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Cathy Burns, CEO of PMA: "Spain has everything it needs to play a leading role"

"We want to provide solutions to the great challenges of the Spanish horticultural sector"

European suppliers are expanding their presence in the global fruit and vegetable sector, with Spain at the forefront of this trend. Its productive and export potential stands well above that of other countries, such as Chile or South Africa. The emerging role of Spain as a global supplier is the result of developments in its way of producing and the search for new opportunities inside and outside Europe, which has traditionally been its most important market. The country is emerging internationally, gaining access to markets in Asia, the Middle East and North America. The Spanish fruit and vegetable sector, however, is facing major challenges that prevent it from embracing this world leading role.

That is why the Global Development Committee (GDC) of the Produce Marketing Association (PMA), a commercial organization that represents companies from all segments in the global supply chain of fresh and floral products, has recently met in Spain to learn about the country's fresh fruit and vegetable sector. The program included a tour of Murcia (one of the most important production areas, with around 19% of the country's total) that took place from March 1 to 3 and came to a close with the Industry Forum, organized in Valencia on Wednesday 5.

Ursula Mejia-Melgar, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer of AM FRESH; Cathy Burns, CEO of PMA, and Carolina Palomo, also from the Marketing Department of AM FRESH.

“The GDG meeting held this week in Spain has given us an opportunity to understand this market's challenges and opportunities and allowed us to figure out how we can offer solutions. It is also part of PMA's overall mission to bring global fruit and vegetable and floral communities together in order to cultivate a healthier world," said Cathy Burns, CEO of PMA.

“This committee has traditionally met in key producing countries, so that members can learn more about its local industry, develop business opportunities and share ideas and discussions with business leaders. Given Spain's position as a European leader in the production of fruits and vegetables, it made sense that the GDC would meet here and learn more about this country's role as a global supplier, as well as about the latest developments in Spanish production and the potential for exports to North America and new markets in Asia. The knowledge we gain from this meeting will help shape our efforts to offer added value to our members in the coming months," said the PMA representative.

Exports have again played a big part in Spain's economic growth in recent years. In 2019, they increased by 8% in terms of volume and by 5% in terms of value; however, profit margins are shrinking in all links of the value chain. The sector's fragmentation and climate change are also perceived as major challenges for the future, especially due to the growing water shortage. In fact, much of Spain is expected to end up considered a desert by 2100, according to information collected by this organization.

"PMA can help improve the commercial value of the Spanish fruit and vegetable sector and change trends by providing global connections and market information. It can also facilitate discussions on key issues with parts of the supply chain, sharing the work to allow existing talent to develop and attract new talent to the industry. In short, it allows the sector to work with the industry and boost the demand for products and flowers among consumers. Spain has everything it needs to play a leading role," said Gary York, president of the PMA GDC and vice president of the American company Robinson Fresh, a leader in solutions for the supply chain and the supply of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Representatives of the companies and organizations that make up the GDC, such as Sun World Innovations, Costco Wholesale, NS Brands Limited (NatureSweet), Maria Flowers International, Pro Colombia, Fresh Produce Marketing or Dallas/Fort International Airport, took part in guided tours in order to learn more about leading production companies in Murcia and Spain as a whole, such as El Ciruelo, a large producer of table grapes and stone fruit; El Dulze, specialist in the production of lettuce, corn, herbs and other vegetables, and New Growing Systems NGS, which provides great technological value with its hydroponic systems, which are designed for efficient and highly productive cultivation.

FreshPlaza attended this event as a guest between March 1 and 4. In the coming days, reports on visits to the aforementioned companies will be published, as well as information on the opportunities and challenges of the Spanish fruit and vegetable sector and debates on how to address them on the part of PMA.

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