we do not agree when their fight for themselves damages many people, and so the right they are claiming goes against our right to subsist and fulfill our business.”

Pardo says pineapples and avocados have been the most affected crops for his business, and because of a halt in exports of these fruits the company has stopped its previous pace of 80MT of pineapples per week and 30MT of avocados.

Overseas branch about more than just money

Overseas branch about more than just money

For several years now, the Dutch export business has witnessed a growing share of emerging economies. In 2012, a survey showed that the most important new markets for Dutch exporters were outside the EU. Especially the BRICS countries scored well. Several Dutch and Belgian produce companies now have an office in one of the emerging economies. But what is the added value of a subsidiary in these countries? Corné van de Klundert of Origin Fruit Direct and Kerim Taner of Univeg Group talk about their ventures in China and Brazil respectively.

Officebuilding in the Chinese city Shanghai.

The Origin Group was founded in 2006 to market the products of a large South African grower in Europe. In addition to an office in Europe, Origin Fruit has offices in Chile and China. “We are part of a South African parent company,” says Corné. “South Africa already exported to Asia, but in 2007 the parent company decided to open an office in China.” A year later, the office was duly opened. From the office in Shanghai, mainly citrus and grapes are imported, but also lower volumes of top fruit and avocados for the Asian market. “We focus mainly on imports from South Africa, but in recent years we have more import from North and South America.”

Brazilian adventure
Univeg, head quartered in Belgium, has a large network of offices worldwide. Since 2002, the company has operated a subsidiary in Brazil that focuses on the export of limes and cloves: Univeg Katope Brazil. Last year, the Belgian company opened a second office in Brazil. Univeg Trade Brazil focuses on the import of fruit and vegetables through the worldwide network of Univeg offices. Univeg Trade Brazil is located in São Paulo, Brazil UNIVEG Katopé operates from the more northern city of Salvador. Additionally, Univeg has a grape plantation in the South American country. The harvest of this plantation is sold on both domestic and foreign markets.

The Salvador office has only five employees. The branch produces about $ 20 million annually, mainly from export to Europe. Univeg Trade Brazil in São Paulo is run by one person, sporting annual sales of roughly $ 8.5 million, chiefly extracted from the domestic market. Univeg Trade Brazil focuses on Brazilian retailers, particularly in the north east and north of the country.

Chinese resemble Europeans

Often-heard complaints about overseas markets, such as different work ethics and the time it takes to build relationships with Chinese traders, didn’t cause any major problems for Origin Fruit. “Of course, Chinese people have different habits,” says Corné, “but we had already done business in China for several years already, so we were familiar with local customs. In general, I am positively surprised by the way of working in China. They work much smoother, and are more professional than we often give them credit for in the West.” Corné points out that building a good relationship with customers in Europe also takes a lot of time. In that respect there is little difference between Europeans and Chinese.

Brazil: a lot of potential in retail
“We firmly believe in the potential of the Brazilian market, and the increasing consumption of fruit and vegetables,” says Kerim Taner. “In addition, the country has a unique climate and there is plenty of land available to grow quality products. We want to strengthen our position in Brazil as a grower, packer, exporter and importer by building lasting relationships with Brazilian retailers.”

The (originally Belgian) company mainly sees opportunities in the growing retail sector in the South American country. “Univeg’s range of products from South America and Europe and the global network result in a well-integrated product flow to Brazil.”

So in addition to financial results, having a subsidiary indirectly yields many immaterial benefits. “I think we have better access to customers in the Chinese market, we can better respond to developments in the market and we have a better understanding of price movements, allowing us to respond quickly,” says Corné. That is not to say that China always produces successfully. The Asian market, like any other market, is prone to fluctuations. The South African citrus season, to name just one of many recent issues, proved difficult in China. Other problems, like Black Spot on the European market and turmoil in Russia, put the citrus market under pressure. “As a result, China was seen as a good alternative, which in turn put pressure on prices.”

More information:
Origin Fruit Direct

Corné van de Klundert
E: [email protected]

Kerim Taner
E: [email protected]

Publication date: 12/2/2014

Lessons to be learned from retailers overseas

U.S. retailers should look to the growth strategies of their European counterparts to achieve the same success, said speakers at the “Going Global — What Shoppers Wants; Retailers Need; What Brands Must Deliver” session at the Shopper Marketing Summit, Tuesday.

“It won’t be so easy to grow business simply by opening more stores,” said Wendy Liebmann, CEO of WSL/Strategic Retail. “We need to look beyond our borders and traditional ways of doing business.”

Alex GourlayLiebmann interviewed Alex Gourlay, EVP, president of Customer Experience and Daily Living for the Walgreen Co., and former chief executive for multinational pharmacy Alliance Boots. Walgreens purchased 45% of Alliance Boots in 2012, with an option to buy the rest in 2015.

Gourlay said that in the U.K., stores are not seen as destinations where shoppers can get the lowest prices. Instead of trying to get customers in the store, they focus on getting shoppers to buy one additional item.

One incentive is Boots’ loyalty model, referred to by Gourlay as a “treats” program, where customers earn points to be used to treat themselves to a discounted purchase of high-end beauty or skin-care products, at a later date. Points cannot be used until a certain number are earned.

“You may think it’s complicated, but shoppers love it,” said Gourlay. They were so committed to the card. It meant something to them. Customers [told] me they can never have enough points. The opportunity is to make it really significant and special in the shoppers’ lives.”

Gourlay said that forming customer intimacy has also been what has made Boots and Walgreens successful. “[The founders] of both companies were built on the spirit of being close to people in the communities,” he said. “You have to be patient, invest in shoppers and [invest] in what matters to shoppers.”

Suggested Categories More from Supermarketnews

Supermarket News

UK: Teamwork secures new overseas market for seed potatoes

UK: Teamwork secures new overseas market for seed potatoes

On-going communications with Vietnam officials by Potato Council and SASA, to discuss seed potato importation requirements, has resulted in the seal of approval for the official importation protocol between Vietnamese and GB authorities, allowing Great Britain’s (GB) seed potatoes to be imported into Vietnam for the first time.

Liaison with this new, Far-Eastern market has been on-going for some time. Robert Burns, head of seed and export for Potato Council and Dr Triona Davey, Plant Health Liaison for SASA (Scottish Government) have been communicating with Vietnamese officials for many months, advising and informing on specific phytosanitary conditions and the production of seed from GB, and emphasising the benefits that GB seed potatoes can offer the Vietnamese growers and supply chain.

Mr Burns said, “The outward mission by Potato Council and SASA to Hanoi earlier this year led to the finalisation recently of the importation agreement between GB and Vietnam – which is now signed – and we are absolutely delighted that this important new market is now accessible for GB’s seed growers and exporters.”

Moreover, the Vietnamese officials are due to visit Potato Council and SASA in September to observe GB seed production at first hand, and will meet Potato Council and SASA plant health teams, visit micro-propagation laboratories and mini-tuber production facilities and view this season’s seed crops in-situ.

Until recently, potatoes ranked below production of other Vietnamese staples such as rice, maize and sweet potato with an average yield of potato crops in Vietnam of around 12 tons/ha. Until now, a lack of quality seed is thought to have been one significant barrier to production efficiency and profitability in Vietnamese potato production.

Mr Burns commented on demand for the potato in Vietnam, saying, “Middle class consumer numbers are rising in Far-Eastern markets and they are demanding potatoes in their diet. The GB seed industry is now able to help Vietnamese growers increase the yields and quality of their potato crop by providing high-health, high quality seed from Britain – already grown successfully in over 50 countries.”

You will be able to meet Potato Council’s and SASA’s seed potato teams, together with GB’s leading seed breeders, exporters and crop researchers, at the forthcoming Potato Europe event, 11-12 September, Emmeloord, The Netherlands. and for more information.


Publication date: 8/28/2013