The number of flights and with these the airfreight capacity was rapidly reduced in the course of the Corona crisis. This had a serious impact on the supply of African fruit and vegetables to Europe. "Even in our main country of origin, Cameroon, capacity was quite limited for a while. This led to corresponding bottlenecks in fresh food," confirms Cedric Timo, importer and major supplier of African products and Managing Director of Grassfields Trading in Ravensburg.
Excerpt from the wide range of fruit and vegetables offered by Grassfields
"In May, we were hardly able to purchase goods from Cameroon and neighboring countries due to the difficult procurement situation. From the end of June onwards, things gradually became more relaxed, and we can now expect almost the usual arrival of airfreight. Since we mainly work with fixed prices, the price situation has not changed much," says Timo.
Nevertheless, the cargo fees are still higher than last year's level. "In the previous year, the fee per kilo of air freight goods averaged 1 Euro, during the lockdown it was 1.60 Euro. In the meantime, the fees have dropped back to 1.20 Euro/kg," adds the importer, whose air cargo mainly arrives in Brussels and is picked near Bruchsal.
Amaranth leaves and bitter cola nuts
Expansion of capacity and product range
About two years ago, the Cameroonian founded Grassfields Trading to bring various food products from his home country to Germany and distribute them to resellers and specialist retailers with African roots. The response was enormous. Timo: "In the meantime, I have been able to triple my business area. In addition, I have expanded the range of goods purchased by several other countries. Our product range now also includes products from Ghana, Uganda, Rwanda and even Latin America."
In the course of this, a lot has also happened on the product level. "For example, we have recently started to offer Cameroonian water spinach, a vegetable crop that has a significantly higher water content compared to commercially available spinach. Another new product in our assortment are amaranth leaves from Togo."
In addition to the wholesale trade, Cedric Timo has also been operating an online store called Camerootz since the end of 2019. This B2C sales channel has also been going well: spices and flour products are the top sellers in the online sector.
Further growth potential
Apart from major African customers, Timo has been able to open up a completely new sales market thanks to the expanded product range. "We have noticed that in the Latin American as well as in the Asian cuisine the same products are used to a large extent. At the same time, this market segment is still not sufficiently served. This is of course particularly advantageous for me as a supplier."
Although there are still many opportunities within the Federal Republic of Germany, Timo also sees chances just across the border. "We get many inquiries from Austria. In Switzerland, we could already gain some customers. In the longer term, I also see opportunities in Northern Italy if necessary. Further growth potential is therefore obviously available both at home and abroad."