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Biolisan: new installations for organic lemons

El Limonar currently sells about 4,000 tons of organic citrus a year but aims to reach between 8,000-10,000 tons within five years.

T he main Spanish lemon cooperative, El Limonar de Santomera, has just started running the most modern installations for preparing citrus.

With an area 3,000 m², it has the latest technology in selecting and preparing citrus by optimising automation. Greefa, Ipla, Apli and Daumar are its main suppliers.

The installations include various netting lines to sell large amounts in consumer unit format.

“All of the fruit is first pre-calibrated in order to control the visual quality,” said Antonio Jose Moreno, manager of the cooperative.

El Limonar manager Antonio Jose Moreno

El Limonar currently sells about 4,000 tons of organic citrus a year but aims to reach between 8,000-10,000 tons within five years, according to their farmers’ conversion plans.

Biolisan is the co-operative’s new corporate image for its entire line of organic business.

30,000 tons of lemons

El Limonar also sells 30,000 tons of conventional citrus, with 85% lemons, 10% oranges and 5% grapefruit.

“Our aim for 2018 is also to renew our current installations,” Moreno said.

It sells 85% of its supply throughout the EU, and is also present in the Emirates, Canada and the US.

The organic lemons are sent by air to the most distant markets and the conventional ones by sea, in order to guarantee all of their qualities.


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Global Cold Chain Expo in Chicago a big success

The event attracted more than 165 exhibitors and 15,000 decision-makers from throughout the supply chain.

The Global Cold Chain Expo, held for the first time in Chicago last 20-22 June, was the one’stop shop for innovation, education and business-to-business networking for the global food industry cold chain.

Organised by the Global Cold Chain Alliance (GCCA), the event attracted more than 165 exhibitors and 15,000 key decision makers from retail, foodservice, processing, production, distribution, logistics and transportation. The attendees represented frozen, refrigerated, ambient and fresh operations, while the educational conference brought together innovators and experts with senior management and rising managers from all sectors of the industry.

As a partnership between GCCA and United Fresh, the GCCE was co-located with FMI Connect, the International Floriculture Expo, and the United Fresh Show. For the first time, the GCCE gave the perfect opportunity to spotlight the cold chain industry and its role as a critical component in feeding the world’s ever-growing population, all while maintaining food safety and quality between farmers and consumers.

Top 25 cold store operators handle 85% of the capacity

According to Corey Rosenbusch, GCCA president and CEO, the top 25 cold store operators represent about 85% of the storage capacity in the US, while another 300 operators take up the remaining 15%. Among the fastest’growing groups is Agro-Merchants, which has acquired 19 independent family businesses around the world over the last 3 years. Its total capacity comes to 219 million square feet.

Overall occupancy of cold stores around the world reached 83% in 2015, which is considered by GCCA to be quite high. Quizzed during the panel session of the conference about where the growing opportunities are, Rosenbusch considers the immense potential demand outside US such as China, despite local traditional facilities having a cost of just 30% of modern facilities. “80% of global growth in cold storage is outside the US,” said Rosenbusch. Indeed, 44% of US cold chain operators have operations outside the US and are slowly growing.

Panama Canal open since 26 June

According to a joint study by The Boston Consulting Group and CH Robinson, about 10%-15% of the traffic in produce shipments is due to move from the west coast to the east coast in the years up to 2020. West coast ports will still handle more traffic than they do today, but their market share will likely fall. A battleground representing 15% of GDP will be in play between the west coast and east coast ports, from New Orleans in the south to Chicago in the north.

Stable growth in the rest of the world

According to Manuel Cabrera-Kábana, GCCA board member and director of Friopuerto, the other continents are facing slow but stable growth in cold storage and transport activities. “Europe is mainly renovating its cold store facilities for more efficiency, due to high energy and labour costs,” Cabrera said.

Poland is a particular case where we shall see more consolidation, since there is over-capacity and high fragmentation among the operators. “In Africa, we see growth in more stable countries like Morocco and Senegal, while in Algeria a new financial programme is being applied to incentivize business.”

Cabrera confirms growth with Latin America, both on the east and west coast, since a lot of fruit and protein is coming from those countries. “Mexico is still investing in more capacity, but not exporting as much as they could,” says Cabrera. He concludes that a free trade agreement between Europe and the US would have a big impact on perishable trade, since milk, meat and poultry markets are still protected.

Asia’s big potential: the case of the Philippines

The Asia trade agreement in place within 26 countries will help to fuel growth in the Asian region. Anthony Dizon, president of CCAP and Kolstor Centre Philippines, confirms the tremendous potential in the Philippines, which has 8% annual growth in its cold store capacities. Ongoing projects come to 20,000 tons.

The population has a projection of 108 million by 2020, due to annual growth of 1.8%. The GDP has one of the highest growth rates in South East Asia: around 6%. Frozen items like beef have big growth potential, since its per capita consumption is just 5 kg, compared to 25 kg for chicken. Nonetheless, the complexity of operations limits automation and flexibility, when more than 7,000 different temperature-controlled items are distributed in the country.


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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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Why Freshfel wants a new European strategy to facilitate exports

“Stimulating consumption should remain the main priority for the sector.”

Interview with Freshfel Europe chairman Luc Clerx

What is your assessment of European trade over the past 3 years?

Last year, the European fruit and vegetable trade was confronted with the far reaching implications of the Russian embargo. While Russia, overall, only represented 2% of the total European fresh fruit and vegetable business, its impact was significant because exports to Russia also accounted for around 40% of EU exports to non-EU countries. The sector responded promptly, repositioning itself in other non-EU country markets (Asia, Latin America, North Africa), but also took innovative measures to stimulate consumption in the domestic market. Freshfel and its members were also active in addressing market access hurdles to further open new markets. Overall, while the flow of produce remained stable, the main challenge for many commodities was on prices, which recorded a decline from which they have not yet recovered.

What are the latest possibilities for progress over access, particularly to the US and Asian markets?

Within Freshfel, we are adamant about setting up a new European strategy to facilitate exports. We are convinced that greater coordination under the leadership of the Commission would help to facilitate the opening of a number of markets which currently remain closed or which impose restrictive and excessive barriers, mainly in the SPS (sanitary & phytosanitary) area. A pilot project is currently in place to introduce a system approach for 8 EU member states to export apples and pears to the US. The discussion is hopefully now in its final stage and could govern the framework for exports as of next season. The main objective is to avoid the costly pre-clearance system and have the EU recognized as a single entity. This would avoid having to negotiate market access product by product and member state by member state. The model used for the US could serve as a basis for other destinations, Mexico and Chile being the next two where such a scheme could be tested. 

School schemes and promotions: the actions implemented use far less than the available EU funding. How can the sector be mobilised into making full use of it? 

The school fruit and vegetable scheme is an important tool that can help to educate young consumers on the taste, texture and diversity of fruit and vegetables. Freshfel has been working actively to keep the system, which at one stage was challenged by the Juncker Commission. Freshfel was successful not only in securing the ongoing availability of the scheme but also in managing to convince the EU to further increase the budget available for the scheme, from €90 million to €150 million, with a view to covering the accompanying measures as well. Usage of the budget was quite high with the €90 million budget, as almost 80% of the available funds were effectively used. Today the level of usage has indeed fallen to 65%, but it is 65% of the increased budget. Consequently more money is effectively being used, as the funds spent on the scheme are now approaching €100 million. As the rules for the accompanying measures become clearer, it is expected that the budget used will continue to increase and will get closer the €150 million available.

With regard to promotion, the fruit and vegetable sector is the main user of the funds available for EU agricultural products. Around a total of €25 million is usually granted for sector projects to support sales in both the domestic and non-EU markets. The EU has now embarked in a reform of its promotion policy, which will progressively come into force next year. The EU wants to focus more on non-EU markets but will also provide a bigger budget. Over time the budget will move from the current €80 million towards a €200 million package for all agricultural products. The new rules are challenging, but this will still represent an excellent opportunity for the sector to get access to budgets to boost the promotion, marketing and image of fresh fruit and vegetables and provide information on them.

Are greater restrictions on access to the EU market envisaged by the Commission or desired by European producers? 

The EU has always been an open market and, as a matter of fact, it remains the leading world importer of fruit and vegetables. The EU imports around 12 million tons of fruit and vegetables on a yearly basis. However, the world is rapidly changing and demand in many other regions is growing, particularly in Asia, Africa and Latin America. There is therefore more competition on the world market. As regards access to the EU, a number of factors influence nonEU country exporters’ decisions to export or not export to the EU. The exchange rate is an important factor, so are market demand and prices, and also some market access conditions. EU food safety legislation and European customers’ requirements remain demanding, making the EU market the safest for its consumers. Besides, following multiple instances of non-compliance with the EU plant health legislation (more than 7,000 per year – including close to 2,500 in the fruit and veg sector), the EU is taking action to secure compliance with it. The EU is also reshaping its plant health policy and new rules might apply as of 2018. It is therefore important for suppliers to the EU to take the plant health legislation seriously and implement the necessary corrective measures to remedy possible non-compliance in order to guarantee supply stability.

Any other hot topics? 

Stimulating consumption should remain the main priority for the sector. Too many member states consume less than the minimum WHO recommendations and the long term trends are indicating a decline in consumption. Some encouraging signals were noted in the aftermath of the Russian embargo, but need to be confirmed and consolidated. The sector and its produce have numerous advantages for nutrition, the environment and the economy which need to be appreciated better. The sector needs to understand and know its consumers better and needs to build on the pillars of a healthy diet to stimulate consumption. Just increasing consumption by a few grams per capita per day will assist in balancing the market situation better and moving the sector forward with a bright outlook for the coming years.