Mickeal van Melis, CBO at Davis Europe, had his Eureka moment last year. He was at Fruit Logistica in Berlin. Two years ago, he noticed that most fruit and vegetable sector growers and suppliers still worked very conservatively and modestly. They, however, do it with the necessary risks. Michael had the idea to promote this sector's camaraderie. It would tackle these risks and increase cooperation. It would also be done in a community of, and for, the sector.
"The fruit and vegetable sector is an essential part of the global economy," says Mickeal passionately. "It forms the basis of healthy, mineral and vitamin-rich nutrition. There will always be a demand. It is vital for the food supply. Yet, I see especially small companies at risk in this branch. They struggle sometimes. At Davis Europe B.V., we already ensure that this part of the supply reaches the demand. But, we want to broaden that more."
"We want to build a community that portrays a positive image to the world. It must be an image of a unified force and a globally unified community. The corona crisis has shown that assisting each other and fellowship in the sector is more urgently needed than ever. This crisis is going to have long-lasting effects. And this cooperation will ensure we can withstand every wave of change."
Mickeal wants to progress towards this community gradually. He is doing this together with Davis Europa and the Dutch Firma de Jong fruit. "We went online last week - www.produceunited.com. This website was built by Klok software. We will use this site to look for raw, undiluted stories from suppliers to growers. We want to share these stories on our website. We can then get a picture of how everyone in the sector is faring," says Mikeal.
"Because, currently, we know very little about the Brazilian papaya farmer or the onion grower in India. How are they doing? We are very intertwined in the sector. Yet we know very little about how the other is doing and what they may need. We want people to know they are not facing certain problems alone in the sector. We want to do this by sharing these stories. It could be a support system."
Help each other
"Sharing these stories is the first step. The second is forging contacts between everyone connected to the sector. Included are growers, suppliers, packers, transportation companies, and everyone in between. On the Davis Europe and Firma de Jong Fruit website, you can indicate what you want from the community. Do you want to share knowledge or have advice? Do you have a batch of potatoes you cannot sell? Or are you looking for produce? Do you need or can offer help? In this way, we hope to bring the sector together again."
"We can then support each other in hard times. We have seen in the past that the government cannot or will not always help us. So, we must help each other. That will be difficult at the beginning," admits Van Melis. "I have noticed that the fruit and vegetable sector is modest, yet reluctant and proud. Sometimes you need to swallow your pride a little. You must ask for help if you need it. Now, with this community, you can."
If everything goes according to plan, the site's Socials will open soon. The community can then run itself. "Davis Europe moderates the site. We can do so because we are neutral on the market. Our philosophy is, after all, to bring market supply and demand together."
"We can create growth again!"
"Such a community is crucial. Especially now, in this time of crisis. The measures taken to combat the spread of the coronavirus are going to leave an ugly mark. There may be bankruptcies in the sector. That is why we must work together to help each other stay afloat. Fruit and vegetables are a basic necessity. So we have space and opportunities. The sector can, therefore, grow again - with Produce United, we can create growth again," concludes Mickael.