Italy's fruit and vegetable imports are gaining ground at the expense of exports. Climate change-related production fluctuations and labor shortages increasingly drive the market toward imported products. Italian companies must adapt to the new market conditions, notes Vania Pellizzaro, responsible for the Italian market at StoneX Global Payments. StoneX makes payments in over 140 currencies to 180+ countries.
Italian fruit and vegetable import volumes up 4.2%, value by +11.7%
Fruitimprese - the Italian Association of Fresh Produce Enterprises - figures show that in 2022 the total volume of Italian fruit and vegetables exports fell by 0.4%. In contrast, import volumes rose by 4.2%. In particular, higher vegetable (+14.4%) and citrus (+14.8%) imports contributed to that growth. And value-wise, Italian imports increased by 11.7%.
According to Vania, with fruit and vegetable imports rising, importers still have much to gain financially. "Most large companies have their currency conversion well in hand, but this is often uncharted territory for medium and small businesses. They, thus, regularly pay too-high conversion costs because they're completely at the mercy of the local banks' whims."
StoneX specializes in so-called 'cross border payments' of less common currencies. "Our strength lies partly in our corresponding bank network. When you want to convert currency, there must always be an exchange. By no means can every bank do that," says Vania. "If they don't have that relationship, they have to look for a bank that can. We have a direct relationship with local banks in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. So, we can always offer the best local currency rate and make payments on the correct value date."
Branch in Brazil
Brazil is a great example of the service StoneX provides. It started a branch there to facilitate traders with both incoming and outgoing payments. "That offers excellent opportunities for Italian importers of typical Brazilian fruits like mangoes, figs, and grapes. These transactions are still very often conducted in euros and then converted to the local currency. Paying in local currency can save that extra few percent," Vania explains.
As a trading country and re-exporter par excellence, the Netherlands has long had a huge import market share. Nonetheless, the company provides those importers and exporters the same services. "Our extensive correspondent bank network means we let the local banks compete for a currency," adds Jerome de Graaf, StoneX Global Payments' Benelux Senior Sales Manager. "As a result, we always get the most competitive rate from the market. We also get the funds into the supplier's account quickly. Plus, our service is transparent with no unexpected costs," he concludes.
Vania and Jerome recently participated in Macfrut 2023, one of the most prominent events in the fruit and vegetable industry held in Rimini. "The fair presented us with a unique opportunity to connect with numerous small and medium enterprises from Italy. During our discussions, we learned that the trend of importing fruits and vegetables has been on the rise, and many companies are exploring opportunities in Africa and South America to expand their production. This growing demand for arable land and acreage will inevitably result in an increased need for funds to be sent to these countries. As a result, we believe that our company can serve as the ideal point of contact for these enterprises, facilitating the smooth transfer of funds and enabling them to achieve their business objectives."