OTC Organics from Dronten, the Netherlands, had an animated year. Of various internal changes, including a move from Lelystad to Dronten, and a new ERP system, to a commercially successful year. With purchasing manager Matthé Hendrikse we look back on 2018 and forward to 2019.
Matthé Hendrikse and Fred Kloen in Argentina
Firstly, Matthé enthusiastically talks about the internal events of OTC. The company changed its name, from Organic Trade Company Holland to OTC Organics. “We switched to a new ERP system, Navision, as of 1 January 2019,” he starts talking. “We were outgrowing the current system regarding the options, so we decided to switch to another ERP system. We first had to set up the working environment, and then we had to train all of our workers. That has a major impact on the operational work climate in a company that’s fortunate enough to continue growing all the while. We appointed one key-user per department, who had to spend an average of one to three days per week on this. This resulted in additional pressure of work, internally, but it’s now bearing fruit: the external parties notice little to nothing of this change.” OTC is a specialist in organic fruit and vegetables, and imports and exports both in and outside of Europe. Large sales markets for OTC are Germany, Scandinavia, France, the UK, Austria, Belgium, the Netherlands and Switzerland.
“Additionally, we moved from Lelystad to Dronten in May. We’re in a brand-new building, it’s a perfect working environment. This all went seamlessly as well. We stopped working in Lelystad on a Friday, and on Monday we could start in Dronten without any problems. Those responsible for this process within our company truly deserve our compliments for this!”
Product development manager Alexander Restrepo in Colombia
Good overseas top fruit season
After all of these positive changes, OTC also had a good year regarding business. “We really had a good year in 2018. It was one of the best years we could’ve imagined.” These positive results can partly be explained by the overseas top fruit season. “The European season was very short, and as a result, apples and pears were much in demand early in the season. Prices were very high right away because of this: sales and turnover were doubled compared to the average.We imported from countries such as South Africa, Argentina and Chile. The top fruit from South Africa arrived on the market early, in January and February. Normally this product isn’t in demand then, but it was last year.” Besides the apples and pears, citrus and grapes from South Africa were also very successful.
“Besides, we’ve also had a very successful project with limes from Colombia. Our colleague Alexander Restrepo – a Colombian – started this project, and he’s still guiding it. Thanks to this project, we now have the option of supplying organic limes to our customers year-round. To that end, we’re working with a group of growers. They recently visited us, and they told us they now have a stable income thanks to us. That’s naturally a wonderful thing.”
However, 2018 wasn’t just a year of favourable factors, there were also some unfavourable ones. Think of, for instance, the (extremely) warm and dry summer. “It was a difficult year for onions, for example, and that’s a major product for us. At the start of 2018, plenty of onions were available, including Egyptian onions. Price levels were low and volume pressure was high. This was followed by the extremely hot, dry summer. Because of this, many onion growers saw their yields halved. Because of this, we can now meet demand of our permanent customers, but we also have to tell people no a lot. I expect organic onions to be out of stock in April,” Matthé says.
When we’re talking to Matthé, they’re still working hard with various products. “That’s the beauty of an extensive range, isn’t it? Onions continue to be a current product. Each arriving kilogram could be sold 25 times. Besides, we’re also in the middle of the South African grapes and Peruvian ginger and turmeric season, and we received the first containers of Peruvian mango this week as well. Additionally, OTC now also offers a broad assortment of South African stone fruit.”
Traditional winter vegetables and Colombian pumpkins
“Chicory and the traditional winter vegetables like leek, broccoli and celery are now still widely available on the market. These are enjoying a good demand now, but that’s mostly seasonal. The leek market is still affected by the warm summer as well.” Besides, OTC will start importing Hokkaïdo pumpkins. “Orange pumpkins are now booming. Germany in particular is a proper pumpkin country,” Matthé continues. “We’re now working with the final Dutch pumpkins. We’ll then switch to Colombia, Argentina and Egypt. We started our own project in Colombia, because this product isn’t consumed much there. We expect our first shipment of Colombian pumpkins early in February.”
Matthé is feeling positive about 2019 so far. “We’re feeling positive for 2019, although we’re a little worried about the top fruit season. There are plenty of apples available in Europe, but fewer pears. The apples suffered a bit in the hot summer. It’s not yet clear what the effects of the hot summer will be on quality. Up till now, not all reports on quality were equally favourable. Due to the large supply, we’re expecting the import season to start slightly later compared to last year. We’ll also have to wait and see what’ll happen with onions. We know they’ll quickly run out this season, but the new season is difficult to predict, because we’re dependent on weather conditions.”
“I’m expecting a stable year for citrus. That is a good demand market: every kilo you receive can be sold well. However, it’s becoming more and more difficult to import because of the European phytosanitary measures. We’ll have to await what’ll happen with avocado as well. The organic avocado is under pressure from the enormous conventional supply. We mostly import our avocados from Peru, Mexico and Kenya.”
Bananas will arrive in week six. “We have a project for the production of pineapple in Ivory Coast. That wasn’t quite successful last year, but we now have the quality and logistics under control much more. We’re therefore choosing to give it another go. I expect our first shipment mid-February.”
In January 2019, OTC will also introduce a new corporate identity. Bart van der Vliet, Sales & Marketing Manager for OTC Organics: “Due to growing ambitions and accompanying aims, a new identity made sense. A dynamic company like OTC Organics should also have a new visual identity to increase our recognisability. We’re therefore proud to introduce our new corporate identity. The logo symbolises the world of OTC Organics. The circle, an organic shape, could be seen as a globe, filled with changing varieties of fruit and vegetables from our extensive assortment. Thus, a rich pallet is created to represent our extensive supply. Our logo isn’t fixed, but changes, adjusts and evolves independently of surroundings and circumstances. Just like OTC Organics. The logo also zooms in on our products: OTC Organics guarantees continuity thanks to product knowledge and specialism. Like no others, we know what’s good for suppliers and buyers. Our specialism safeguards the supply chain,” he concludes.