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Interview with Bruce Taylor, the new chairman of the International Fresh Produce Association 

The new association represents companies from every segment of the global fresh produce and floral supply chain, advocating for them and connecting and guiding them to enhance members’ prosperity.
Mon 28/02/2022 by Pierre Escodo
Bruce Taylor, new chairman of International Fresh Produce Association

Could you remind us of the strategic priorities of the new organisation since the announcement last October?

When the coming together of the Produce Marketing Association and United Fresh Produce Association was first announced, both groups shared the aim that the new organisation would do three things for its membership and the global produce and floral industry: advocate, connect, and guide.

The IFPA leads and makes things happen for our members and industry on the national and global stages. We create beneficial changes through advocacy and action. The IFPA also brings the world to our industry and our industry to the world for better outcomes for both by connecting individuals and organisations with ideas and data, as well as with each other. The IFPA also educates, spreads insights and experience, sparks dialogue, and shares solutions by keeping a pulse on important trends and solutions from across the world, both inside our industry and outside, to guide us.

More specifically, the IFPA:

  • Serves all sectors of the global fresh produce and floral supply chains, growing our global membership and participation.
  • Conducts government advocacy and leadership to build and maintain a positive business climate in the United States and the North American market.
  • Engages with global bodies and allied organisations to promote free and fair trade, international harmonization of standards, and worldwide growth in consumption.
  • Provides expertise and business solutions in food safety, new technology, supply chain management, sustainability, leadership and talent development, business operations, marketing and more.
  • Brings all sectors of our diverse supply chain together to better understand our interconnections and support efficiency and profitability throughout the chain.
  • Enhances business-to-business sales and marketing connections across the produce and floral supply chains.
  • Creates demand to inspire consumers to embrace produce and floral products as essential parts of their lives, while increasing profitable sales of members’ products.

Our strong network of global volunteer leaders and talented professional staff is helping us deliver against each of these commitments. As Chair of the IFPA Board of Directors, it is an honor and privilege to partner with them every day to help enhance our members’ prosperity.

Consumption: how to keep stimulating produce sales on both retail and foodservice?

Growing consumption of fresh produce is a long-time challenge for our community. Currently in the U.S., only 1 in 10 consumers eat the recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables each day. Worldwide, produce consumption varies by region.

Low consumption is caused by a complex matrix of factors ranging from price to access, choice, to learned behaviors, etc., and there is no simple one-size-fits-all solution.

IFPA’s own consumer research found that the automatic association between a food choice and its primary emotional/experiential reward is the stronger driver of behavior because it is directly connected to the physiological drivers that motivate eating. This cannot be controlled since it occurs below the level of conscious thought. In order to change this, we must go beyond healthy messaging and into compelling and engaging marketing to create demand for fresh produce.

“In October, we’ll debut the Global Produce & Floral Show where we’ll bring together the entire global fresh produce and floral supply chain”

IFPA’s vision is to grow a healthier world for all, and in addition to our own efforts to stimulate demand for fresh produce, our Foundation for Fresh Produce believes in produce without barriers, because a barrier to produce is a barrier to nutrition, to wellness, to opportunity, and to a vibrant life.

The Foundation for Fresh Produce exists to grow a healthier world by creating access to fresh fruits and vegetables. Produce is the solution for many of the world’s greatest health and economic challenges, especially those linked with food.

The Foundation’s work also stands to address four of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals: Good Health and Well-Being, Zero Hunger, Responsible Consumption and Production, and Reduced Inequalities. That’s important because a vibrant future can only be had when all its peoples and resources are respected equally.

International trade: which progress with accessing new markets or improved trade agreements with third countries?

Advocacy is an integral part of the IFPA’s 7 strategic priorities, as it works to maintain a positive business climate in the North American market and collaborates with global bodies and allied organizations to promote free and fair trade, international harmonization of standards, and worldwide growth in consumption.

To help us grow our global reach and membership community, the IFPA has country councils representing Australia-New Zealand-Southeast Asia, Brazil, Chile, Mexico, and South Africa. Chairs of these councils are represented on the IFPA Board of Directors. We also have in-country representatives for these areas that work in close partnership with the Council Chairs to deliver relevant, local member value to the IFPA member community.

Given the highly perishable nature of fresh produce, IFPA is committed to working with all trading partners, regulators, and legislative bodies to ensure the movement of produce flows smoothly so that shoppers continue to have year-round choice in the marketplace.

Logistics: how can we curb the spiralling costs overseas and locally?

Covid-19 and the fallout from it have greatly impacted the fresh produce supply chain. As a result, significant delays currently exist in delivering fresh produce to customers, both at the retail level and wholesale level. Many of these challenges are rooted in the lack of labor, port congestion, input cost, road transportation, as well as some regulatory challenges.

First and foremost, It is vital that the U.S. Administration and Congress take action to respond to both the immediate and long-term needs of the fresh produce industry’s supply chain. A first step has been made with the passage of the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Job Act, which IFPA supports.

Building on this historic investment into the country’s infrastructure, the International Fresh Produce Association continues to work to further address critical challenges by working to ensure that we have a workforce that meets the needs of our industry and our consumers from farm to fork.

Also critical to this challenge is ensuring that we have the physical infrastructure in place to ensure that we can deliver fresh produce to our consumers safely and timely. From a U.S. advocacy perspective, IFPA will look to drive support for two pieces of legislation that will address a number of these issues including the bipartisan Ocean Shipping Reform Act and the DRIVE Act.

From a global standpoint, IFPA has joined a coalition of fresh produce associations to address increased costs for fresh produce production and trade, which have led to significant concerns on the economic viability of the sector and its capacity to cope with new sustainability requirements. Included in this coalition are:

  • Afruibana (West-Africa),
  • China Chamber of Commerce of I/E of Foods Stuffs, Native Produce and Animal By-Products (China),
  • ColeACP (African Caribbean Pacific countries),
  • Copa and Cogeca (European Union),
  • Canadian Produce Marketing Association – CPMA (Canada),
  • International Fresh Produce Association – IFPA (U.S.) ,
  • Freshfel Europe (European Union) and the
  • Southern Hemisphere Association of Fresh Fruit Exporters – SHAFFE (Latin America, Oceania, South Africa).

The global coalition has identified a range of key challenges all fruit and vegetable operators around the world are currently facing, including increased costs of logistics, inputs, fertiliwers, packaging materials, energy, and an overall shortage of labor.

Through the combined efforts of these important international trade entities, the coalition hopes to have fruits and vegetables recognized as a public good and support those initiatives that promote a sustainable, affordable and economically viable fresh produce sector.

IFPA has also developed an extensive online resource and recent Virtual Town Hall that explores the various labor and transportation challenges facing its members and industry. From availability to material and input costs, supply chain disruptions are causing issues throughout the produce and floral industries. IFPA has created a place for you to discover data, recommended actions, and steps being taken by the organization to mitigate these challenges.

Global Produce and Floral Show 2022: what will change compared with the last Fresh Summit?

The annual trade shows of PMA (Fresh Summit) and United Fresh (Convention & Expo) were always known as premier meeting places for the produce and floral industries for their members to build connections, learn and share their products.

In October, we’ll debut the Global Produce & Floral Show where we’ll bring together the entire global fresh produce and floral supply chain. The show welcomes produce and floral industry leaders, subject matter experts across all areas of impact including food safety, technology and more.

Each year, both PMA and United built and innovated on the success of previous events. This year, I expect that the team at IFPA along with the countless industry volunteers that help design and plan the event will create a transformative experience that provides value, connections and opportunity for everyone across the industry no matter their role or their company’s size, products or location.

What I am most looking forward to is our community coming together in person in Orlando this year.  It will have been three years since our last Fresh Summit or United Fresh Convention with Covid-19 or hurricanes canceling previous events. Our industry has worked tirelessly in that time period to provide nutritious and safe products to those around the world, an especially important role when considering the global health crisis we are facing.

While we still have a lot of work to do, we also have a lot to celebrate and I’m looking forward to doing that in Orlando in October.

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