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Albania is the new competitor for Italy

Fresh produce distribution is a rather complex world and the dynamics that regulate it take into consideration more than the balance between supply and demand, which is indeed an important element, yet a reductive one within a globalized system. Alifresca is the perfect example of this, a fully Swiss cooperative, i.e. a holding based in Basel with two offices in Verona and Valencia. Distribution is carried out mainly in seven different countries of the Coop Group such as obviously Switzerland for the big retail chain in general, Cash & Carry and the Food Service sector, France for Food Service and Spain, Germany, Poland, Romania and Austria again for the Cash & Carry and Food Service segments.

Vladimir Cob.

Vladimir Cob, CEO of Alfresca who visited Sicily over the past few days, reported how Italy is a strategic country for procurement and also discussed how the company is getting ready for the historical changes underway.

"Italy is geographically very close to Switzerland, so we have a privileged relationship with it. Let us not forget that Italian is one of the three official languages of the Swiss Confederation and there is also a connection when it comes to social and culinary traditions. That is why 35% of our volumes comes from Italy, 25% of which is organic. It is a complete range that includes fruits and vegetables, with the only limitation imposed by Switzerland in certain times of the year, i.e. when the local production is available."

How convenient is it to import from Italy?
"We do not work with Italy because of the prices, but rather due to the high-quality of Italian agriculture. The peculiarity of Italy is the vast biodiversity of its territories, which the Swiss know very well. Spain is instead identified in its generic complexity, regardless of the production areas. After all, Italy and Italianness convey a very positive image on a global scale, but thinking that we base ourselves on a stereotype would be a big mistake. We work with Italy and Sicily because, over time, we have established relationships based on the credibility of our suppliers and the high-quality of products, and not just on prices alone. What Italy is losing, however, is the diversification of its varieties, which are becoming increasingly standardized. The peculiarities linked with the territories - Italy's actual wealth - need to be rediscovered, otherwise persimmons, kiwifruits and stone fruit will end up losing ground."

"Those producers who manage to maintain their distinctive Italian trait do really well with us, also because they never approximate and stand out thanks to their professionalism, which turns into added value. The main products are citrus fruit, table grapes and tomatoes, plus there is a rediscovery of cherries, stone fruits, brassicas and - surprisingly - asparagus, which have conquered Swiss and European consumers this year."

Future challenges
"Our next challenges are mainly outside of Italy, due to the lack of labor and climate change, which have become a considerable problem. We pass from drought to floods in a matter of just a few weeks. Production costs are always increasing and bank credit is becoming less and less accessible to medium-small companies. Then we need to add direct and indirect speculation linked with the geopolitical situation at international level."

"Italy, which produces in good part for the domestic market, generally has an advantage with respect to Spain, which focuses mainly on exports, as it has a greater stability margin. However Italian exports risk slowing down due to new players such as Turkey, Macedonia and Greece, in addition to historic competitors such as Spain and Maghreb countries. The rather fluid situation on a global level and, especially, global change mean we are faced with the need to find alternatives to integrate procurement, which has become increasingly complicated. We are expecting to make new investments in this new scenario, which are currently being pondered. The next new player for us, although not holding primary role, is Albania, an extra-EU country like Switzerland, and one where bureaucracy is simpler. It is not by chance as, while Italy is indeed an official language in Switzerland, it actually comes after Albanian, which is the third spoken language. Coop Switzerland will invest in facilities, training and productions, in line with Coop's primacy of being a leading sustainable company holding the most important international certifications."

For more information:
Vladimir Cob Sevilla
Alifresca Italy Srl
Tel.: +39 045 208 3910
Email: [email protected]

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