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2021 declared International Year of Fruits and Vegetables

2021 declared International Year of Fruits and Vegetables
Photo: Pilar Santacoloma, Agri-food systems officer of FAO’s Food and Nutrition Division.

What is the future of the world’s food sector in light of the current COVID-19 pandemic? Pilar Santacoloma, agri-food systems officer of the FAO (the UN’s organisation for dealing with agricultural and food issues), outlines the body’s agricultural policies for crisis-hit areas.

What support is being given to small-scale farmers in emerging economies during the Covid-19 pandemic and to ensure food security?

Small-scale farmers play an important role worldwide in the provision of major food groups for human consumption, including a diversity of fruits and vegetables, pulses, cereal, tubers and roots; yet they are among the most vulnerable to the impacts of Covid-19. The closure of shops and restaurants has reduced demand for fresh produce, which has affected small-scale producers. At the same time, transport restrictions and labour shortages have also limited their productive capacities. Governments of emerging economies have put in place different policies and plans to provide support to small-scale farmers and ensure food security during the Covid-19 pandemic. Direct links have been established between producers and consumers in countries such as Costa Rica, Peru and Guyana to support small-scale farmers and enhance their incomes, while also improving consumers’ access to healthy diets and reducing food loss. Similarly, governments such as Bangladesh and Costa Rica have enhanced public procurement programmes involving purchasing fresh produce from small-scale farmers for distribution among vulnerable populations, thereby generating a food security win-win situation. Through these measures, governments are supporting local production by small-scale farmers and are providing a diverse range of healthy food for those most in need.

Are fruits and vegetables today considered a more strategic commodity for ensuring worldwide food security?

There are  several reasons why the fruit and vegetables sector is key for ensuring food security. Firstly, evidence has shown that fruits and vegetables are very important components of healthy diets. In fact, an adequate intake of fruits and vegetables contributes substantially to reducing the risk of chronic diseases, particularly cardiovascular disease and certain cancers due to the high content of micronutrients, antioxidants, phytochemical compounds and fibre. Several studies also suggest evidence of an association between fruits and vegetables and improved mental health and increased immunity. Secondly, fruits and vegetables can be produced by small-scale farmers in backyards or in association with other crops, contributing to improved self-consumption or income generation via sales of surpluses. Thirdly, the fruit and vegetables sector can generate employment, particularly for women, along the various stages of the value chain – namely, production, processing and retailing – laying basis for improved income and local development, and better nutrition. However, these benefits are not always recognised and it is necessary to put in place public education campaigns, but, more importantly, to stimulate evidence-based debate to enhance policy support for this sector.

How are the healthy attributes of F&V considered within the FAO’s priorities and action plans?

For the FAO, the healthy attributes of fruits and vegetables are of paramount priority at the highest management level. This is why, the FAO has promoted the declaration of 2021 as the International Year of Fruits and Vegetables by the 74th Session of the United Nations General Assembly. The initiative is aimed at raising awareness of the nutritional and health benefits of fruit and vegetable consumption. In this regard, the International Year of Fruits and Vegetables is meant to initiate a pathway for effective actions that will strengthen the role of smallholder and family farmers in sustainable farming and production. Such actions are expected to have a positive impact in reducing hunger and poverty, enhancing food and nutrition security, improving livelihoods, and contributing to better natural resource management. An action plan for the International Year of Fruits and Vegetables is being agreed with other developmental organisations, such as the WHO. This plan is based on four pillars: advocacy and awareness raising, knowledge creation and dissemination, policy making, and capacity development and education. Activities are proposed under each of these pillars in order to advance and maximise the contribution of F&V to sustainable development, rural economic growth and livelihoods, food safety and the promotion of diversified, balanced and healthy diets.

As the working group on environmentally and socially responsible horticulture is no longer active, what plans does the FAO currently have for working towards a more responsible and sustainable F&V supply chain globally or regionally in Europe or Asia?

As I mentioned before, an action plan is being developed and agreed upon for the launching of the International Year of Fruits and Vegetables. The International Year of Fruits and Vegetables is meant to be a platform to sensitise the public about the importance of the sector for health and nutritional food and is directly linked to the 2030 Agenda, and in particular to the Sustainable Development Goals SDG2 (ending hunger, improving nutrition, and promoting sustainable agriculture), SDG3 (ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being), and SDG12 (ensuring sustainable consumption and production patters).

Regarding bananas and tropical fruits: with the slowdown of the banana and pineapple markets, in particular, what programmes or strategies does the FAO have for stimulating tropical fruit markets?

According to my colleague Pascal Liu from the Trade Division, the situation is not clear-cut and there are divergent trends across commodities. The limited available data for the first half of 2020 suggest that there is a clear slowdown in the pineapple market, but not really in the banana market. Based on these data, global imports of pineapples fell by some 10 per cent between January and June 2020 compared to the same period in 2019. On the other hand, according to preliminary data, world imports of bananas increased by 1.2 per cent compared to the same period in 2019. Avocado exports have also increased, while imports of papayas and mangoes seem to be declining. Only when we have more complete and reliable data for the whole year will we be able to draw definitive conclusions. An article on this topic will be published in this month’s issue of Food Outlook. So far, there is no specific programme for stimulating tropical fruit markets in particular.




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Interview of the month with Juan Marín Bravo, president of FruitVegetables EUROPE (EUCOFEL)

Juan Marín Bravo, president of FruitVegetables EUROPE (EUCOFEL)


The FruitVegetablesEUROPE president shares his views on the possible impacts of Covid-19, Brexit and the “Farm-to-Fork” programme

How should the excess costs generated by Covid-19 be managed to prevent negative effects on competitiveness or purchasing power?

Since the start of the pandemic, FruitVegetables EUROPE has conveyed the industry’s concerns regarding the COVID-19 crisis and its negative impact on the European fruit and vegetable sector. Like the health sector, EU fruit and vegetable producers have been and are on the front line of the battle against COVID-19. The sector has worked intensively in the fields and in the warehouses, while ensuring that factories, logistics, distribution, marketing and outlets across the EU work well to ensure that supply is maintained to put food on our tables. These great efforts come at a cost and producers must be helped. The EU market disturbances in the fruit and vegetable sector are real. Several sectors have suffered and are suffering the consequences of COVID-19, especially in terms of the additional costs of transport, the costs of protective equipment, the fall in consumption of certain products, the difficulty of hiring workers, etc.

What is your position on the measures that the European Commission will implement?

After many demands, the European Commission announced a package of measures that sought to increase the flexibility of sectoral programmes for fruit and vegetables. However, FruitVegetablesEUROPE considers that the measures to be totally insufficient for the EU fruit and vegetable sector. For this reason, we continue to call on the European Commission to include general production expenses (included in Section 1 of Annex 2 of Delegated Regulation 2017/891) and exceptional expenses resulting from Covid-19. FruitVegetablesEUROPE believes that the response to this global health, social and economic crisis must be European. The EU must come up with truly effective measures that reassure markets, help producers and give confidence to EU consumers alike. In addition, the measures must be maintained as long as the social and economic crisis created by the COVID-19 pandemic lasts.

What do you think about those Commission’s programmes to promote more sustainable agriculture, such as Farm-to-Fork”?

It is a fact that we need to find a way to feed a much larger world population in 2050 without harming our planet, and the EU has a crucial role to play in this matter. Commissioner Kyriakides mentioned that the “Farm-to-Fork” strategy must reflect that ambition in the Green Deal.

Our opinion in this regard can be summarised in the following points:

● The incentives proposed in the Green Deal and Farm-to-Fork strategies are not sufficient and adequate for EU farmers to achieve an ecological transition.

● The reduction in the use of pesticides should be based on scientific criteria. The European Commission must present understandable alternatives to the use of current pesticides.

● Coordinated measures must be taken to contribute to a sustainable food system that has a neutral environmental impact.

● Urgent action is needed to reduce food waste and food losses at EU level.

● Conventional agriculture in the EU meets the world’s highest quality and food safety standards. Therefore, not only organic farming should be considered.

● There is a need to increase the number of actions related to providing information about and promoting mandatory EU origin labeling, in particular for fruit and vegetables in the EU.

● We need concise and realistic proposals that are backed by strong budget support.

What are the steps to follow to achieve a true Green Deal?

FruitVegetablesEurope believes that no one should be left behind; the environmental transition cannot leave the burden to European farmers alone. European farmers are struggling to keep the sector alive, which is hit hard by intense international competition. For this reason, FruitVegetablesEUROPE encourages the European Commission to increase the coherence of EU policies affecting the EU agricultural sector. The coherence of EU policies and their alignment with the new Green Deal and the Farm-to-Fork strategy must be a priority.

Regarding “Brexit”, what kind of agreements do you consider possible without tariffs?

Negotiations to achieve a trade agreement between the European Union and the United Kingdom should be a priority. FruitVegetablesEUROPE believes that the application of tariffs on EU fruit and vegetables would have a catastrophic impact on the EU export sector, as the UK is the third largest destination for EU exports, after Germany and France. In addition, EU exporters will have to compete with third countries that are exempt from this tariff rate (competitors from the Mediterranean and the southern hemisphere already have preferential agreements signed at a tariff rate of 0%) and do not comply with EU regulations for high quality, social, environmental and phytosanitary.

EU producers and exporters have spent years opening up and consolidating the UK premium market for high-quality products where taste, freshness and safety are the main requirements. Unfortunately, there is no premium alternative market for EU production and the Russian market remains closed. In this regard, FruitVegetablesEUROPE reiterates that the future trade relationship between the EU and the UK is crucial for the EU fruit and vegetable sector.

For example, the announced tariffs of 16 per cent for mandarins, 10 per cent for oranges and 6 per cent for lemons would make EU exports to the UK unviable compared to other origins which have zero per cent tariffs. The example of the EU citrus sector can be extrapolated to the entire EU fruit and vegetable sector.

It is therefore absolutely crucial for the EU fruit and vegetable sector that all fruit and vegetable exports to the UK are duty-free, and there is a need for rapid automated procedures that allow the processing of all documentation required in real time.

FruitVegetablesEUROPE calls on the EU not to sacrifice the EU agricultural sector in negotiations with the UK. It is imperative that the EU take into equal consideration all the productive sectors of the European Union: agriculture, industry and services.

What possible agreements could be established with other markets?

FruitVegetablesEUROPE believes that the EU should prioritise its engagement with the United States while enjoying the most integrated economic relationship in the world. Furthermore, China is now the EU’s second largest trading partner behind the United States and the EU is China’s largest trading partner. Therefore, improving the access of EU fruit and vegetables to the Chinese market should also be a priority for the EU.

Finally, Russia should not be forgotten. Russia’s import ban has deprived European fruit and vegetable producers of an important export market and the effects of the ban undoubtedly continue to have serious consequences for the EU fruit and vegetable sector.

What have so far been the impacts of the “CUTE” campaign?

In its first year, the CuTE promotion programme – Cultivating the Flavour of Europe – has reached 143 million potential consumers and has appeared in 451 international articles. In this second year, the CuTE programme continues with the actions that began in 2019, especially the radio campaign to promote our strawberry varieties.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the programme had to be modified and adapted to the health situation. EUROTOUR has had to be postponed until the situation improves. Online and digital activities have been reinforced, such as with the children’s film Tom and the Greenhouses of France:

CuTE is running a dynamic, exciting and amazing activities programme for children and adults. See:

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How the Commission will support the F&V sector after COVID?

How the Commission will support the F&V sector after COVID?

Interview with Joao Onofre Antes-Gonçalves (and Juri Mara), deputy-head of the DG-Agri 3 & 2 for Horticulture, Wine & Spirits

  •  €10 million added to promotional budget: applications open until August 27th    

1/ Which products have performed well (with increased volumes and prices) during the Covid-19 crisis?

First of all, it’s important to highlight that the European agri-food sector has shown remarkable resilience during the COVID-19 crisis. There have been no serious shortfalls in food security, despite a difficult environment characterised by impaired logistics, a general slow-down, and increasing costs across the whole of the supply chain due to the various restrictions in place in the majority of Member States. This has led to no food shortages for the retail market reported across Europe, despite the ‘panic buying’ attitude displayed by consumers at the start of the outbreak. In terms of demand, the crisis has benefitted products like carrots, courgettes, kiwi, citrus fruit, apples, pears, and garlic as they offer long shelf life, are viewed as staple products, or are considered helpful in the fight against the virus. Ex-packing producers’ prices reported by Member States were in general higher than the average for the season, driven by strong demand.

2/ Conversely, which campaigns and/or products were most affected?

Even though EU Member States had different rules and different lockdown periods, one can reasonably state that due to the COVID-19 crisis, between February/March and May/June 2020, almost 100% of business was lost for the high-value food services sector in a diverse range of areas, including hotels, restaurants and restaurant chains, business and school canteens, transports catering etc. Depending on the Member State, food service accounts for around 25-30% of the total fruit and vegetables market supply, and while supermarkets partially absorbed these volumes. This has created significant market instability for certain commodities demanded more by food service, such as asparagus, cucumbers and strawberries, as well as ‘convenience’ produce (e.g. pre-cut salad) and sprouted seeds (sprouts, shoots and cresses). Difficulties were also reported for potatoes for processing into fries and the flower and live plants markets.

3/ How likely do you consider it is that consumption levels will remain high in the long run as a post-COVID impact?

A spike in consumer demand was observed from the beginning of the crisis up until Easter for pre-packed products and those with a long shelf-life. This trend subsequently continued, albeit with some signs of stabilisation. This resulted in visible increases in consumer prices for vegetables and especially fruits in a context of very low inflation for the months of April and May across the EU. The crisis quickly generated new consumer trends that are likely to remain in the post-COVID environment, such as online sales, a preference for smaller proximity shops, and an increased interest in local and organic products. The outlook for the F&V market going forward seems positive as consumers have become more attentive to their heath and are looking for a healthier lifestyle.

4/ What measures have been taken by the Commission to help the F&V sector and which particular products have benefited from market withdrawals?

The Commission was quick to react and adopted a series of exceptional measures to support the agricultural and food sectors most affected by the Coronavirus crisis. One of these packages was adopted at the end of April 2020, and focused particularly on the F&V sector:

  • Flexibility in the implementation of market support programmes, including for fruits and vegetables and the EU’s school scheme.
  • Temporary derogations from certain EU competition rules in situations of severe market imbalance. The flower and potatoes sectors are now allowed, for example, to withdraw products from the market.

5/ What new EU consumer campaigns are being prepared for the post-COVID period?

To complement the exceptional market-specific support measures, at the end of June 2020, the Commission put out two calls for proposals for promotional programmes. Fruit, vegetables and potatoes for processing are among the sectors eligible for the promotional support of €10 million (€5 million for multi-programmes and €5 million for simple programmes). They must be implemented in the EU or in any third country and have a duration of one year. This is the first time that the Commission has launched such a call, which is possible only in cases of serious market disturbance and when promotional actions are seen as adequate responses to the situation. The two calls will remain open until 27 August 2020 and we hope some of your readers will participate.


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Interview with Philippe Binard, general secretary of Freshfel Europe

Interview with Philippe Binard, general secretary of Freshfel Europe

1- What is your assessment of the impact of Covid-19 on the F&V sector?
During the pandemic, fruit and vegetables were considered as essential goods, which has facilitate seeking solution for border controls, and also seasonal workers. The increased F&V consumption observed since the Covid wave is demonstrating how strategic is our category, not only for our food supply but also for our health. The European consumers clearly understood they need to better feed themselves for a better health, and the F&V are contributing to it. In the peak of the pandemic, we estimate that the Covid impacted by more then €500 million per month the supply chain due to increased operational costs, more complex logistics operations, labor problems and added sanitary measures. The consumption and price levels increased, hopefully enough to off-set the increased costs and the loss of the food service demand. The seasonal spring campaigns like asparagus and berries were strongly affected, on a long run we hope the increased consumption will continue.

2- What is your position regarding the “Farm-to-Fork” program with the Commission?
Overall the Farm to Fork could move European citizens towards an healthier diet, which should be considered as a positive steps provided the right tools are put in place to reach this objective. In the farm to fork strategy there is however quiet a number of objective that will require careful attention to secure that they are feasible and coastwise realistic. Some targets, like a reduction of 50% in plant protection use and fertilizers, and a target of reaching 25% of organic agriculture farm land by 2030, might be difficult to reach. We see it as very ambitious and not closely enough related to the growth of demand for organic fresh produce. If the supply of EU organic produce goes far above the level of consumption it may lead to price drops, and the European producer will be the loser at the end. Our concept is to base the measures on the future of market demand, taken into account existing practice such as IPM rather then willing to impose a too ambitious sustainable policy.  

3- Which progresses regarding market access with non-EU countries this year?
A free-trade agreement with Vietnam just started from July 1rst but it is just a framework for more specific protocol agreements to be negotiated. The market is already opened for some varieties like citruses, apple, pears and potatoes. With Thailand various protocols were recently agreed for apple with several European countries. The EU is negotiating a free trade agreement with New Zealand and Australia, inclusive on customs duties, protections of origins and equivalences of the organic regulation, which could affect the F&V trade. With Japan no fruit shipments so far registered, due to a costly agreement for existing agreement such as Spanish citrus and French apples and many protocols are still pending and in negotiation for several years such as Italian kiwifruit.

4- Which next crop estimates from Northern or Southern Hemisphere?
We presented last May the predictions for the Southern Hemisphere citrus production while Northern Hemisphere citrus forecast will be relased by WCO (World Citrus Organization ) next October. In regard to apples and pears, this year Prognosfruit will be virtual and take place on 6th August (registration on for the Northern Hemisphere apple and pears estimates.

5- Which next step with the next reform of CMO related with F&V?
The existing program is postponed one more year until 2021, to give more time for the negotiations due to delays resulting from COVID and also the discussion on the Multi Financial Framework 2021-2027. The German presidency of the European Union will seek progress to accelerate the discussions and finalize concerted proposals by October of this year.

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Interview of the Month: How Bayer can support growers along the food value chain

Four questions to Ronald Guendel, Global Head of Food Chain Relations at Bayer Crop Science

In the Interview of the Month from issue 146 of Eurofresh Distribution magazine we put four questions to Ronald Guendel, who is the global head of Food Chain Relations at Bayer Crop Science. Here Guendel addresses topics including how Bayer tailors integrated crop solutions according to sustainable agricultural principles in order to help its partners enhance food safety, quality, yield, and traceability

Why is Fruit Logistica important to Bayer and what are your points of emphasis at this year’s event?

Fruit Logistica is the most important international trade fair for fresh produce. Next year will be Bayer’s 12th year in attendance—a decision we have never regretted. The contact we maintain with our customers and partners along the entire value chain at Fruit Logistica is simply invaluable. Over the last dozen years, our participation at Fruit Logistica has continuously evolved and taken on new significance. In the beginning, the trade fair was an important platform for us to invite farmers to join our Food Chain Partnership initiative. Over the years, our network has grown considerably. Today, the fair gives us an opportunity to network efficiently and stay in touch with key individuals along the entire value chain. In 2017, one of our main focus points will be the cultivation of European fruit and vegetable and how Bayer can support growers and other participants along the food value chain to ensure even better sustainability and reduce their environmental footprint.

What exactly is the Food Chain Partnership? Can you explain the initiative’s focus and reach?

Food Chain Partnership is an innovative business model that we at Bayer have developed so we can work closely with growers, traders, processors and retailers. We started this initiative in 2005, mainly as a reaction to public concerns about food safety and residues in fruit and vegetables. At this time, the industry was called upon to address the need for greater food safety, with consumers placing increasing importance on products that are produced sustainably and can be traced back to the producer. Our main role is to act as a facilitator and bring together the partners along the food value chain by sharing our expertise. Based on individual local needs, we develop tailor-made integrated crop solutions according to sustainable agricultural principles that help all partners involved enhance safety, quality, yield, and traceability. Today, about 70 Bayer food chain managers work in 30 countries around the world, focusing on more than 50 different crops. Our initial focus was on fruit and vegetables. But this successful model was recently expanded to include field crops such as oilseed rape, wheat and rice. The majority of our projects are in Europe, Latin America and Asia, but the number of initiatives in Africa and North America is increasing.

Bayer Food Chain Partnership became part of the GLOBALG.A.P. protocol, in order to start certifying stakeholders. What value does the Food Chain Partnership add to existing protocols

GLOBALG.A.P. focuses on Good Agricultural Practices and sets voluntary standards for the certification of agricultural products around the globe. In 2014, we formed a cooperative partnership with GLOBALG.A.P. to help small- and medium-sized farmers in developing countries implement sustainable cultivation practices and comply with local quality and certification standards in order to eventually obtain recognition (localg.a.p.). Bayer customized its BayG.A.P. service program to the requirements of the localg.a.p. standards. It follows a three step approach, consisting of training, farm advice, and verification support for farmers. Participating farmers benefit from certified high-quality produce that they can sell at higher prices to enhance their income. Traders and retailers benefit from the consistent high quality of the products, enhanced safety, and traceability. The program has gained traction and is expanding globally. So far, we have initiated 18 pilot projects everywhere from Africa and Asia to Europe and Latin America. On top of that, we’ve already received very positive feedback from farmers and food chain partners. And we’re only getting started.

What is the extent of Bayer Food Chain Partnership programs in Asia and in the Americas?

We’ve initiated numerous projects in Asia and Latin America across a broad range of crops. In Asia, it’s mostly projects for fruit and vegetables, especially potatoes and rice. India is a very good example. We’ve initiated several projects to promote good agricultural practices there, and the results have been extremely promising. Through a project on table grapes, we helped increase yields by an average of 7% and improve produce quality at the same time. And our guidance throughout the crop cycle resulted in a 35% higher grower net income. Besides India, we also initiated projects in China, South Korea, Thailand, and Malaysia. In Latin America, we’re working with farmers in Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Peru, Mexico and other parts of Central America—in Guatemala, for example, where we’ve partnered with the exporter SIESA Group to support small-scale growers in producing high-quality vegetables. All of our project partners have enjoyed clear benefits. With our help, the vegetable farmers can produce more exportable produce and sell at higher prices, SIESA can protect its market share by exporting safe products, and their retailers can promote the high quality and safety of the products to domestic customers.

Siesa partnered with Bayer in its Food Chain Partnership initiative in 2008. The Guatemalan company benefits from intensive training in good agricultural practices and technical recommendations in order to achieve the best possible quality.

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Interview of the Month: the US Food Marketing Institute’s Rick Stein

“The ability to trace product back to its source is a critical part of the new produce supply chain,” says the US Food Marketing Institute’s Rick Stein.

The voice of food retail in the United States is the Food Marketing Institute (FMI). Here the trade association’s vice president for fresh foods, Rick Stein, pinpoints what’s happening in his country on major issues for the sector. Stein was previously vice president of retail merchandising and marketing execution for Safeway, where he led marketing activities for the company’s eastern division spanning 180 locations and 20,000 employees.

What are the main challenges for fresh produce distribution in the US?

When it comes to providing fresh foods in retail, food safety is the utmost priority for the US retail food industry. The industry is doing a good job keeping food safe. According to the 2016 US Grocery Shopper Trends report, 9 in 10 shoppers have confidence in the safety of food at the grocery store.

As for fruit and vegetable distribution in the US, the produce supply chain is unique because products have a short shelf life, require fast distribution and temperature control is essential. We’re also often dealing with fresh foods being transported long distances. More fresh food providers in the US are relying on improved data quality to help address these elements of the produce supply chain. By optimising quality data, producers are better able to share data with retailers so they can provide a more transparent picture to shoppers about the path their produce took from farm to store. This ability to trace product back to its source is a critical part of the new produce supply chain and many US retailers and packers/shipper or implementing traceability initiatives.

In addition, shopper demand for local fruit and vegetables is changing the produce supply chain. Finding local sources, ensuring those sources have safe food, and getting product to shelf quickly is an emerging trend that is resulting in many new supply chains within the US produce business.

What are the latest improvements in food safety and sustainability?

Right now, food retailers and manufactures in the US are working to implement the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), the most sweeping regulation of the US food safety system in 70 years. FSMA fundamentally changes the way food is regulated in the US and abroad and affects the entire supply chain from farm-to-fork. FSMA focuses more on preventing food safety problems rather than relying primarily on reacting to problems after they occur. FMI has worked closely with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) throughout the FSMA implementation process and continues to offer our members resources, training and implementation guidance.

FMI is also working on the issue of food waste. Every year, about 40 million tons of food waste is sent to landfills in the US. FMI has joined with the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) and the National Restaurant Association (NRA) to form the Food Waste Reduction Alliance (FWRA). This group has three major business goals: 1.) Reduce food lost within our operations so it never becomes food waste in the first place; 2.) Recover safe and nutritious food that might have been wasted by sending it to our partnering food banks; and 3.) Recycle unavoidable food waste by diverting away from landfill and moving it to productive use, including animal feed, compost or food to energy.

What is being done to promote fruit and vegetable consumption?

According to FMI’s Shopping for Health 2016 report, two-in-three US shoppers agree that food choices affect their health, but half say they struggle to find the motivation to eat healthfully. At the same time, FMI’s Power of Produce 2016 report finds shoppers are choosing produce as part of a healthier lifestyle and eating habit.

Grocery stores are uniquely positioned to be key partners in health and wellness for the communities they serve, including helping to increase consumption of fresh foods. Food retailers have the opportunity to help their customers find and distinguish dietary choices, offer weight management solutions and share convenient meal ideas that help feed families. Some of the actions retailers take to incentivise more fruit and vegetable consumption start with the location of produce near the entry of the store. Also, the location of produce on the front page of their advertising circulars is another way supermarkets highlight their produce.

Many US food retailers are transitioning their stores into health destinations and that includes offering more resources for shoppers to increase their fruit and vegetable consumption. According to the 2014 FMI report on Retailer Contributions to Health and Wellness, 95% of US grocery stores surveyed employ dietitians at the corporate, regional and store levels. In addition to offering nutrition counseling, grocery stores are helping shoppers develop culinary skills. More than half of the food retailers in this survey employ chefs at the corporate level and 74% of respondents have offered cooking classes to customers.

In the US, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans offer an opportunity for food retailers and manufactures to help Americans eat a healthier diet. Many retailers and manufactures help support this information by making it available to customers on packages, in store, online and through their nutrition counseling services.

How are online sales, home deliveries and the hard discounters affecting in store sales?

In the US, fresh produce is what brings shoppers to the grocery store. According to FMI’s Power of Produce 2016 report, 63% of US shoppers prefer the supermarket for their produce purchases. Consumers cite concerns over product freshness and quality, but also want control over selecting the produce they purchase. However, when the online shopping platform is supported by their primary brick-and-mortar grocery store, shopper interest increases.

When it comes to overall grocery shopping trends, the 2016 US Grocery Shopper Trends report finds 15% of shoppers occasionally purchase food or groceries online through a service or meal subscription. At the same time, 16% of US shoppers report purchasing fresh produce online in the past 12 months. This represents an opportunity for US food retailers to further enhance their online produce offerings, while also creating unique in-store fresh food purchasing experiences for shoppers.

Photos provided by the Food Marketing Institute

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Interview of the month: Global Cold Chain Alliance CEO Corey Rosenbusch

In this interview, Global Cold Chain Alliance president and CEO Corey Rosenbusch speaks about major trends for the temperature-controlled logistics industry and the inaugural Global Cold Chain Expo, taking place June 20-22 in Chicago.

The Global Cold Chain Alliance (GCCA) represents all major industries engaged in temperature-controlled logistics. Based in the US state of Virginia, it has offices or affiliates in Australia, Brazil, China, Europe, Guatemala, India, and the UK. The GCCA’s vision is to forge a universally strong cold chain where every product retains quality and safety through each link. Here GCCA president and CEO Corey Rosenbusch speaks about major trends for the industry and the inaugural Global Cold Chain Expo, taking place June 20-22 in Chicago.

What are the main issues the alliance is working on?

We recently did some research on our market and there were some very clear results that shaped our new strategic plan, with two priorities centred around growing the industry and leading the cold chain.

Where do you see potential for growth?

We see a huge opportunity to play a role in cost savings and assistance with compliance. If there’s one trend that you hear about all over world, it’s that regulations are becoming more and more burdensome for our member companies. If we as an industry can help deflect or assume some of that compliance role for produce companies, that’s a huge value-add.

Another opportunity is in facilitating trade. Overall, looking at opportunities where our industry can serve the food industry in places and ways we haven’t in the past is a major theme. In our study, 64% of our members said exports are a growing part of their business. Some are investing in strategic locations and port-centric hubs in order to be able to offer end-to-end supply chain networks.

What are some of the issues facing the industry?

It’s more and more of a challenge to recruit and retain talent and with the aging workforce we hear about this increasingly. We have to recreate an employer brand where we’re not simply asking someone to drive a forklift in a freezer but tell a story of helping protect the quality and safety of food so families can enjoy their meals and feel confident they are safe; or one of feeding the world, ensuring there is plenty of food to eat. That’s the kind of company a young person wants to build a career around. It’s about creating career paths, best practices and employer brands, and helping members recruit associates. They are having a very hard time finding labour, particularly in technical areas such as refrigeration – it’s harder and harder to find people to fill those roles.

Also with the pressure today to keep the cost of consumer goods at stable prices, food companies often look to our space to find opportunities for saving. We need to really protect ourselves against being commoditised. We’re not just big buildings where you can rent pallet storage space, there are value-added services that make us partners with the food industry in delivering produce to the consumer. It’s about telling that story and doing that is really new for us.

Where do you see unmet needs in terms of perishables?

A lot of the issues which drove the recent creation of a lot of new food safety regulations really centred around the fruit and vegetables industry. Fresh produce is far more challenging than a frozen product so I think what’s going to be critical to how that segment grows in future is the ability from a technical standpoint to comply with the regulations and ensure the safety of food, particularly as more moves from all over world.

We are also looking at how we can contribute to the lengthening of shelf life and reduction of waste in the fresh fruit and vegetable industry, for example loads that are rejected at retail because the quality of product is not there. Major retailers have become very stringent not just on the safety and quality of produce but even right down to appearance. We have a role to play there in helping the fresh fruit and vegetable industry ensure compliance with regulations and in controlling temperatures to ensure they can distribute as much produce as they can and it does not go to waste.

How much of the produce you handle is frozen?

Historically for the third party cold chain industry, frozen goods have been our core, with about 80% of the products going through our assets being frozen but fresh is definitely a growing area. These days one of the fastest growing services that a lot of members are doing for customers is tempering – basically defrosting food that is later sold and marketed as a fresh product. The biggest area of growth for this is bakery, particularly breads.

What’s happening in the area of food safety during shipping?

Food safety always been a core competency of ours and is one that is now in the spotlight with the rewriting of our food safety laws here in the US and some transformation of of food safety laws in Europe due to the horse meat issues a few years ago. Consumers have more and more focus on this so it’s a huge opportunity for us because our core concept is to ensure that food is kept at the right temperature. Perishables are a number one topic from a food safety standpoint. We invested millions in the mid-90s to really understand all of the food commodities, their shelf life and what is an optimal storage temperature, even developing software. Today we can take a product that might have been out of temperature range and predict the impact on its quality and shelf life.

Traceability is the key area where most of our transportation members are able to contribute to the overall protection of the safety of food. Constant temperature monitoring has become more advanced with real time monitoring of temperatures possible anywhere in world and data uploaded via satellite. More and more tracking and tracing devices are included in cargo to ensure it is kept within the proper temperature range. From that standpoint, our industry plays an important role.

What does the growth of e-retail imply for temperature-controlled logistics?

This was a big focus at our 19th European Cold Chain conference, held in Amsterdam in March. China, for example, is going to leapfrog the rest of the world in that more and more it’s not going to build brick and mortar stores but just go straight to home delivery. With, for instance, you can literally order just two bananas and they’ll deliver them to your home. At the conference we looked at how a shift in the supply chain from traditional brick and mortar to home delivery will redefine our business, for instance what kind of special vehicles will be required for delivery. We need to think about this and how to build our assets and capacity to serve accordingly.

There are also opportunities for companies in each-picking for frozen goods. A frozen item can be selected, put in a freezer box and left on your door stop in a frozen state and all this process is fully automated, with the product only touched when someone takes it out of the delivery truck.

What will be some of the highlights of the Global Cold Chain Expo in June?

It will where everyone finally comes together in one place to talk about the cold chain no matter the sector. The Global Cold Chain Expo is co-located with our partner, United Fresh Produce Association, and the Food Marketing Institute, so growers, distributors and buyers of produce will all be there. We’re bringing all the third party cold chain providers and a big group of processors who have not historically been there. Over 25,000 sq ft we’ll have all the components needed to really chart the future, to talk about efficient collaboration and solve problems – and that’s what really gets me excited.

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UNIVEG is the largest ripener in Europe

UNIVEG is a vertically integrated leader in the sourcing and supply of high quality fresh fruits & vegetables and controls the entire value chain from sourcing to delivery.

In the most recent installment in our Interview of the Month series, we speak to Greenyard Foods CEO Marleen Vaesen.

Is UNIVEG, the fresh segment of Greenyard Foods, still increasing its distribution capacities?

UNIVEG is a vertically integrated leader in the sourcing and supply of high quality fresh fruits & vegetables and controls the entire value chain from sourcing to delivery. With its 31 strategically located distribution centres in Europe, UNIVEG can offer a best-in-class integrated service to its retail customers. UNIVEG has drawn on 60 years of experience in the banana industry to develop one of Europe’s leading ripe and ready-to- eat ranges and meets the growing demands from retail customers. With 500 ripening rooms spread across 8 European countries, UNIVEG is the largest ripener in Europe. We provide the full range of ripe and ready-to-eat fruit – mangoes, avocados, kiwifruit, stonefruit, papayas and pears. We continuously develop and improve the infrastructure of our distribution centres. In Belgium we just opened new ripening rooms at our Belgian distribution centre in Sint-Katelijne-Waver. In India we are developing a joint venture with Mahindra for import activities. On the sourcing side, we are continuing to build a grower network in the northern and southern hemispheres.

What are UNIVEG’s commitments in European produce?

We are pleased with our sourcing partners and continue to work with our existing relations. Our aim is to supply tasty and healthy produce in the right quality, volume and varieties year-round. For instance, our new joint venture with Haspengouw Fruit trading and packing divisions gives us direct access to the ‘Kanzi’ apple variety. Another good example is the acquisition of Empire Trade World in January 2014, helping us to have more local sourcing, too. The main business reasons for this acquisition are in line with UNIVEG’s continued strategic focus and development of the UK market. This is giving us the opportunity to provide an added dimension to our product portfolio and UK market share with UNIVEG’s own production of top fruit as well. As a vertically integrated fresh produce global player, UNIVEG has the ability to consistently supply first-rate products through its unrivalled growers’ network and first-class provision service teams. With 40 companies spread across five continents, our group traded more than two million tons of fresh fruit and vegetables to customers on six continents in 2015.

How is UNIVEG multiplying direct initiatives with consumers and farmers?

With the launch of the new “On-the-go” smaller formats like blueberry buckets and new ready-to-eat tropical fruit, UNIVEG aims to respond to the growing trends of snacking consumption. UNIVEG is also working on many programmes aimed at more sustainable agriculture, both with fruit growers from the Southern Hemisphere and vegetable farmers in Europe. One example is the Grow Bag of the Peltracom, our Growing Media division. With the Grow Bag, Peltracom introduces a truly closed-loop system, bringing sustainability to the greenhouse and reducing the impact on the environment. The Peltracom Grow Bag is a 100% compostable substrate for growing greenhouse vegetables and allows the farmers to replace the substrate based on rockwool. This substrate is produced from sustainable organic raw materials and allows for extremely efficient crop steering with maximum results. Because of its organic nature, the Peltracom Grow Bag contains a perfectly balanced, natural soil life. After use, the Peltracom Grow Bag is composted into a rich soil improver. Peltracom that has more than 1000 substrates and was also present at the UNIVEG booth at Fruit Logistica. UNIVEG is also involved with food chain programmes in different countries with both Bayer CropSciences and Syngenta in order to help farmers locally (like in India) to develop sustainable agriculture and comply with the requirements of European retailers as per residue limits in particular. We have also started a breeding programme in cooperation with Rijk Zwaan in order to find vegetable varieties that are more sustainable and more suited to the needs of new consumers.

Is UNIVEG very active in the social sphere too?

The CSR activities of the UNIVEG Group such as the “Giving Back” social programme and “Be Fruitful” campaign carried out in the US by our company Seald Sweet International are good examples. The “Giving Back” concept is not new at the Florida company; it has been running fund-raising promotions to benefit US military families through the Fisher House Foundation since 2008 with summer citrus. Since 2010, Seald Sweet has also participated in fair trade programmes with their South African growers. Then in 2013, Seald Sweet launched the “Be Fruitful” campaign to fully integrate the act of giving into the company’s activities. The CSR project challenges the Seald Sweet team to give “time, talent and treasure” by getting involved with community organizations and good causes. In South Africa, UNIVEG has worked since 2013 in partnership with the Waitrose Foundation and Waitrose’s grape category manager to implement a programme of long-term shared initiatives. These are aimed at providing social and economic benefits for the community of Môrester Farm, located in the Western Cape of South Africa. One of the initiatives is to build a teaching centre.

„Greenyard Group key facts
8,170 employees
Presence in 25 countries
Total sales of about €4 billion including:
– €3.2 billion from UNIVEG, Fresh segment of Greenyard Foods: fruit and vegetables.
– €80 million from Peltracom, Segment Growing Media of Greenyard Foods.
– €620 million from the prepared segment including the Frozen and Canned division of Greenyard Foods.
Public listed since 2013 after the merger of the fresh, prepared and growing media segments.


This interview originally appeared on page 17 of edition 142 of Eurofresh Distribution magazine. Read that issue for free here. 

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Holland working hard to enter new markets and boost consumption

Currently the Fresh Produce Centre is involved in more projects to open up new market possibilities: peppers for China, apples and pears for Colombia, India, Vietnam, South Africa and the USA, onions for Costa Rica and pears for Mexico

„Interview with Peter Verbaas, assistant manager of the Dutch Fresh Produce Centre:

Is the confidence of the Dutch fruit and vegetable sector improving?

From the recently published Agro Confidence Index, it is clear that the Dutch horticultural sector is regaining its confidence. This index – the result of cooperation between the Ministry of Economic Affairs, LTO Nederland (the Dutch agriculture and horticulture federation) and Wageningen University – has risen during the past half year, although not to the level of a year ago. One of the sectors that reportedly has more confidence in the current situation and the longer term is horticulture. At the Fresh Produce Centre, the organisation representing the Dutch fruit and vegetable industry, we too can point to a lot going on in our sector in the wake of the McKinsey report, which states that the sector is under pressure. Many developments are indeed taking place, and there is a lot of discussion about what is the right way forward for the industry.

What is the primary focus in the Dutch industry?

One of the areas of activity is the opening up of markets far from home. As Verbaas says: “The sector has always been looking for new markets and has been involved in projects to open up new markets”. This involves complex discussions between governments in which the Fresh Produce Centre facilitates information. These projects can take as long as seven years, as was the case with opening up the Chinese market for Dutch pears. The Russian boycott has partly been the reason that the authorities are making an extra effort in the development of new market possibilities. Projects that have resulted in opening new markets include Dutch onions to Indonesia and Panama and pears to China and Brazil.

What new market opportunities do you foresee in the near future?

Currently the Fresh Produce Centre is involved in more projects to open up new market possibilities: peppers for China, apples and pears for Colombia, India, Vietnam, South Africa and the USA, onions for Costa Rica and pears for Mexico. “Due to the extra government energy being directed towards opening new markets, the list of current projects is much longer now than it used to be in the past,” says Verbaas. For the near future, some new projects are planned with an explicit focus on tomatoes. However, despite all the effort and the obvious results – a 7.1% increase in export volume during the last three years and the opening of multiple markets for different products – Verbaas observes that current market conditions are not easy. “Harder work is needed to achieve the same results.”

How are you aiming to lift the consumption level?

The Fresh Produce Centre is active in many areas. Nutrition and health is one of them, with a clear focus on developing strategies for market expansion and increased sales. Verbaas explains: “Based on the fact that fruit and vegetable consumption in Europe has been decreasing for years and is linked to the health issues we observe in society, we want to convince consumers of the health aspects of fresh fruit and vegetables and therefore encourage more consumption.” The Fresh Produce Centre has calculated that if the inhabitants of North Western Europe were to consume the recommended 200 grams of vegetables and 2 pieces of fruit daily, then the Netherlands alone would need to produce an extra 3.4 billion kg vegetables and 2.8 billion kg of fruit with an additional commercial value of €7.2 billion. A huge market potential indeed! Verbaas remarked: “We do not focus on product-oriented strategies, but aim to lift the total consumption level.” After the summer a roadshow will start targeting the members of the Fresh Produce Centre and the trade. The goal is to provide communication tools that can be used by the individual companies. “We will start and test the concept in the Netherlands and plan to roll the campaign out to Germany and the rest of Europe. The total volume in the Netherlands is insufficient to create enough impact.”

What are your latest initiatives in food security and sustainability?

Other activities to which the Fresh Produce Centre contributes include the discussion on microbiology and sustainability. In the wake of some international food safety issues in the past, the Fresh Produce Centre signals more awareness of the potential harm to reputation that can occur with food safety emergencies, and therefore an increased focus on microbiology. “The knowledge level has increased by giant leaps. We now have a better knowledge of the risks and this knowledge is valued internationally. The information stresses that hygiene still remains the most important factor,” says Verbaas. Sustainability in all its diversity remains an important topic for the Dutch horticultural sector. Although it can be difficult to decide which measure would be the best alternative for introducing an aspect of sustainability into business operations,  Verbaas observes that this area is brimming with activity and initiatives. “Programme owners like GlobalG.A.P. are investigating the possibilities and we are stimulating companies: we have the sustainable trade programme (IDH), an initiative that started offering tools for sustainability some years ago and is still being joined by an increasing number of companies.”

This interview first appeared on page 18 of edition 139 (Sept/Oct 2015) of Eurofresh Distribution magazine. Read more of that issue online here:

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The key issues for fresh produce in the UK

As the UK's trade association for the fresh produce industry, the FPC is working on a variety of issues affecting the sector, as its CEO Nigel Jenney also explains in this interview with Eurofresh Distribution.

Stowaways, the need for a generic promotion campaign for fresh produce, the massive potential to increase UK production of indigenous crops, the room to grow imports, and data mining. They’re just some of the topics addressed here by Nigel Jenney, chief executive of the Fresh Produce Consortium. As the UK’s trade association for the fresh produce industry, the FPC is working on a variety of issues affecting the sector, as Jenney also explains.

What are the key issues for the sector now and what do you think they will be in the next few years?

We are dealing with issues relating to consignments contaminated by stowaways onboard vehicles coming across the Channel. The UK media is focusing on Calais, but the problem is widespread. Our members report a significant increase in incidents over six months, and we’ve estimated industry costs are around £10 million. It’s a difficult issue and we’re pressing the UK Government to recognise specific problems we face whilst maintaining food safety.

Over the next few years we’ll need to meet the challenges of food security and food safety and maintain a viable profitable industry. Having fewer crop protection products in the horticultural sector will bite harder and could increase pressures in growing certain crops which meet customer specifications.

We’re seeing pressure on the availability of biocides due to new regulations to reduce residues through the supply chain but which do not take into account actual risk in relation to food safety. The presence of a residue doesn’t mean it’s harmful, but without effective products to remove microbes across the supply chain there’s a risk of increasing the number of foodborne illnesses.

What opportunities do you see for growth?

We’re proud to represent a vibrant, innovative industry, as witnessed by successes celebrated by our FreshAwards. Given the need to increase consumption of fresh produce there’s massive potential to increase UK production of indigenous crops. At the same there’s room to grow imports of products which are increasingly popular, and which we cannot grow due to our climate.

It’s been said that the FPC is an effective lobbyist on a range of issues, such as import duties and quotas, border issues and logistics. What recent achievements would you highlight and what’s pending?

Thanks to our persistent lobbying the Commission recently removed increased import controls on Kenyan beans. This is a significant saving for UK businesses of around £1.5 million.  

We put the spotlight on excessive charges of £1.6 million a year for official controls in the UK under EC Regulation 669/2009 by securing one of three government reviews. UK Ministers want industry savings and we’ll continue to press government agencies to deliver an efficient cost effective service.

How does the FPC help shape new legislation?

Most legislation comes from Brussels so we work closely with European colleagues. We shape the UK Government’s position in European discussions and ensure that our industry’s voice is heard. EU Plant Health Regulation is a critical area to ensure a risk-based approach maintains open trade and allows plant health controls to focus on areas of greater risk. This includes lobbying for a regionalised approach, taking into account differences in climate and plant health risk between southern and northern Member States.

What would you share in regard to the FPC’s campaigns and other efforts to promote fresh produce? What has worked best?

The fresh produce industry needs to get behind a generic campaign to promote fresh produce as part of a healthy diet. Too often we see successful campaigns which focus on one product, but all this achieves is a shift in purchasing habits from one type of product to the detriment of another.

We must increase consumption of fresh produce. We started this process with the Eat In Colour campaign, but this needs sustained industry support to achieve its potential.

How have you had an impact on environmental issues such as pesticide use or waste control?

We recently partnered a Surplus Food Summit by UK food redistribution charity FareShare. Diverting surplus food can help people who don’t have regular access to healthy fresh produce. We’re encouraging members to work with organisations like FareShare, and to reduce supply chain waste.

You’ve been quoted as saying the FPC should offer a dynamic range of services. If you had the funding necessary, what service would be a priority to develop?

Our Produce Integrity database collates anonymised data from individual members and their suppliers, including analyses results from sampling and monitoring programmes. Shared data allows FPC to put risk in perspective when it comes to regulatory scrutiny and investigations into alleged links between fresh produce and foodborne illness. In time we’d like to develop this further to include more tools.