Taranto's mayor Ippazio Stefàno (left in the photo below) started off by thanking all those who made the project possible and stressing how "institutions must help tear down barriers rather that posing obstacles."
Michiel Den Hond (in the photo below), the Dutch ambassador in Italy, went on to talk about the role of the Netherlands in transportation and logistics.
The Taranto Port Authority has in fact signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Greenery Italia - an Italian company part of Dutch group The Greenery - with the objective of strengthening logistics in the agri-food chain.
"Producer organisations from Apulia, Basilicata and Calabria created the C.I.A.O. Italia consortium with the purpose of establishing a network to meet the demands of Italian and European retailers. Two weeks later, Greenmed Srl - a company trading fresh produce - was funded by CIAO and Greenery Italia."
"I'm really pleased about it as Italian produce will be distributed all over Europe with the help of the Netherlands. The country has extensive experience in logistics and international transport as Rotterdam's port is one of the biggest in the world and Amsterdam-Schiphol airport is the third in Europe. Apulia too has a key role for its strategic position in the Mediterranean basin, so I believe the Fresh Port project will be perfect to help the cooperation between Apulia and the Netherlands."
Nicola Tauro (left), council member of the Matera province, stressed how this project can be considered the first step towards future developments.
"The idea came up after a visit to FloraHolland - which represents 65% of the worldwide flower traffic - to see how efficiently it operates. We realised we could take advantage of the contacts we had in the Netherlands."
The aim is to take full advantage of the port's potential - the Terminal Container is already equipped with 900 sockets for reefers; the Logistic Platform will be complete by 2015; it will soon be recognised as DPE for produce and equipped with laboratories to analyse produce samples or with a shuttle services to transport said samples.
A representative of the Taranto terminal container workers also intervened, saying that "we need concrete measures. If Taranto's port dies, everything connected with it will die too. We like the project but what will become of it with no port?"
Giorgio Mercuri, president of Fedagri Confcooperative and of the CIAO Italia consortium went on to analyse the agri-food situation in Southern Italy.
"The Italian agri-food sector represents 17% of the domestic GDP. 30% of certified products comes from the South, just like 61% of organic produce. 80% of produce in the South is cultivated in Apulia, Campania and Sicily."
"Still, there are still many problems concerning exports and the size of the companies, that is why we teamed up with The Greenery. Our objective is to be presented on the European market in a different way."
Bjarne Thomsen, president of Greenmed Srl and general manager of Greenery Italia, presented the work of The Greenery.
"The Greenery was established in 1996 by 9 fruit and vegetable auctions in order to create a single company. Nowadays, it gathers 700 producers with over 1,800 employees and a €1.4 billion turnover. The Group works with over 60 countries worldwide."
"Unfortunately, Italy is still behind with an average turnover of only €26,000 (against the €54,000 of Germany), in addition, the trend has been rather flat from 2005 onwards (see chart below)."
"After over a year - quite a short time for Italians but a very long time for the Dutch - we created Greenmed (CIAO + The Greenery) in order to get closer to final consumers."
Fulvio Lino Di Blasio (left), director of Ernst&Young, talked about public and private financing in the agri-food sector and the president of Taranto's Chamber of Commerce Luigi Sportelli (below left) and the president of Taranto's Confindustria Enzo Cesareo (below right) also made an intervention.
Sportelli said how the initiative is a good start for a better future and, acting as Agromed's president, invited everyone who took part to consider a cooperation between Agromed and Fresh Port. Cesareo added that the project is very important because it demonstrates how bigger things can be achieved when working together.
An internet portal will be created and the Consortium will also take part in the next Fruit Logistica fair in Berlin (4th-6th February 2015).