With more than 50 years of experience in the import and export of fresh fruits and vegetables, Sofruce is undergoing a period of important development. In 2018, the company currently managed by Grégory Cebrian, grandson of the company’s founder, generated a turnover of 87 million euros [99 million USD].
If historically, Sofruce used to focus primarily on soft fruit and on Spanish production, its business model has evolved in recent years. It is now based on three strategic pillars: soft fruit (strawberries are in pole position, with strong ambitions for raspberries and blueberries), citrus fruits (especially the Easy from Morocco) and tomatoes (especially segmentation tomatoes). Additionally, Sofruce is strongly developing melons, starting as early as March.
Fabien Lefebvre and Grégory Cebrian
“A complex end of 2018 for the tomatoes from Morocco”
Already delicate due to the mild temperatures in Northern Europe allowing for a lengthy season for local products, the tomato market was considerably disrupted in the second half of December.
Despite the “butterfly effect” (a chain of successive events, where each event is affected by the previous one), Sofruce managed to adapt to the many disturbances of the European market, made worse by the logistics problems caused by the social movements in France and from the Russian market, which, as usual, stopped importing towards the end of the year. “Our commercial teams have accomplished tremendous work to keep sales flowing despite the sudden increase in production volumes (more than 1,500 tons arriving daily in Perpignan in weeks 51 and 52).
The price range has been widening downwards for the round, the cherry wine tomatoes and especially for the baby plum tomatoes, where the supply has been largely superior to the demand.” Fabien Lefebvre remains optimistic: “now, the market is firming up, the cold has settled, the month of January will be better. We have January, February, March and April to value the work of our producers. Towards the end of April, the market will be disturbed again by the start of the campaign in Northern Europe.”
Citrus market: more volumes for a lower average selling price
Fabien Lefebvre explains that “the range of prices is slightly lower than in the previous campaign although the quality is on point.” He adds that the production volumes have increased significantly for the clementines, particularly in the Berkane region. “The North-American market is weaker than in the previous years, the pressure from the Turkish and Egyptian products on the Russian market is growing each year and Morocco is refocusing largely on the European market.”
With the new year starting, we are launching the Nour campaign, a very interesting clementine variety available on European markets during the whole month of January. A “differentiating product that brings a real added value”, as Fabien Lefebvre describes it, which will be followed by the Afourer/Nadorcott campaign until April; a promising second half of the season.
The Maria company, a 2018 novelty
Fabien took up his position of general manager in a context of important and sustainable development, marked by the creation by Grégory Cebrian of a new company: Maria, the producers’ platform. While the activities of Sofruce are primarily based on Cross-Docking activities from Perpignan and Rotterdam for “tailor-made” solutions, Maria consists of the “direct shipment of productions to all destination markets.” With this concept, Sofruce-Maria offers its partner-producers a unique opportunity to develop their global strategy. With a value creation approach, including business exclusivity and with a customer-centric approach focused on quality and sustainability. The two main partners to date are the COPAG group, with 120,000 tons of citrus fruits and 60,000 tons of vegetables, and the Rosaflor group, with 40,000 tons of segmentation tomatoes, early vegetables and melons. This type of partnership is being developed in Spain, Morocco and other complementary origins.
“Growth levels in the 3-digits” for organic goods
“Most of our products categories have both conventional and organic lines. It is on these last ones that we observe the highest levels of growth. The UK, Scandinavia and Germany are still the most receptive markets, nevertheless the French organic market is rising significantly.”