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Direct exports from Morocco to Russia grow explosively

The season for Moroccan vegetables started early in November. During these first weeks of the season the supply to the Netherlands is small, yet Peter Smets of Smets Food Trading is extremely busy. He started a direct export line from Morocco to Russia this year together with René Kraaijeveld: bulls-eye.

“The volumes are considerable,” Peter talks about the development in the Russian market. When we spoke to him in week 48 the season had just started 4 weeks ago. The Limburg trader supplies the full range of vegetables: “Pepper, tomato, courgette,” to name but a few. The focus this year is still on the export of vegetables. The ambition is to expand the assortment later with citrus. “We want to start slowly and build it up.”

Firm control
Peter and René take turns flying to Agadir to stay on top of things. This is necessary, Peter explains. “We take turns doing the honours, otherwise the Moroccans will be too lax with the orders.” Peters knows from customers’ stories and his own experience that a container from Morocco can contain surprises. A different colour, size or the wrong volume are three ways in which some Moroccan exporters sometimes add to the shipments. “You really have to be on top of it, otherwise it won’t work.” 

The Dutchmen have set up multiple checking points in the entire process to make sure that the products that are packaged meet the requirements. The large amount of time the two traders, together with a permanent judge, put into checking the shipments is paying off. Various Russian importers are coming to Smets Food Trading and new requests are coming in every day. “The Russian importers are also fed up with surprises in the containers,” says Peter. “When you do business with us you know the container will have what you asked for.”

Trade with Russia
Last year Peter still exported to Russia through Perpignan, where a judge would inspect the Moroccan shipments. “We were working with 20 to 30 trucks per week back then, which worked well, so we wanted to be closer to the source.” This year Peter started a direct line from Agadir to St Petersburg. “We don’t have storage and ship directly. The products are in St Petersburg within 8 days.”

The economic situation in Russia is challenging. Since the boycott was announced in 2014 the trade flow hasn’t gotten easier. On top of this the country is in a recession. To cover these risks, Smets Food Trading has three options for the Russian companies. The exporter asks some companies to pay in advance. “There are also companies that are insurable so we can cover the risks that way,” Peter explains. The third option is based on René’s experience. Good, reliable contacts have the option of paying upon delivery.

Positive season
The Moroccan product will also be available in the Netherlands in a few weeks. “At the moment there are still good Dutch and Belgian tomatoes,” continues Peter. “There are also still some peppers available and Spain is on the market.” His expectations for the season are positive. After three weeks of good weather there was a temperature dip in week 48 and some precipitation. “It was needed, but you see it in the tomatoes immediately,” explains Peter. Although the Russian market demands greener tomatoes, there was a light price change visible. “It is now between 25 and 30 degrees in Morocco, this is almost perfect weather for the cultivation.” No wonder Peter is positive about the season.

The Moroccan government invests a lot in the growth of the sector. A special programme has been developed for this. Yet Peter wonders whether those investments in the cultivation aren’t moving too quickly. He fears the packaging stations are being forgotten. “I sometime visit packaging stations with good modern machines that package the products,” he says. “But there are also packaging stations that are really sub-par, I think they need to resolve that first.” (RM)

More information:
Smets Food Trading
Peter Smets

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