Speaker Tom Quets, Capespan
One of the speakers at the forum is Tom Quets, CIO, Capespan Global Fruit Marketing. Freshplaza talked to him, and he gave his opinion on several subjects, including what digitalization means for import. "We want to digitalize, because we want to improve the way we work. The focus has to be on creating added value and transparency, rather than the obsolete administration of procedures." Capespan is an importer of fruit from overseas. Tom indicates that importing fruit and vegetables from overseas can be rather complicated in Europe. "Especially compared to other continents. European clients have many information demands, and this is sometimes a trade barrier for potential exporters when compared to other continents. In other continents, importing goes 'smoother', which means Europe could become less attractive as an importer. That's why we have to make clever use of digitalization together, to provide an answer to this issue, to get added value from it. That way, within Europe we can stay competitive compared to the rest of the world."
Europe, with 28 member states, has complicated rules regarding import of fresh produce. "These days, administrating this still requires paper documents and stamps, contrary to the USA, for instance. The (plans for) digitalization of these within Europe is largely in the hands of two departments within the European Commission: DG-Sanco (health and consumers) and DG-Taxud (taxation and customs union). They are working on a 'single windows' procedures to improve these procedures, but sadly that's taking a lot of time." Nevertheless, he says it remains crucial for us in the fresh produce sector to have a say in these developments. "To stay competitive with other global economies - and they're not standing still either - we ultimately have to reach faster and better, more streamlined import procedures. The stamps have to go."
There aren't just issues with digitalization in import, the digital link between trade and retail is also not always very smooth. Tom thinks the answer here is a further standardization in retail information requirements, and he gives a practical example: "Within European retail, there are requirements for more than 15 different types of pallet labels, which all tell the same story, essentially. This requires additional costs in the chain, which ultimately find their way to suppliers and growers, in turn making 'us' less competitive. These costs could be avoided by agreeing upon 1 standard. Bigger and broader involvement of retail is necessary to reach true standards."
Digitalization, not bad
He points out that at the moment, Europe isn't doing all that bad when it comes to digitalization. "Software systems have long found their way into many fresh produce companies, and those systems are continually improving. Internal business procedures have for some time been automated by ERPs and digital EDI exchange of data between external parties. This has reached a certain level of maturity, and 'newer' concepts like GDSN data pools are also receiving more and more attention within fresh produce."
Going for global standardization
Freshplaza is media partner of the event