'Holding growers' hands' to reach the European fruit market

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'Holding growers' hands' to reach the European fruit market

With only around a year in operation to date, Germany's Import Promotion Desk (IPD) has joined the likes of Dutch and Swiss counterparts focused on building market opportunities for growers in developing countries. During Fruit Logistica in Berlin, www.freshfruitportal.com caught up with IPD's Christa Langen and Swiss Import Promotion Programme's (SIPPO) Jonas Spahn to discuss initiatives that benefit both small farmers abroad, and consumers in their own countries.

With the Netherlands' Centre for the Promotion of Imports from developing countries (CBI), the two governmental agencies work together to create better opportunities for growers from various parts of the world, with each group focusing on specific "target countries". SIPPO sq

While SIPPO's partnership portfolio includes growers from Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia, the Ukraine, Indonesia, Colombia, Peru and South Africa, IPD's selection of growers is more limited as its had less time to develop.

"The IPD is new, but we do cooperate with CBI and SIPPO, which means they do the sourcing of companies. For example, there are little Peruvian companies that do seedless grapes, pomegranates and avocados," Langen said.

She said the purpose of the initiative was simply to "establish business".

"If you look for the advantage on the German side it is about offering new reliable, qualified suppliers of produce. We are responsible for Peruvian, Egyptian and Indonesian companies because they have been selected within the program.

"It's to help small and medium sized enterprises to develop in a way that they can export to the German market. Some of them have really wonderful products, but they don’t know how to sell.

"For us it sounds very simple, but they don’t know how to make markets for themselves, how to supply, and they don't necessarily have the certificates needed."

She said the service provided was essentially "matchmaking".

"We bring out experts that by telephone make appointments for the companies, and unite them with retailers or whatever interested buyers there might be.

"They also work on the follow-up – it's really like the'’re taken by the hand and told, 'do send the sample', 'send the information'. It’s about teaching, accompanying them and bringing them to market."

Exhibitors represented by IPD at the event included Peru's RVR Agro, Fundo Sacramento, Agricola Alpamayo, Cultivos Organicos, Natural Green, Peak Quality del Peru, Sociedad Agraria Estanislao del Chimu, Indonesia's Sabiin, and Egypt's El-Shrouk Company for Food Industries.

For Spahn, who is SIPPO's project manager for fruits and vegetables, the work brings a range of success stories and challenges.

"If you look at Indonesia, as an export country they don't have so much interest in exporting to Europe as they have so many big markets around them like China or Singapore," he said.

"By mandate we work in Indonesia but we experience it to be very difficult, because the exporters have a different perspective. They don’t necessarily see the necessity of something like GlobalG.A.P., because there is an Indonesian equivalent, IndoGAP.

"Our producer from Indonesia [Sabiin] has very nice dragonfruit but it's not yet in the market. It has a big size, it's a real eye-catcher."

He said the program in Peru has been a highlight, as growers from the Andean country are known for their reliability and an interesting range of products.

"At the Peruvian stand we have products ranging from avocados to grapes, and also organic ginger and organic citrus. When we reportthe increase in turnover and jobs created, the Peruvians are really top notch when it comes to results.

"At the same time we have very interesting examples from Macedonia; very small table grape producers that are starting now in their first year to work with us, and working together.

"They know that they don’t have the volume to supply to German or French supermarket chains, but they actually join forces to combine or deliver the goods together, so there is this synergy, even between the companies that are with us."

He said a similar trend had been seen with growers from Bosnia-Herzegovina.

"They still suffer from the idea of the war, and that there is not much more than chaos – this is totally outdated but the image is still the case.

"They can benefit from the Swiss appearance that we have, and we really work hard with them to teach them reliability and to be punctual.

"Being Swiss, it’s a bit of a cliché, but still it’s very important for us; there’s good discipline and team spirit at the stand."

But why spend all this taxpayer money on supporting businesses abroad?

"We don’t have many resources and the Swiss have always been creators. Our company not only works in the import promotion that we discussed now, but we also have a mandate to support Swiss SMEs to export to foreign markets abroad," Spahn said.

"When we go to countries that are not yet ready to import our Swiss goods, we pave the way basically. We are in the embassy, the foreign trade chambers, ministries, and we also work on a good image for Swiss services and products.

"Besides this, Switzerland has always had a very traditional humanitarian obligation. What we do is quite unique. We work on a company level and we try to improve the regional economies so that they can get access to market – it is a political decision to support emerging countries."

SIPPO's grower partners at the event include Peru's Agricola Alpamayo, Cultivos Organicos, Natural Green, Peak Quality del Peru, Sociedad Agraria Estanislao del Chimu; South Africa's F1 and Hazyview Tropics; the Ukraine's LTD Chistiy Product - S and West Retail; Macedonia's Extra Funghi Dooel, Frutema and Zoi-Union; Bosnia-Herzegovina's Maočanka-Commerce and Vocni Rasadnik; Indonesia's Sabiin; and Colombia's Suaga Organic Herbs.

Photo: SIPPO






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