Another company has joined the organic fruit sector. Peter Abma started his new company, called Lema, in September. It’s no surprise he focuses on Greek product, considering his background. Besides, he’s paying a lot of attention to building good relationships. What about threats? “Climate change is one of the biggest threats to us.”
Peter joined the fruit and vegetable sector early. “After my military service I started working in the vegetable department of a supermarket. After that I joined a larger supermarket, and I later also became a buyer for Dutch supermarket chain Hoogvliet, and then I joined Hollander Barendrecht. I was in daily contact with the Plus supermarket chain for them. I then switched to the international import and export of conventional fruit. I felt like I was missing something while there, so I decided I wanted to work in the organic sector. I worked for a large company for ten years before starting for myself. We joined Fairtrasa, but the urge for my own company was large. That’s the reason I've now started Lema, so I can implement my own vision and ideas here.”
With Lema, Peter will dedicate himself to the import and export of organic fruit. “It’s important to choose a basic assortment you care about. For me, that includes Greek product. Our biggest products are kiwi fruit and citrus.” When Primeur spoke to Peter, he was on the Greek mainland. “The first oranges are now being harvested, and I want to be there for that. I like to see it as it’s being packed and loaded on lorries, so that I can be certain it will arrive well in the Netherlands. I travel back and forth a lot to make sure everything goes well and to stay in contact with the growers.” On the day the fruit arrived in the Netherlands, Peter was back as well.
Besides the basic assortment, Peter also has additional products. “I’ll be importing multiple overseas products year-round. I naturally also have more seasonal products. There are a lot of innovative growers in Greece, among other places, who have wonderful products others don’t want to make the time for. We offer these on our website in the ‘Lema Boutique.’ An example of these are goji berries. Sales of these aren’t large, but it’s still fun to carry them. We also have a raspberry variety, for instance, that can only be harvested during three or four weeks, but which tastes delicious. It’s like a little present! I think fruit first and foremost has to have a good flavour.”
Additionally, Peter wants to be distinctive in the services he offers. “We want to be distinctive by having short lines and good communication. Availability and service should come first. Customers don’t ask for much, but you should be able to supply what they ask for. The only thing customers ask for is the right product of the right quality at the right place and time. Customers can also always contact me with questions about special products. If we don’t have that product at that time, we can start looking for it in our network.”
Environmental and climate problems
Peter didn’t have to think long when deciding to do organic. “The damage conventional agriculture is doing to the environment and health is enormous. We often talk about factories and cars, but when looking at the number of hectares taken up by conventional agriculture and its influence on the environment, it’s even more damaging. Besides, in many cases, organic fruit just tastes better.”
Peter mostly sees opportunities, as mentioned before, in specialities and relationships. He sees challenges particularly in availability. “The climate is changing terribly. For example, Italy had heavy rain and Greece had snow. No one counted on that. But you still have to be able to supply a good-quality product. That’s where we see challenges.”