It was an interesting year in the German fruit and vegetable sector. Good communications between producers, cooperatives and the trade were more important than ever. This is one of the main items on the agenda of the two Pfalzmarkt für Obst und Gemüse board members Reinhard Oerther and Hans-Jörg Friedrich. During their visit to Mutterstadt, they talked about their ambitious plans for the future, with a focus on conversation and cooperation.
Friedrich and Oerther have been on the board of the producer cooperative in the heart of Germany's vegetable garden since the beginning of 2018: "A new impetus is needed, particularly in these difficult times. We want to act as a unit and have a strong team behind us, with whom we want to break up the classic, rather hierarchical structure of a cooperative," Friedrich explains.
Reinhard Oerther and Hans-Jörg Friedrich during a FreshPlaza visit to Mutterstadt two weeks ago. (Photo: FreshPlaza.de)
One part of this plan is the new building on the Mutterstadt site. Despite Corona, everything is going according to plan there: "There were some obstacles before construction began. For example, a European high-voltage transmission line had to be laid. Since the active start of construction, everything is now running exactly to schedule. Currently, the walls are literally sprouting out of the ground and in December the shell of the new building is scheduled to be closed off."
At the official ground-breaking ceremony at the end of August: Adrian Blank, Project Control Manager at Drees & Sommer, Mannheim, Mike Bollongino, architect, Hans-Jörg Friedrich and Reinhard Oerther, Executive Board members, Christian Deyerling, Chairman of the Supervisory Board, Andreas Renner, Chairman of the Advisory Board at Pfalzmarkt eG and Hans-Dieter Schneider, Mayor of Mutterstadt. (Photo: Pfalzmarkt eG)
The major investment goes hand in hand with the expansion of services at the Pfalzmarkt: "Our cooperative is focused on fresh fruit and vegetable products from our Palatinate cultivation companies. This means that we can normally serve the market from March to November. After that, as a seasonal supplier, we first take a back seat and then have to work our way back to a shelf space at the start of the new season. That is why we have decided to additionally offer imported goods from contract farming during the winter months."
The product range is to cover itself with the summer offer of the Pfalzmarkt and comes from other EU member states, like Spain, Italy, France and Portugal. "Last winter we traded with imported goods for the first time, this year the quantities are to be increased step by step after intensive discussions with the local producers," Oerther confirms. The year-round supply will further establish the company as a reliable partner of the trade and will make the transition from imported goods to fresh produce from the Palatinate vegetable garden even smoother. "This strengthens the service aspect towards our producers and the food retailers."
Thanks to this development, the existing halls in Mutterstadt will by no means stand empty: "In the future, we will use these capacities for services and third-party goods. If required, packing and finishing can also take place there."
Thomas Reeb is growing edamame for fresh consumption on a trial basis in the Palatinate - one of the cooperative's latest projects. (Photo: Pfalzmarkt eG)
Oerther and Friedrich will emphasize that they see themselves as having a responsibility in the future to provide increased support to the producers of the Pfalzmarkt: "The coronavirus has given a whole new emphasis to the question of supply security. The freshness of food is becoming increasingly important. The minimum wage is rising. All these requirements put a lot of pressure on our members and we want to help them as best we can! In the future, Pfalzmarkt could therefore also consider centralized packaging logistics for individual products. "In addition to this, project groups for young farmers are planned to develop and implement concepts and solutions together. Dialogue remains important in order to make the services provided by agriculture even more transparent for consumers."