"Spain consuming 99% of the current and future Canary production"
Spain: "The high demand for avocados pushes prices to risky levels"
Tropical products are increasingly important for importers. The popularity of certain fruits, such as avocados, makes it increasingly difficult to compete against other importers, and prices tend to skyrocket at certain times.
We spoke with Christophe Laffon, commercial director of Grupo Fernández, about current events and trends in the importation of tropical products, as well as about the ripening and marketing of Canary bananas.
Grupo Fernández, which launched its new corporate image at the recent edition of Madrid's Fruit Attraction, sells about 100 fruit and vegetable varieties from around the world, but is specialised in the ripening and marketing of bananas from the Canary Islands and from Costa Rica, Colombia, Cameroon and Suriname, as well as in tropical products, such as avocados from Spain, Mexico and Peru; mangoes from Spain, Brazil and Peru; pineapples from Costa Rica; papayas from Spain and Brazil; yucca from Costa Rica; plantains from Costa Rica or limes from Mexico, Brazil, etc. With delegations in Barcelona, Madrid, Alicante, Tarragona, Lleida and Tenerife, it runs a storage, ripening, handling and distribution network at the service of other wholesale companies and all types of retail customers, such as supermarkets, specialised stores and the HORECA channel.
According to Christophe "whenever demand increases, there are opportunities to grow. The fact that other importers work in this direction is quite normal in the market." It is true that the current increase in the demand for avocados worldwide is pushing prices to very risky levels, but we expect that, as the supply increases, the market will also tend to stabilise."
Regarding weather phenomena such as El Niño and how they can have an impact on imports, Christophe says that "we, as importers, look for the product wherever it is viable to market it; the weather is always changing and the smart thing to do is to always have a plan B."
Also, we are seeing more and more Latin American multinationals opening subsidiaries in Europe, either in the Netherlands, due to its logistical advantages, or in Spain, as it is a natural gateway for producers in Latin America, mainly because of the language. "We think that this phenomenon is more relevant for the marketers that act as brokers. Our job, in addition to seeking the supply of the products, is the processing or ripening that retailers need to be able to sell them to the consumer. Our work is increasingly more focused on offering a product that meets the needs of our clients," he says.
Aguacates under the Cuqui brand, of Grupo Fernandez
People tend to think that the Spanish market is more conservative when it comes to trying new products and flavours compared to other northern European countries. According to Christophe Laffon, it is rather the opposite. "Spain produces tropical fruits such as bananas, mangoes, papayas, avocados, etc. It is true that these productions are smaller, but the consumer is not unfamiliar with these products, and the consumer is very open to trying new products."
Besides avocados, Christophe is confident that the popularity of mangoes and papayas will continue to grow in Spain. "We know that the production of these fruits is on the rise in Spain, and their first market will be the domestic one," he says.
"Spain will consume 99% of current and future Canary production"
Grupo Fernández handles around 70,000 tonnes of bananas from the Canary Islands and other countries. "Bananas are sold all year round and this gives us the opportunity to offer the rest of our range as well. The fact that this entails ripening and handling customised to meet the client's needs allows us to maintain a constant line of service and to offer other seasonal products," he explains.
Statistics show a steady growth in the presence of imported bananas in Spain. But, does that mean that those bananas will take over market share from Canary bananas in the Spanish market?
"Canary bananas remain the number one choice. Spain will continue to consume 99% of the current and future Canary banana production, and we understand that the consumption of imported bananas will go up as the number of consumers of this type of product increases," says Christophe Laffon.
As is also the case in several European countries, there are increasingly fewer medium and small ripeners. Christophe Laffon has noticed that, "as in almost all sectors, joining forces helps guarantee a good level of service to all customers. This is also the case for ripeners, who understand the importance of combining efforts and resources in order to remain competitive."
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Publication date: 11/29/2017
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