The agricultural year of 2014 has been described as an ‘unmitigated disaster’ for Valencian growers.
True to the conventional wisdom in France, that a bad end to the stonefruit export season is the precursor to a bad apple export season, French exporters have had difficulties with both commodities this year. Dealing with low prices and increased competition from other European countries shut out of Russia, Distrimex, a French exporter of apples and stonefruit, has tried to weather the current rough market. Rather than make a strong stand in the market and compete on price, they’re hoping prospects will improve in January, when suppliers have a better idea of their fruit stocks and better prices might be available.
“My view is that the apple season finished very bad last season, not just in France, but in all of Europe,” said Stephanie Bruno of Distrimex. “I think we have standard volume in France, but the market is stressed because of Russia closing their borders to European fruit, so people who don’t normally enter Europe are now in the European market.” That increased competition is making for low prices throughout the continent, with extra supplies from Poland and countries in Eastern Europe. Though it might be tempting to take a loss and go for those prices, the relatively stiff production costs Distrimex’s growers have means they must be patient.
Stéphanie Bruno in front of the new office in Montauban
“Because the last season finished badly, producers are stressed and eager to sell, and that can sometimes lead to problems in the market,” explained Bruno. Amid that flurry of selling, it will be hard for the majority of Europe’s brokers to hang back on the amount of fruit they wish to move. For that reason, Bruno thinks prices will remain as they are or get lower until at least January. It’s then, at the season’s midpoint, that exporters will have an opportunity to assess their supplies of fruit and adjust accordingly. By then, relations between Russia and the European Union could improve and the current ban on European fruit could be lifted. Until then, Bruno said they’ll try to wait out the situation.
“Poland is flooding Europe with apples right now, and there will be sharp competition in about two weeks,” said Bruno. “For the moment, we don’t want to fight for those low prices. If we fight, the market will be more stressed and, in the end, it will be more difficult. It’s better to leave and come back later.” That sound, cautious approach has been a hallmark of Distrimex for their four decades of existence. Bruno explained that they have a diverse set of markets and a measured approach to expansion in order to mitigate the risks that are inherent to the fresh produce trade. They recently opened new offices in different parts of France in order to have access to fruit during a greater part of the year. That will help them appeal to more buyers, who are increasingly concerned with getting year-round supplies of fruit, and that access to a wider pool of buyers means they can ensure they’ll find a home for all of the fruit their growers provide.
“Producers don’t want partnerships where you just take one size, they want you to take all sizes,” said Bruno. “You have to have a market for small, medium and large fruit. You can’t just be dedicated to buying and selling – you have to be involved in production, with the customer, in after-sale service. The business has really evolved.” This year, it might be tougher to find a home for their apples, regardless of size. But Bruno is optimistic the market will improve.
“French apples have a good reputation, so we have that benefit,” said Bruno. “We just hope that in January the stocks will be clear of a lot of the fruit that’s in Europe right now.”
Publication date: 9/19/2014
According to Celso Martinez Bleizeffer, as a result of the severe winter storms affecting the United States, the export of vegetables, including peppers, has significantly decreased.
The non-governmental representative of Sonora’s Chile Product System said that, overall this year, vegetable prices have been low. He also stated that prices had gotten worse because they hadn’t been able to market their products.
“We’ve had problems marketing our products, specially pepper, which is our main export product, because of the frosts in the U.S.,” he said.
He explained that the stores were only buying the supply they strictly needed, thus bringing the price down.
He noted that, on average, the eleven-pound box was between 6 and 8 dollars, while the 25-pound box ranged between 10 and 14 dollars; very low values, considering the product’s quality.
He added that southern Sonora produces up to 6,000 chilli container sacks, but that they have had difficulty placing said production so far.
Martinez said they expected to improve the price, thereby allowing them to better position their products.
Publication date: 2/17/2014