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Fourteenth Saint-Charles Export General Meeting

Fourteenth Saint-Charles Export General Meeting


The fourteenth Saint-Charles Export General Meeting, chaired by Mr Julien Batlle, was held in strict compliance of sanitary rules and allowed the members of the Group (Financial Institutions, Professional Associations and Trade Unions, Territorial Communities and Consular Chambers), to openly discuss the current issues of the platform and the fruit and vegetable, and transport and logistics sectors.

5 October 2020 – This meeting was an opportunity to go over the results of 2019, which was full of action for Saint-Charles Export, including participation in meetings concerning the railway line between Perpignan and Rungis, the defence of the Franco-Spanish Bilateral Agreement, not to mention the signature events that are the very essence of Saint-Charles Export: several international buyers’ receptions and very substantial involvement of the group at the MEDFEL trade shows in Perpignan and FRUIT ATTRACTION in Madrid.

As everyone knows, these meetings could not be held in 2020, and being able to gather together is greatly missed by the profession today! This demonstrates, if it was needed, the importance of these actions carried out by Saint-Charles Export for the benefit of businesses in the area, and professionals are eager to be able to return to trade shows.

Despite this profession’s key events being cancelled, Saint-Charles Export has been able to bounce back by taking action within the context of the COVID-19 pandemic:

“Actions for Perpignan’s teaching hospital”

Every Wednesday between April and June Saint Charles International organised 5 collections for healthcare personnel, with more than 5 tonnes of fresh fruit and vegetables being collected and distributed in over 1,600 baskets from 2.6 to 3.6 kg. Meanwhile, Saint-Charles Export donated more than 2,000 FFP2 masks to the teaching hospital in Perpignan.

“Establishment of a permanent working group for crisis management”

Even before the lockdown of 17 March, a “Coronavirus” working group was established within the Saint Charles International platform. This joined together business leaders and administrations.

The idea of this working group was particularly to benefit from knowledge, advice and recommendations from ARS and PST 66 in the face of COVID-19, as well as the expertise of the DIRECCTE (regional directorate for companies, consumption, work and employment), the CPAM (local sickness insurance fund) or the URSSAF (Organisations for the Collection of Social Security and Family Benefit Contributions) on the different measures implemented by the State to support businesses, in particular those to facilitate childcare or work disruption for vulnerable people, but also deferments and/or exemptions from charges etc.

All relevant information from these working groups was therefore distributed to all companies of the platform.

“Pooling of resources to buy surgical masks and hand sanitisers”

Saint-Charles Export and the National Syndicate of Fruit & Vegetable Importers & Exporters (SNIFL) of Saint Charles introduced a pooling of masks and hand gels, not only to benefit all member companies, but also any company or institution in the area that requested them. This service was opened to as many people as possible, which shows that despite the organisational difficulties encountered, the platform has lost nothing in terms of solidarity and humanity!

Some figures on resource pooling:

  • 812,000 masks
  • 2,321 litres of hand sanitiser (in the form of 100- and 500-ml bottles and 5 L drums)
  • 348 sachets of hydroalcoholic gel-soaked wipes
  • 282 disinfectant sprays

In terms of forecasting, different projects were discussed during this General Meeting, including:

“Saint-Charles 2020-2040”

On 21 March 2019, with institutional partners, communities and representatives of professionals from Saint-Charles, the first meeting on this topic made it possible to establish the roadmap of sites which are essential for the completion of this major project.

So, it was decided by Perpignan Mediterranean Metropolis (PMM) to deliver a “Global study on the long-term evolution of Saint-Charles” with the aim to sustainably rethink the overall development of the platform, its traffic plan, services to be provided to users, property, secure access and opening up of the site, parking and receiving heavy goods vehicles in the zone, signage, mobility, energy mix etc.

This project consists of “State / Region / PMM / Saint Charles International” joint funding.

The first actions carried out by PMM was to commission AURCA (Catalan Pyrenees-Mediterranean Urban Planning Agency) to carry out a first dynamic diagnosis on the state of play and the development prospects of the zone.

The first actions carried out by the DDTM (Departmental Directorate of Territories and the Sea) made it possible to recruit engineering and expertise from all players in the development of the territory (public/private) and to collect financial support from various public bodies (EPF Occitanie/DREAL Occitanie/Ministry of Ecology – Directorate of Infrastructures and Transport).

This General Assembly also made it possible to express particular thanks to Perpignan Mediterranean Metropolis, to the Occitanie Pyrenees-Mediterranean Region, to Crédit Agricole Sud Méditerranée and to the Banque Populaire du Sud, who once again confirmed their support in all steps and actions undertaken by the group.

Julien Batlle ended by announcing “our group has demonstrated flexibility and agility. It has dealt with various crises by pursuing and adapting its model and actions with the sole aim of meeting the needs of our SMEs and Micro SMEs, and as long as this philosophy is ours, as long as we progress in “project” mode, Saint-Charles Export will have a bright future ahead and its purpose cannot be contested.”

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Fruit & veg buyer reception in Perpignan

Saint-Charles Export held a new buyers' reception in Perpignan from November 20-23 to bring together industry professionals interested in making new contacts with possible trading partners in fruit and vegetables.

Saint-Charles Export held a new buyers’ reception from November 20-23 to bring together industry professionals interested in making new contacts with possible trading partners in fruit and vegetables.

With the help of Business France, it gathered a buyer team including an Irish importer, a German wholesaler, a German importer, two Polish buyers and a Slovenian importer for the Balkan countries (Slovenia, Serbia, Croatia, Kosovo, Albania).

This event was sponsored by founding members of the group: the General Council of the Pyrénées-Orientales, the national union of fruit and vegetable importers/exporters, and the association of owners of Saint Charles International, within the framework of the 2016 Saint-Charles Export programme.

In a press release, Saint-Charles International said the buyers were eager to discover the assets of the Pyrénées-Orientales and the East of the Occitanie region, and of the Saint-Charles platform, in terms of fresh fruit and vegetable production, marketing, transport and logistics,

“Their diverse interests and profiles allowed a very good quality of exchanges and all the visited companies were able to put forward their know-how…”

“Indeed, from the German company, which distributes mainly to discounters, to the wholesaler in Düsseldorf, which supplies convenience stores and markets, or the two purchasers from Poland whose mission is to supply 1070 stores, and the Slovenian importer who already bought in Holland, Egypt, Greece etc, and who finally ordered before the end of the trip… all conditions were present to have a successful trip,” it said.

Saint-Charles Export director Cyril Gornes had developed an intensive program with 20 appointments. The meetings took place at various firms and farms, with visits to:

  • Saint-Charles international trading companies, mostly specialised in Spanish and Moroccan origins,
  • Transport and logistics companies,
  • French salad and stone fruit producers, with visits to salad greenhouses and packing stations,
  • French apple and pear growers, approved by the Pink Lady brand,
  • A variety research and trading centre specialising in apricots,
  • An international trading company focused on Corsican and Tunisian products.

“The buyers had access to an extremely varied product offer, and a range of prices that could interest all the different company profiles of the group.

“From citrus fruit to dates and tomatoes, not to mention transport solutions, questions were numerous during those three days throughout the region.

Some of the companies visited have already received requests for quotations on their products,” Saint-Charles International said.

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Sofruce launching superior quality strawberry brand

French company Sofruce is launching a superior quality strawberry brand this season.

With a 50-year track record in excellence and quality, Sofruce plans to mark this milestone with the presentation of a new brand.

The French company, based at the Saint Charles International platform in Perpignan, has announced it will will launch the ‘superior quality’ strawberry brand this season.



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Winning year for Medfel exhibitors

The Medfel fair, now in its eighth edition, was organised by the South of France Development teams. Saint-Charles Export and the platform MP2 were responsible for the animation of the stands of 43 companies, present on more than 500 m2.

The Medfel fair has just ended and the comments of satisfaction are numerous among members of Saint-Charles Export.

The fair, now in its eighth edition, was organised by the South of France Development teams. Saint-Charles Export and the platform MP2 were responsible for the animation of the stands of 43 companies, present on more than 500 m2, a number reinforced by numerous member companies present in the South of France and Morocco pavilions.

Attendance on the rise

In a press release, organisers said this year Medfel drew 6,122 visitors. Attendance on the first day was up 6% on last year, 8% higher on the second day, and equal for the third and final day. “Those good results show the dynamism of this fair,” the said.

Medfel allows all professionals in fruit and vegetables of the Euro-Mediterranean area, either producers, shippers, importers/exporters or transporters/logistics, to demonstrate their know-how to the more than 6,000 visitors.

Motivated buyers

Among the exhibitors, companies such as Marquillanes and Soleil Roy noted that this year’s exhibition was even better than last year’s. Other feedback welcomed the rise not just in visitors but in very good quality contacts. Some reported making excellent contacts for sales to non-EU countries, particularly in French-speaking Africa, North Africa, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, while others targeted countries on the European continent. And, though keeping a low profile, many buyers of French supermarket chains were also present at the show.

Common factors

But Medfel is a very specific fair for Saint Charles, and some common interests were clearly pointed at.

Firstly, Medfel is an ‘at home’ fair for those companies based in Perpignan, which makes a difference. For example, the company Caustier by STC, an associate member of the platform, manufacturer and installer of conditioning equipment, said: “Proximity allows us to go to the plant directly in order to show our customers machines and come back to the stand, which is obviously a privilege.”

Secondly, and from a commercial point of view, the main objective for exhibitors remains to meet new customers, then to strengthen existing relationships. But another important point, and one often cited by business leaders is that Medfel also allows for what could be described as a ‘family meeting’ between the different sectors, including fruit and vegetable operators and those from transport and logistics. They have the opportunity to exchange in a more friendly manner than usually and renew more personal connections.

Exhibitors in the Saint-Charles Export pavilion were:

Alma Transitaires / Anecoop France / Armand Fabre / Banque Courtois / Banque Populaire du Sud / Bio & Bio / Caustier by STC / CIC Iberbanco / CLTM Port-Vendres / Crédit Mutuel / CTS – Chartering Transport Service / Euler Hermes / Fontestad France / Food Développement Services / Gartner Spedition / Green Produce / Groupe Medina / Guanter Rodriguez / JH Mesguen Transports / JMF Partenariat / Laboratoire Départemental d’Analyses / Laboratoire Phytocontrol / Lacour / Leible Seifried International / Les Fruits Rouges de l’Aisne / Marquillanes / Oryvert / PSCCT / Plénétude Informatique / CCI Port-Vendres / Primar France / Primever Roussillon / Regal’In Europe / RCI / Saint-Charles Export / Satfer / Socafna / Solagora / Soleil Roy International / Spanfruits / Syndicat Mixte MP2 / Top Fruits / Vialade Champignons.


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Sofruce has a new strategy and a new brand

Sofruce markets 55,000 tons, 45% in France and 55% to export markets, particularly Germany, Italy and Eastern Europe

Although the competition is more aggressive and last season was complicated, this year Sofruce is celebrating its 50th anniversary with determination and enthusiasm. It is preparing for the future by introducing several lines of development and launching a new brand. This will reinforce the good progress of Sofruce’s sales last year in all its product categories: vegetables grew by 14%, citrus fruit by 8% and other fruit by 7% in volume terms. Sofruce markets 55,000 tons, 45% in France and 55% to export markets, particularly Germany, Italy and Eastern Europe. Diversification is the keynote of the firm’s new commercial strategy. This season that means greater segmentation in tomatoes and growth in citrus fruit, kaki and certain vegetables. “Thanks to our know-how and client loyalty, Sofruce has become a leading name internationally,” said CEO Grégory Cébrian. The company’s sales of speciality tomatoes such as cherry, olivette and cocktail tomatoes have grown by 13%. It will be marketing 14,000 tons of tomatoes this year, including 4000 tons of speciality types.

A guarantee of quality and several lines of development

Sofruce aims to strengthen its specialisation in strawberries, soft fruit and tomatoes while expanding its range to 6 or 7 major categories, with year-round availability. Kakis have become another strategic product for the company, particularly in response to increasing demand in Eastern Europe. “Kakis are increasingly successful and are helping us to win new clients,” Cébrian said. Stone fruit and melons also promise greater growth each season. Vegetables such as courgettes, carrots and sweet peppers are growing strongly, thanks to their availability throughout the year. Citrus fruit have been a further major development area since the start of the season. “Thanks to the trust our clients place in us, in just three and a half months we have doubled our total 2014/15 sales volume,” Cébrian said.

A new brand, a new promise

Sofruce is also preparing to launch a new ‘superior quality’ brand next season. This will be the beginning of a new stage as the family firm works to establish the Sofruce brand. The rationale for the new brand is to guarantee Sofruce’s commitment to a higher quality product and greater client loyalty. The Sofruce brand communication campaign will simultaneously target major buyers and consumers and their families. “We are looking to market our main products year-round with a real quality guarantee,” Cébrian said. Sofruce’s quality policy is based on two main criteria: a very demanding level of product selection at source (mainly Spain and Morocco) and strict compliance with the product supply chain procedures. This involves introducing upstream supplier specifications, only working with GLOBALG.A.P. certified growers, an internal Quality Manual and a qualified inspection service. Sofruce already guarantees all the food safety standards, with Bio certification since 2011 and IFS logistics certification since 2013.

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Saint Charles International a key hub

F rance imports nearly €4.9 billion worth of fruit and vegetables, 30% of which transit through Saint Charles International.

Nearly a third of France’s fruit and vegetable imports (from Europe and other countries), and a quarter of its exports, move through Saint Charles International.

France imports nearly €4.9 billion worth of fruit and vegetables, 30% of which transit through Saint Charles. This marketing, transport and logistics platform in Perpignan also handles nearly a quarter of France’s €2.7 billion worth of exports. Spain is still the foremost partner: 971,600 tons imported in 2015, accounting for 60% of the total by volume. Morocco, in second place, supplied 411,565 tons, nearly 25% of the volume transiting through Saint Charles. French products amounting to 132,922 tons, mainly from the local region, were also distributed via the platform in 2015. Lastly, 104,054 tons from non-EU countries cleared customs at Saint Charles. In reality, much higher volumes of products from non-EU countries are marketed through this platform, but they are difficult to follow statistically because a large proportion enter the EU through other European countries.

A platform that looks to the future and is doubling its exports

Saint Charles International is pursuing innovation and prospection initiatives and multiplying its logistics solutions in order to strengthen its leadership. The volumes it exports have doubled in 10 years and are now around 700,000 tons. In partnership with the authorities, a price reporting system has been implemented to monitor tomato imports from Morocco, as provided for in the special import regime for this product. “Import prices and volumes are reported daily by the companies” in order to support the mission of the market news network, said communications manager Anne Florin. A project to expand Saint Charles International into the Orline ZAC development zone between Saint Charles and the motorway is also under study.

More combined transport

Perpignan and its region offer a number of rail transport possibilities: conventional, piggyback and combined road/rail transport. Combined transport is now booming, with containers loaded daily onto wagons at the Saint Charles rail terminal. One of the main destinations is Valenton (in southern Paris), for delivery to the Rungis area. A new line to Rotterdam will be operating from 15th March, with five departures a week. The 2-day journey is comparable to the time it takes by road.

The port of Antwerp will also be served directly. In addition, Saint Charles is part of a working group called Clyma (Connexion Lyon-Madrid). The first stage of this European programme analysed the bottlenecks on the Madrid-Lyons axis that need to be eliminated in order to move towards facilitating modal transfers, the development of multiclient freight trains from Saragossa to Germany, and advancing the ‘green corridor’ concept as a whole.

This stocktaking exercise has led to the partners proposing specific measures, classified into priorities 1 to 3, which will enable real progress to be made. The piggyback service is operated by the Lorry Rail company at Le Boulou (between Perpignan and the Spanish border). It consists of loading freight trailers onto special platform wagons. Lorry Rail delivers them direct to Duisbourg (Germany). A project for an additional line to Calais is under study for the longer term, for deliveries to the United Kingdom. By sea, Port-Vendres plans to retrofit the Dezoums quay so that taller shipping from overseas can berth there. Over 300,000 tons a year are imported through this port, particularly from West Africa and Morocco.

Combined road/rail transport a reality

The rail terminal at Saint Charles provides a competitive road/rail transport service for companies based at Perpignan and in the neighbouring regions of Barcelona, Toulouse and Montpellier. The terminal, built in 1985, has been extended from 370 to 750 m in length so that it can take trains of the maximum length allowed in France. This investment has cost €40 million. The road/rail container traffic using the terminal has almost doubled as a result, increasing to 20,000 containers a year, with nearly 50 trains a week. The terminal is mainly publicly-funded, as its break-even point is 30,000 containers a year. It is managed by a semipublic company: 38% of the capital is owned by the province, 35% by the city of Perpignan, 5% by the Chamber of Commerce, 10% by the operator Novatrans, 2% by Froid Combi and 5% by the port of Barcelona.

The volume of fruit and vegetables shipped through this terminal is still small and 75% of the containers loaded there come from Asia. “Our trains are not yet sufficiently regular and punctual to interest the Saint Charles operators.” Compared to Rotterdam or Antwerp, the ports of southern Europe save 2 to 3 days’ sea journey for goods passing through the Suez Canal and the Mediterranean. Rail links for goods from Spain also take some of the traffic off the overcrowded roads: over 10,000 lorries on average pass through Le Perthus, while one train can carry 40 to 50 containers.


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SNIFL turns 50


The “Syndicat National des Importateurs/exportateurs de Fruits et Légumes” (National Union of Importers/Exporters of Fruit and Vegetables, or SNIFL) at Saint Charles International first came ito being in 1965. This was at a time when the few dozen importers operating on the Perpignan wholesale market were beginning to feel cramped for space and the Saint Charles trading hub was still an unfinished Holy Grail. The historic site of Saint Charles International rapidly filled up and many businesses spread out, both inside and outside the site, occupying 200,000 m2 of climate-controlled warehousing across an area of 70 ha.
The fresh fruit and vegetables tonnages sold through the Saint Charles International platform quickly grew. Yves Mir, a former director of Saint Charles, recalls the landmark year of 1984, the year of a million tons, where on one fine day in December, 20,000 tons of citrus fruit passed through the toll gates, or the equivalent weight of two Eiffel Towers.

Different names for different times:

In 1965, SNIFL was known, in English, as the “National Union of Importers and Exporters from Pyrénées-Orientales”.
In 1976, it adopted the name of “National Union of Importers and Exporters of Fruit and Vegetables from Spain”. Since then, SNIFL has remained the “Syndicat National des Importateurs/exportateurs de Fruits et Légumes”.
SNIFL has also developed some fine tools over the years, some of which are unique in France, such as automated import and export databases, or the sector-leading systems for tracking data in real-time.
It was also the site of the world’s first solar power plant integrated into a building in the form of photovoltaic tiles – on the roofs of the warehouses at Saint Charles, where it was inaugurated in 2011.

It has taken fifty years of tireless effort, fights and alliances to create this trading hub based in Perpignan since 1965 – a hub that leads the way in Europe for the sale, transport and logistics of fruit and vegetables.

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Bright economic outlook for Saint-Charles International


Perpignan’s Saint-Charles International – Europe’s most important fruit and vegetable marketing, transport and logistics centre – expects excellent results for the 2014/15 season, with projected increases in volumes, prices and turnover.

According to figures presented at the November 25 AGM of the SNIFL (National Union of Fruit and Vegetable Importers/Exporters), turnover for 2014/15 is forecast to be up 12.54%, volume up 7.94% and prices 4.52% compared to the average for the previous three seasons.

And also based on figures to November 16, the results for 2013/14 are expected to see a 7.79% increase in volume and 4.05% increase in turnover, but a 3.44% slip in prices, compared to the average for the previous three seasons.

Each year, Saint-Charles International handles sales worth €1.6 billion and 1.5 million tons of fruit and vegetables –mainly of Mediterranean origin – and provides 2,500 jobs.

Agreements to share statistics, monitor Moroccan imports

In a press release about the AGM, Saint-Charles International said French Customs and the SNIFL signed an agreement aimed at strengthening relations between them and collaboration on initiatives such as the proposed one-stop customs (GNU) and sharing of statistics.

It also said an agreement was signed between FranceAgrimer (France’s national institution of agricultural and seafood products), the SNIFL and 19 firms with the goal of: “the most comprehensive collection of data enabling a better approach for the calculation of the PFD. That is guaranteed both by the number of operators and their weight in the trade of Moroccan tomato in this case, and by the analysis of different types of tomatoes. Every day before 3pm, the items are sent to the MNC which can exploit them before passing them to the services of the European Commission.”

Importance of Spain for the platform

The AGM was attended by Spanish Consul General Gaudencio Vilas, who described the platform and Spain as “an inseparable duo.” Vilas said Saint Charles International made a huge contribution to the economy of the city of Perpignan and the Pyrénees-Orientales.

He said he would remain vigilant to ensuring “that  free movement of goods within the European Union is respected”, stressing that “the incidents in recent months with Spanish trucks were unacceptable.” Vilas also stressed the importance of future railway links.

Saint-Charles International also paid tribute to Spain’s importance to the market, saying: “Today, Spain is still the leading partner of the platform with some 935,000 ton in citrus fruits, vegetables and fruit, and the main companies of Spanish origin have been since a long time in Perpignan, some since 1968. This meeting was an opportunity for business leaders to show their optimism for future cooperation between Spain and Saint-Charles International, and the parent company of subsidiaries based on the platform has actually confirmed that the Perpignan was for them ‘not cost structures, but added value centers’,” it said.


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