Agronometrics releases beta service for fruit market analysis
Trawling through United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) prices and volumes isn't always easy, and finding like-for-like comparisons with other markets even more so, but a project backed financially by Start-Up Chile and the U.S. Department of State aims to make the mass of information out there more accessible. Many readers will be familiar with Agronometrics CEO Colin Fain from his columns with www.freshfruitportal.com, and now we are pleased to share the news that he is going public with a free trial run of the service, ahead of an official launch in the coming weeks.
Fain says the beta service includes historical data from five wholesale market sources: the USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service which also includes seven non-U.S. countries, Chile's Office of Agricultural Policy and Research (ODEPA), the Central Market of Buenos Aires in Argentina, the Wholesale Market Center of Antioquia in Colombia, and Mercamadrid in Spain.
The entrepreneur also plans to add South Africa, Mexico and Brazil to the mix very soon, and expand on the current category portfolio that includes avocados, grapes, blueberries, lemons and limes.
"To that we're going to add citrus, apples, stonefruit, as well as other fruits and vegetables," says the Spanish-born, U.S. national who has been based in Chile since 2012 when he was engaged in an avocado price forecasting project with exporter Agricom.
"We have access to around 400 items in total that are reported on by various sources, and we’re going to shift through those and see which ones are of most interest to our customers and which we can add the most value to by working through our platform," he says, adding the site is available in English and Spanish with the potential to expand into other languages to meet demand in the future.
He invites companies that depend on international market information to take the new system for a 'test drive', and give feedback ahead of the upcoming launch.
Feel free to click here to request an invitation.
"Agronometrics is a platform that collects, standardizes and presents pricing and shipment agricultural data from around the world daily," Fain says.
"We provide a tool that industry professionals can use to understand, personalize and interact with international market data, allowing industry members to plan out their commercial programs, react to market movements and make informed decisions in the commercialization of their fruits and vegetables.
"Instead of spending hours with pivot tables dissecting endless tables, our users can access timely market information in a concise and attractive reports with just a couple of clicks."
He highlights the Agronometrics team, also led by partners are Claudio Riquelme from Chile and Violeta Rodriguez from Mexico, has done all the 'heavy lifting' when it comes to working through the data available.
"All the data we show has been standardized so that it can be viewed in price per kilo or pound, translated to any currency and made easy to compare to your home market," he says.
"So you can see what is happening in the US, as easily as Chile, Mexico or the Netherlands without having to relearn how each market works.
"We also make historic analysis friendly. Our system has four years of data loaded into it which users can browse to help spot seasonal trends when buying or selling on spot markets, or when planning out commercial programs for the upcoming year."
When asked about examples of how the program could be useful for monitoring market trends, Fain says there is "always something going on" but one more recent event was the impact of a late Florida blueberry harvest.
"You saw the shipping point in the terminal markets from the USDA spike, and that's the highest price that we've been able to observe in the U.S. for blueberries in a long time.
"It almost got to be as high as it got back in last October, which was the highest observed in the last 10 years. So that was interesting, followed by the Florida season actually coming on the market and the price going way low.
"That was interesting following that day-to-day, which we're able to do on our service."
When it comes to the 'hot commodities' Fain and his team have been following, he says a key trend has been the sheer increase in volume and the fact prices haven't declined as a result.
"In general, one thing we've been able to observe is growth, just in the amount of volumes that are coming through different markets and that prices are not falling to the ground," he says.
"They're [prices] able to be sustained, people are actually consuming more as volumes increase, and that's a general trend we've been able to find across the board, particularly in high value commodities.
"That speaks to how the average consumer is getting richer relative to previous points in time, and I think that speaks very favorably about the industry and where it might be going."
Food logistics - a fascinating puzzle
Fain had a rich experience in food logistics before moving to Chile, and in the case of his time as a contracting officer for the U.S. Air Force in Kyrgyzstan, he wishes there was more available data back then.
"A lot of the decisions we made blind because there wasn’t any information available. You land in Kyrgyzstan, and what does food cost? I was in charge of buying fruits, vegetables and bread for the base.
"I had nothing to base my decisions on, so you go out, speak to a few sources and do your due diligence as best you can and make your decisions off of that.
"It would have been great to have an external point of view to say, 'hey, this is more or less what the market should be doing'."
But his first experience working with food was a research project for Colorado-based roaster Allegro Coffee.
"I was fascinated by the supply chain. I love studying why and how the world works, and the fact that you take a raw product out of the ground and all the processes go into it, you see how it gets transported, how it's shipped, and how something that's incredibly affordable in one place becomes very expensive somewhere else," he says.
"I learned to understand it through data, through numbers, and how to get an idea of what’s going on and maybe what will happen going into the future.
"And when I started working with fruits I got the same pleasure and interest, I got to understand why the world works, why it is the way it is, why limes are so cheap in one place and so expensive in another. That’s a puzzle that’s always fascinated me and will continue to fascinate me."