PMA Fresh Connections to link more nations in 2014

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PMA Fresh Connections to link more nations in 2014

The Produce Marketing Association (PMA) continues to branch out in its service offering for global industry members, with new events coming up in the Netherlands and Brazil this year. At, we speak with the organization's VPs for global development, Richard Owen and Nancy Tucker, who shed light on these two Fresh Connections events and more that are in the pipeline for 2014.

The bustling metropolis of Sao Paulo will play host to the inaugural PMA Fresh Connections: Brasil.

The bustling metropolis of Sao Paulo will play host to the inaugural PMA Fresh Connections: Brazil.

In March last year the PMA launched its first Fresh Connections: China event in Shanghai, which was capped off with a tour of the city's leading import market Longwu, where attendees could get a first-hand glimpse of the area's staggering growth in fruit purchases.

Five months later Longwu was no longer top dog, with the baton passed to Shanghai Huizhan, albeit under the same management.

Like the economy, the fruit industry moves very quickly in China, where it is tempting for exporters to gaze starry-eyed at seemingly endless cityscapes and count all the potential renminbi that could fill their pockets. But China is complex, and relationships are key.

In this context, what better place to begin this year's global round of networking and educational events than Shanghai once again?

Owen tells there will be two focus groups in Shanghai this year on March 20: the Chinese produce industry itself, and global members who are either interested in either doing business in China or deepening existing ties.

"We want to bring the best practices - whether it's food safety or supply chain management - that the PMA has to offer, and to help those Chinese industry leaders connect with both customers and best practice providers from around the world," Owen says.

The event organizers aim to attract some of the country's biggest players, from both first and second tier cities.

"Certainly you’re going to have first tier cities, you're going to have some of the second tier cities, and it may be a matter of time before we’re able to reach out into those third tier cities," Owen says.

"A lot of changes are going on and one of the big unknowns in the Shanghai area is the impact of the free trade zone that's been created, and we hope to have an update and some insight from the Chinese government officials on what that looks like, and the impact that might have on the distribution or redistribution of produce into the region."

Fresh Connections: Netherlands

Over a month later on April 29, the inaugural PMA Fresh Connections: Netherlands will take place in the European import hub of Rotterdam, marking not only its first branded event in Benelux, but the European Union itself.

"It’s a reflection of a strategic direction provided to us by our members and particularly our board of directors, who are saying there are closer relationships occurring with companies between the United States and Europe, either through formal partnerships between grower-shippers or importer-exporters, all the way through to closer relationships that retailers have with their supplier base," Owen says.

The event will be held in partnership with Dutch industry association Frugi Venta, whose members will also receive discounts for registrations.

"This is one of the conferences we’re particularly excited about because it’s a new market for the PMA to step into," Owen says.

"We've had strong interest from people wanting to attend or be involved somehow in the conference, so that’s a good sign from the market."

A Brazilian first

While the PMA's first stand-alone Brazilian Fresh Connections event won't receive quite as much hype as the World Cup this year, when it takes place in Sao Paulo on Aug. 21 it will mark a bold step for the industry association. This year association is also be launching a Brazilian Country Council, similar to existing groups in PMA branches like Chile, Mexico and South Africa.

"Fresh Connections Brazil will be similar to the events we've had in Chile and Mexico, which focus on the needs of a country's industry and bring together representatives from supermarkets, wholesalers, growers, exporters and suppliers," says Tucker.

"We are starting this year with a half-day event on August 21 in Sao Paulo, to build upon the foundation of the conference we had when the PMA Global Development Committee met in this city in 2012.

"It’s very exciting. Our strategic plans for growth in certain countries focus on adding value to our members, and providing education and networking opportunities as part of that service.

Tucker says the Sao Paulo conference will cover key issues facing the Brazilian produce sector, such as food safety, traceability and market trends.

"A lot of things are happening in the retail sector in Brazil. You’re seeing more international influence, a shift in the variety and quality of fruit and vegetable offerings in the market, and increased responsiveness to the consumer.

"Retailers are starting to demand more of their suppliers in terms of certifications and traceability. On top of that you've got a large domestic market that is undeveloped for cold chains and distribution."

A new move for Mexico

Just as the fruit trade in Longwu pushed the market to capacity and prompted a move to Huizhan in Shanghai, the PMA has the fortunate challenge that it now needs a bigger venue for Fresh Connections: Mexico on May 15-16.

"We’re excited about two new things for Fresh Connections: Mexico. One is that we’re moving from Guadalajara to Queretaro. We needed to have a bigger facility so now the event is going to take place in a convention center," Tucker says.

"This new venue is centrally located within the country, has an international airport and is also easy to get to from Mexico City by vehicle. There are a lot of growing areas nearby too."

Tucker highlights an interesting mix of speakers will talk about using big data and analyzing consumer trends to increase produce consumption in both the U.S. and Mexico. Part of the conference will focus on the efforts of the PMA with the greater support of retailer association ANTAD to increase the used of standardized PLU codes in Mexican supermarkets.

"There will be a small expo with Fresh Connections: Mexico with about 40 booths.

Pretoria event digs deeper into the African heartland

Owen mentions that this year's Fresh Connections: Southern Africa in Pretoria on Aug. 13-14 will be building on the success of the 2013 event that took place in Cape Town.

"The industry’s responded strongly, encouraging us to a two-day conference this year, with a larger expo spanning both of the days," Owen says.

"It’s going to be in the northern part of the country, Pretoria, so a key focus will be to reach further into sub-Saharan Africa, enticing companies that want to do business in South Africa and vice versa.

"A significant part of the program will focus on doing business and understanding some of those markets north of the South African border.

He says the event attendance was 350 people last year, and the participation should easily exceed that number in 2014, also pulling in people from a broader international audience.

"We’re integrating some new program components; we’ll be looking at adding some additional talent development activiites into the conference, plus the addition of concurrent sessions that didn’t occur in the past.

"We're going to be covering multiple topics in the afternoon through workshops, and some very strong plenary sessions in the morning, focused on global and economic trends, transformational technology that’s coming down the pike in the next few years, and as I mentioned the whole focus on understanding and doing business in sub-Saharan Africa."

Other PMA events set to take place outside of the U.S. this year include PMA Fresh Connections: Australia-New Zealand in Auckland on June 24-26, and PMA Fruittrade Latin America in Santiago de Chile on Nov. 12-13.







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