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Freshfel to celebrate its 20 years at 2021 Annual Event

Freshfel to celebrate its 20 years at 2021 Annual Event

Freshfel Europe’s Annual Event, to be held online on 4 June 2021, will also be the occasion for marking the organisation’s 20th anniversary, as well as the UN International Year of Fruits and Vegetables 2021. The exclusive event will be an opportunity for the European fresh produce sector to discuss policy in the EU arena. Four sessions will offer detailed insights into opportunities for the sector. Crucial market and EU policy opportunities will be examined, such as how to capitalise on the European Green Deals’ objectives and green, health conscious tech-savvy consumers.

Freshfel Europe general delegate Philippe Binard said: “2021 is a unique year for the fresh fruit and vegetable sector marking both the 20th anniversary of Freshfel Europe as the peak EU-level representative body for the fresh produce sector in Brussels as well as the UN International Year of Fruits and Vegetables. Without doubt 2021 is a key year for the sector in the public eye as an essential sector for a healthy and sustainable future for all citizens. In order to mark this special year the association is opening its doors for all operators and stakeholders in the fresh produce sector to join the celebrations at our Annual Event along with our members. This year should be celebrated by all actors across the supply chain as a milestone year for the fresh produce sector.”

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Freshfel Europe calls on EU and Japan to build fresh produce trade

Interview with Philippe Binard, general secretary of Freshfel Europe

Philippe Binard © Freshfel Europe


Freshfel Europe is calling on EU and Japanese authorities to build fresh produce trade on the outcome of the new EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement. The European Commission hosted an online seminar on 19-20 April between the EU and Japan to facilitate discussions on how to boost trade for EU agriculture products on the Japanese market. The new EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement is now fully in force and it is the right moment to evaluate the state-of-play and future outlook of the agreement. Freshfel Europe voiced the views and expectations of the European fresh fruit and vegetables sector on the many pending dossiers and on missed opportunities to grow business within the new agreement. 

Despite the coming into force of the new EU-Japan Economic Agreement and the positive outlook resulting from the visit of Commissioner Hogan in Tokyo in May 2019, no significant progress has been made to new market access to Japan for the export of high quality EU fresh fruit and vegetables to the high value Japanese market of 127 million inhabitants. This was the key message of Freshfel Europe General Delegate Philippe Binard at the EU-Japan seminar entitled ‘How the EU ensures the highest quality for its agriculture export’. Binard said: “Despite all the efforts from the EU and more than 10 years of negotiations and clear interest for Japanese traders to import high quality, safe and sustainable fresh produce from the EU, too many applications for market access to the Japanese authorities have not been concluded yet.” 

Today EU exports of fresh produce to Japan total less than 10,000 tons, representing only a small percentage of the total 2.4m tons of imports into Japan from third countries. Binard said: “Multiple market access applications are pending ranging from Italian and Greek kiwifruit, Belgian pears and tomatoes, Portuguese and Hungarian cherries, and persimmons from Spain. Many other provisions of existing protocols also need to be revised to remove pre-clearance, broaden the scope of protocols to more varieties or substitute methyl-bromide treatment by more environmentally friendly systems approaches.” 

According to Freshfel, it is now time to deliver the EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement and speed up negotiations to open new market opportunities. EU fresh produce represents a seal of quality, reliability and diversity for Japanese consumers. On the occasion of the UN International Year of Fruit and Vegetables 2021 authorities should prioritise fresh produce in their market access negotiations and urgently unlock pending hurdles. The EU fruit and vegetables sector exports to 140 destinations around the world based on international standards and strict EU regulatory environment. EU growers and exporters are demonstrating their expertise to handle high quality and safe produce, brining competitiveness and mastering logistic skills to access the most sophisticated markets. Binard concluded: “Under the new bilateral agreement, the momentum today should not be missed. The EU and Japan should work hard in the coming months to build trade on the new business environment of the Agreement and secure that Japanese trade and consumers can enjoy the high quality and safety of European fresh produce in their daily healthy diet.”

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Fresh produce sales slip in US

Fresh produce sales slip in US
Photo: Walmart US

US fresh produce sales in March 2021 were down on the levels registered in the same month in 2020, but still ahead of the 2019 level. Bucking the trend were berries, which recorded sales increases of 28% compared to 2019 and 9% compared to 2020, according to a joint report published by 210 Analytics, PMA and IRI. Total produce sales for the four weeks ending March 28 fell 7.6% year-on-year. However, in comparison to 2019, fresh produce sales at retail were up 11%. 

Fresh produce sales remained unchanged from February 2021 at $5.4 billion , a $435million year-on-year fall, but were up $524 million from the 2019 pre-pandemic level. This includes a $242million increase in fruit and a $283 million increase in vegetables.

Joe Watson, vice president of membership and engagement for the Produce Marketing Association said: “We knew the year-over-year picture would radically change come March in going up against the early pandemic spikes of 2020. But while the year-ago picture is always important, it is just as important to understand current demand relative to the pre-pandemic normal as the country is starting to open up a little more each day.”

Prices for fresh fruit and vegetables were 8-9% higher compared to March 2020 levels.

TAGS: US, retail, produce, March 2021

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China’s fresh fruit imports slip 8.9% in 2020

China’s fresh fruit imports slip 8.9% in 2020
Photo: Retail China – CR Vangard

Despite China’s imports of fresh produce falling y-o-y in volume terms in 2020, they were up in value, according to Chinese customs data. China imported 5.3 million tons of fresh fruit in 2020, with bananas leading the way (1.7 million tons; 32%). Next came dragon fruit (618,000 tons), followed by durian (575,000 tons), mangos (379,000) and longans (347,000 tons). 

Due to the impact of the pandemic on logistics, the total volume was down 8.9% compared to 2019. However, the value of fruit imports increased by 7% to US$1.73 per kg. Durians were the fruit that registered the highest price rise over the 12 months (+44%). Cherry imports bucked the trend, increasing in volume by 8.7% to 210,000 tons.

Fresh vegetable imports slumped 22.6% y-o-y to 72,000 tons.


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Trade license procedures temporarily lifted in Myanmar

Trade license procedures temporarily lifted in Myanmar © Werner Bayer Source Flickr (Public Domain)

Source: Flickr (Public Domain)


Following the coup by the Myanmar military, agricultural trade has been crippled due to country-wide peaceful protests in opposition to the military’s actions and the military’s increasingly violent response. To tackle shortages, the country’s Ministry of Commerce is waiving import and export license requirements for select agricultural commodities from March 8-April 9, 2021. While a lack of drivers to move the more than 10,000 stuck containers at a major port remains the largest single barrier to trade.

The commodities temporarily exempted from export/import license procedures include garlic, onion and fertiliser.

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Freshfel Europe launches pan-European environmental footprint project

Freshfel Europe launches pan-European environmental footprint project © Freshfel Europe

© Freshfel Europe


Last week, Freshfel Europe reviewed the status of environmental footprint initiatives in the fresh produce industry with its members and decided to move forward towards a more collective approach for the sector. While the fresh produce sector’s sustainability journey began many years ago, there is still a lack of comparable data used in environmental footprints, which prevents consistency and accountability of the sector in responding to evolving legislative and customer requirements. Such an initiative will allow the supply chain to have its sustainability efforts better recognized in standards and in the Farm to Fork Strategy debate based on agreed Products Environmental Footprint Category Rules (PFEFCR).

Leading representatives of European production (Belgium, France, Italy, Lithuania, the Netherlands and Spain) as well as key traders and retailers from the Freshfel Europe membership met on 18 February in an interactive session to kick-start discussions on the next steps for the fresh produce supply chain on environmental footprint initiatives to respond to increasing demand for comparable data and a harmonized methodology to secure operators’ accountability regarding product environmental impact. Providing a more collaborative and collective response to this challenge is a must from a business perspective. It is also consistent with the European Commission’s European Green Deal priorities, where both the Farm to Fork Strategy and new Circular Economy Action Plan call for increased sustainability accountability to enable consumers to make sustainable food choices and reduce the risk of ‘green washing’. This entails the need for reliable, comparable and verifiable data.

Freshfel Europe General Delegate Philippe Binard commented on the success of the meeting stating, “Freshfel Europe has an important role to play for the European fruit and vegetable sector in raising awareness about environmental footprint and acting as the catalyst for collective action. This will prevent the proliferation of solutions that will in the end lead to unnecessary costs and confusion”. Now more than ever retailers are requiring environmental performance information and the supply chain needs to provide this to respond to consumers’ awareness of sustainability aspects, which is increasingly driving purchase decisions. Investors are additionally increasingly eager to financially support companies with sustainability ambitions that can be clearly demonstrated.

Freshfel Europe members agreed on the urgency to move forward and collectively build a strategy for the sector that will tackle the different aspects of the often-complex environmental footprint matters. Building a harmonised methodology, collecting generic and secondary data for products, as well as establishing a user-friendly environmental footprint tool are key for companies to guarantee that their own calculations are comparable to others in the supply chain and that they can provide consistent data to business partners. Nicola Pisano, Freshfel Europe Sustainability and Health Director, highlighted the importance of this work commenting, “Progress in this dossier will help Freshfel Europe members to better respond to the ambitions of the European Green Deal, the Farm to Fork Strategy and the Circular Economy.

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Thailand improves traceability of fruit exports to China 

Thailand improves traceability of fruit exports to China 


The Thai-Chinese Chamber of Commerce has signed a deal with CCIC Thailand to improve the traceability of Thai fruit exported to China, following a new traceability requirement for all imported farm products into China. CCIC Thailand, which is the local office of China’s largest quality assessment and traceability services provider, will help with legal procedures, as well as requests for health and hygiene certificates for certain fruit.

Thai-Chinese Chamber of Commerce president Narongsak Puttapornmongkol said that Thai fruit products have often been subjected to lengthy customs clearances at China, but that the new service provided by CICC Thailand will help shorten this process to no longer than three days, as product information can be traced back from a scan of a QR code. It is hoped that this streamlined process will support Thailand’s fresh produce exports.

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Total Produce combines with Dole Food Company to become sector’s largest player

Total Produce & Dole Food

Today Total Produce and Dole Food Company have announced a binding transaction agreement to combine under a newly created US-listed company: Dole PLC. This will make Dole PLC the world’s number-one fresh produce company with an estimated combined 2020 revenue of approximately US$9.7 billion, and total assets of approximately US$4.5 billion.

Total Produce acquired a 45% stake in Dole for US$300m in July 2018, and this transaction consideration for the remaining 55% stake equates to US$250m. The transaction will simplify the existing structure between the two companies by unifying Dole and Total Produce under common ownership, with the objective of enabling full operational integration, realisation of synergies and value creation across the enlarged business. Under the terms of the agreement, Total Produce shareholders will receive 82.5% of Dole PLC shares and the C&C shareholders will receive 17.5% of Dole PLC shares, in each case based on the fully diluted outstanding shares immediately prior to the completion of the Transaction.


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5 a Day awards recognise work of Eurofresh Distribution

5 a Day awards recognise work of Eurofresh Distribution


The XIV edition of the “5 a day” Awards will take place on March 10 in a hybrid format. The event is sponsored by Euro Pool System España, Patatas Meléndez and UNIQ and with the collaboration of Mercamadrid and Fruit Attraction. The winners will be able to attend in person, in full compliance with all Covid-19 security measures, with the rest of the attendees able to follow the event through a streaming platform.

On this occasion, in addition to rewarding the commitment of the entities that support the “5 a day” message, there will be recognition of the work of the entities of the fruit and vegetable sector that have proven to be one of the most important engines important parts of Spain by ensuring the supply of healthy and safe food to the entire population and accurate and up-to-date information regarding Covid-19.

The winners of this edition are:

  1. Children’s Category: EL DULZE GROWERS, SL for its multimedia project Mundo Carakuato, which aims to promote healthy life and promote the consumption of fruit and vegetables through an educational video game, adapted to a mobile device, web format and tablet.
  2. Society Category: the Association to Promote the Consumption of Broccoli + BROCOLI, which reflects in all its activities a commitment to spread the importance of healthy habits by promoting fruits and vegetables in general and broccoli in particular.
  3. Disclosure Category: This year, this component is a very emotional one for the association, which wanted to reward all the communication media in the sector that collaborate closely with 5 a day and the important role of information about Covid-19 during 2020. The winners are:
  • Publications Agricoles with its publication EUROFRESH DISTRIBUTION
  • AECOC with its publication CODE 84
  • Agrifood Communication with its publication QCOM.ES
  • Fruit Today with its publication FRUIT TODAY MAGAZINE
  • Editorial Agrícola España with its AGRICULTURE MAGAZINE
  • Horto del Poniente with its FYH MAGAZINE
  • Infoagro System with its publication INFOAGRO.COM
  • Lameyer with his publication MARKET MAGAZINE
  • Siete Agromarketing with its publication eCOMERCIO AGRARIO
  • Sucro with its publication VALENCIA FRUITS


Congratulations to all winners, who will meet on March 10 at the ceremony for the XIV edition of the “5 a day” Awards.

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Chinese Market Forum: many challenges but bright prospects for Spanish exporters

Chinese Market Forum: many challenges but bright prospects for Spanish exporters © Réussir Fruits et Légumes

© Réussir Fruits et Légumes


Fruit Attraction and ICEX organised an online China Market Forum to reflect on the sector’s strategies for cooperation. Experts at both ends of the fresh produce chain (Spanish exporters and Chinese importers) shared insights into the world’s biggest market. Europe is currently the destination for 80% of Spanish fruit, but the advice for exporters is to diversify sales and consider other markets, most notably of all, China. “Few products can be exported to China,” said Emilio García Muro, deputy director of MAPA. “So far, China has signed protocols permitting the export of European citrus fruit (in 2006), stone fruit (in 2016) and grapes (in 2018), and while the latter products have just begun to penetrate China, citrus is a well-established category.” 

To start the process of trading with China, Spanish exporters must be aware of the regulatory and phytosanitary requirements, including conditions of packaging, logistics, etc. The next step is to submit all of the compulsory documents, provide traceability of produce, and guarantee that all exported goods are in compliance with the mandatory requirements. Finally, when the goods are ready, the certified authorities will carry out an inspection, before the fruit is forwarded to China. As the whole process is very different from exporting to Europe, exporters need to become experts. However, to facilitate the process, MAPA has created an online platform that allows all the steps to be conducted online. Spain ranks 3rd and 4th respectively among the largest peach and plum suppliers to China.