R&F Import Export BV is a new company that was founded February 1, 2014. From Massland, the Netherlands Frans Schwiebbe and his partner organize the sales of Turkish citrus, in the European retail sector, from nine growers. R&F Import Export owns the Agromall packaging center and growers' cooperative in Mersin, Turkey, where the citrus is packaged according to Western standards. The new Turkish citrus season is about to begin, "We have to sell 35,000 tons of citrus this upcoming season (from September to May)!"
The main products that R&F Import Export sells is lemons, red and white grapefruit, tangerines, oranges and pomegranates. In addition, the company started selling 15,000 tons of Turkish watermelons, apricots, nectarines, cherries and figs this summer, "Agromall is our source and that is how we are able to supply our customers directly from the source, with no middleman. We do everything ourselves. We guide the growers, pick the harvest, sell and deliver everything to the customer. Because everything is in our hands we can quickly apply new ideas and packaging," says Frans.
"We start in week 39 with lemons, pomegranates and Okitsu tangerines, followed by red grapefruit in week 43, white grapefruit in week 45 and oranges in week 44-45," says Frans. "The citrus arrives on an empty market so expectations are high. Currently we close season deals with retailers all over Europe. In addition, we seek partners with whom we can create something special, like new packaging, attractive promotions and thinking together with our partners. How can we create a more attractive and better product, and how can we ensure that additional demand comes from the customers? It is a continual process. Right now we are working on developing a sweeter grapefruit and a summer variety for lemons."
Partners in each EU country
"Our goal is to find a partner in each EU country who can get our product into the retail sector, directly or indirectly. We are moving along nicely with that goal. It is possible for us to capture large programs and promotions, but we are also capable of ordering a mix of ten pallets. We have a collaboration with three transport companies and our logistics partners Mestur, Özçelik and Sümbül Transport have 137 refrigerated trucks to deliver fresh products, direct from the source, to our customers. We also have logistics partners in Romania, Poland, Germany and the Netherlands. We can supply to every corner of Europe, even if it's just a pallet."
Agromall is certified with BRC, IFS and BRCI for social compliance, "The European mentality and requirements are followed throughout the entire process. We started guiding our growers in February. Our quality control employees advise and monitor the growers in things like irrigation and pesticides, where the EU specifications regarding quality and MRL-values is central. This is how we guarantee that all our products are EU acceptable," says Frans. "We focus on selling our citrus within the retail sector. Turkish citrus is gaining ground within the European retail sector. Our philosophy: deliver 85% of our product directly to the retail sector."
Frans does not exclude the idea that R&F Import Export would involve products from other countries as well in the future, "We first want to get our European sales in line, but within our product groups there are certainly opportunities to supply the retail sector all year round. We will always stay loyal, that means selling products from our own growers. You won't see us buying a few pallets of oranges from South Africa."
Due to the Russian boycott of citrus from the EU, the temptation might be great to fully concentrate on the Russian market, but Frans is not planning on doing that, "Turkey has realized a huge increase in their economy without Russia. Last year some Turkish shippers went bankrupt or they had an outstanding balance with Russia. We have a long term vision for this company, we want to grow old with this company. It would be short-sighted to throw everything overboard and seize an incident like the boycott just to earn a few extra Euro."
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