Archive for the ‘Global Trade’ Category

Thursday, April 17, 2014 by Kathy Means

Produce promotion in Europe, PMA coming to Rotterdam

We heard good news from our friends at Freshfel, the European Fresh Produce Association. In a mid-April press release, the organization noted that the European Parliament reformed agricultural promotion in ways that will benefit the promotion of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Freshfel’s press release noted: “The new framework will increase EU funding for agriculture promotion programmes from roughly 60 million EUR at present to 200 million EUR in 2020, of which the lion share is expected to remain with the fresh fruit and vegetable sector.

“Philippe Binard, General Delegate of Freshfel underlined that ‘the reform will open new opportunity for the sector to get access to increased resources to stimulate the consumption of fresh produce and indicates that the awareness at EU level to get better support for information and communication actions to boost fresh produce consumption’ Freshfel expects that the new promotion policy will come into force in 2015.”

Congratulations to everyone who helped make this happen. Greater consumption worldwide will yield global industry success!

Just a quick reminder that PMA will host Fresh Connections: Netherlands on April 29. If you are interested in the European market, consider attending this event to meet industry leaders and make information connections.

Monday, April 14, 2014 by Kathy Means

Canadian retail leaders share insights on produce

From taste to safety to efficiency, retail produce expectations and predictions were the focus of a five-person retail panel at the recent CPMA convention. Moderated by retail guru Reggie Griffin, the panel included: Bernadette Hamel of Metro Richelieu, Sam Silvestro of Walmart Canada, Oleen Smethurst of Costco, Mike Venton of Loblaw Companies, and Frank Bondi of Sobey’s.

The panel’s chains represent nearly all the retail buying power in Canada, where the retail landscape is more consolidated than in the United States. I’ll share more of their insights in future blog posts, and to kick it off, these were some of their opening thoughts:

  • Venton: How do we make sure it tastes good? Sometimes we shoot ourselves in the foot being first to market with products that don’t taste good. We’re making progress, but we have a long way to go.
  • Smethurst: A message to organic growers: Be sure the premium for your products is reasonable. And everyone should be working toward continuous improvement.
  • Hamel: Suppliers can help us fulfill our promise to our customers. Understand our approach and help us deliver. 
  • Bondi: We are the food ambassadors for our customers. We need suppliers to be food ambassadors as well. Help us deliver quick, easy meals – meal solutions.
  • Silvestro: We’re a global company with regional offices. We have different specs in different countries, and we can take the full array of what growers offer. When it comes to direct sourcing, the sky’s the limit.

Stay tuned for more insights from these retailers.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014 by Kathy Means

Marketing outside the U.S.: Connections and emotions drive sales, decisions

At the recent USDA Ag Outlook Forum, a breakout session on food marketing outside the United States offered insights into a high-volume channel in China based on connecting with consumers and emotional decision-making in Latin America.

One speaker addressed e-commerce in China, noting that in a few years, online shopping in China will surpass the U.S. Whereas U.S. e-commerce evolved from brick and mortar, in China, consumer habits are formed directly by ecommerce. Consumers in China want high-quality, brand name products. Shopping is a leisure activity, it’s entertainment (not just a way to save time). To succeed, marketers must engage consumers. He gave examples of success through TMall:

  • U.S. Northwest Cherry promotion: 84,000 people bought 9 years’ worth of cherries (based on sales at a medium-sized supermarket). Marketers showed government and company executives to build credibility with online consumers. And they showed production and people at the farm. By presenting the cherries’ path from the farm to Chinese kitchens, marketers connected with consumers for high-volume sales results.
  • Alaska Seafood: In 11 days they sold 50 metric tons to almost 34,000 shoppers, the equivalent of 5 months of sales at a warehouse store. The marketing behind the sales included: Showing the clean, natural Alaska environment, thanking the Chinese consumers, showing fishermen with heavy metal music (a takeoff on Deadliest Catch), showing consumers every step of logistics, and closing with ways to prepare and use seafood.

Another speaker addressed sales of processed foods in Latin America and how emotion can trump science, creating challenges for the industry there. The speaker noted:

  • Science is no longer the basis for decisions in public policy in Latin America, he said. He added that NGOs push anti-packaged food and beverage as well as anti-multinational company agendas. Combative narratives where “big food” is linked to “big tobacco” also create challenges. (Aside: The United States is beginning to see efforts to use “big tobacco” strategies with foods that are linked to obesity.)
  • Anti-obesity efforts have resulted in policies defining healthy and unhealthy foods and initiatives to warn consumers away from unhealthy foods. If a food is in that “unhealthy” category, it is a target.

What opportunities and challenges have you seen in marketing through new channels and public policy mindsets? Let’s talk about it in the Global Trade community on PMA Xchange.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014 by Kathy Means

Ag outlook: Decidedly…mixed

The recent USDA Ag Outlook Conference offered a platform for information on the state of agriculture in the United States. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack gave topline results from the latest USDA Ag Census (full report to be issued later this spring, delayed due to sequestration and government shutdown):

  • Since 1982, 72 million acres of farmland have been lost, but the loss rate is slowing.
  • Age of principal farm operators is growing. Average age is 58, with many in their 60s and 70s.
  • The number of farms is down. Very small and very large operations held steady or grew. But there is deep concern for what happens in the middle – medium-sized operations feel the greatest stress.
  • The number of minority farm owners is increasing.

Secretary Vilsack offered these takeaways: U.S. agriculture must embrace diversity: operators, crops, markets, land use, workforce, and farming community (he noted the need for immigration reform). And it must expand foreign markets and grow domestic markets. Finally, it must embrace innovation: marketing, markets, technology, crop use.

USDA Chief Economist Joe Glauber gave an outlook for U.S. agriculture. Though it was very light on fresh produce information, there were some key takeaways on U.S. ag overall:

  • Exports/imports: FY 2014 U.S. ag exports are expected to top $142 billion. China remains the United States’ top market (top crops are corn and cotton). Imports will hit $110 billion, for a net trade balance of $32.6 billion.
  • Drought in the western United States: California is the top ag state and it struggles with water availability and how to allocate it. Producers have to decide what to plant (and for some whether to plant). For U.S. production, one-third of vegetables and two-thirds of fruits/nuts come from California.
  • Food CPI remains low, forecast at 2.5-3.5% for 2014.
  • Farm income and land values: Income is down from record levels, but still higher than the 10-year average. Farmland values are up due to low interest rates and strong growth in farming.

In the coming days, I’ll have more updates from this year’s Ag Outlook Forum - on topics ranging from consumption to talent management to global trade. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014 by Lee Mannering

USDA report finds fruit, vegetable imports and exports to increase

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s recently released USDA Agricultural Projections to 2023 report, fresh produce imports and exports are expected to rise in the next 10 years. The report notes that the value of farm production of fruit and tree nuts is projected to grow at an annual rate of 2.2 percent over the next decade, largely due to sales growth of tree nuts and non-citrus fruits. Fruit and tree nuts are projected to rank first among horticultural crops in terms of farm sales value with a share of 47 percent. Farm sales value of vegetables and pulses is projected to grow 0.2 percent per year, while farm sales of greenhouse and nursery crops are projected to increase at an annual rate of 0.5 percent.

Other highlights from the report include:

  • The volume of U.S. farm production of horticultural crops is projected to rise by 0.4 percent annually. Vegetables lead this growth at an annual rate of 0.5 percent, reaching 132 billion pounds in 2023 as processing production averages 1.5-percent growth. Fruit and nut production expands by 0.2 percent per year to 71 billion pounds in 2023 as non-citrus production growth more than offsets citrus production declines.
  • Producer prices for vegetables initially decline from high 2013 levels and then are projected to rise less than the inflation rate, at only 0.7 percent per year, due to strong processing vegetable production. Producer prices for fresh fruits rise by 1.9 percent per year due to slower production growth than for vegetables and due to higher citrus prices as citrus production declines.
  • U.S. per capita use of fruits and tree nuts increases from 295 pounds in 2013 to 305 pounds by 2023, an annual average growth rate of 0.3 percent. Per capita use of vegetables initially drops in 2013 due to smaller potato and pulse crops, and then levels off to an average 386 pounds. The total supply of fruits, nuts, and vegetables over the next decade, both domestic and imported, is projected to grow at an average rate of 1.2 percent per year.

What do you think of USDA’s study? Let us know in the Global Trade Community on PMA Xchange.

Monday, February 10, 2014 by Lee Mannering

Webinar to discuss U.S.-Canada financial risk mitigation option for fresh produce

Long-time Field to Fork readers may recall Kathy writing about the efforts between the U.S. and Canada (via the Regulatory Country Council’s and the CPMA-led North American Trade Committee’s efforts) to establish a Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act trust-like tool in Canada. As she has noted, the creation of this will benefit PMA members on both sides of the border, facilitate produce trade between the U.S. and Canada, and strengthen the relationships between the two countries.

For those members of the U.S. produce industry interested in the Canadian fresh produce market, on this Friday, February 14 at 1:30 p.m. Eastern, the Canadian government is hosting a Webinar titled “Discussion on Enhancing Financial Risk Mitigation Tools for the Canadian Fresh Produce Sector,” to seek input on enhancing trading practices and financial risk mitigation for the Canadian fresh produce sector.

Last April, Canada announced its decision to consider a new approach to supporting the fair and ethical trade of fresh produce in Canada by addressing the current limitations to the Government’s existing licensing regime. In June, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency began consultations on the Regulatory Framework regarding its Safe Food for Canadians Act (SFCA), and specific to this initiative were questions regarding industry’s support of a single dispute resolution body. This single body approach is expected to significantly reduce instances of slow, partial and non-payment as well as fraudulent activity within the fresh produce industry.

If you have any questions about the webinar meeting or would like to register, please contact Sem Ponnambalam at

Tuesday, February 04, 2014 by Lee Mannering

FSMA update: FDA opens docket on designating high-risk foods

Yesterday I mentioned that today I would be sharing some details from PMA’s comments to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on the agency’s Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) proposed rule on third-party audit accreditation. However, that information will be coming either tomorrow or Thursday because in today’s Federal Register, the FDA opened a docket to obtain comments and scientific data and information that will help it implement the section of the FSMA that requires FDA to designate high-risk foods. Per the FSMA, high-risk foods must be based on the:

  • known safety risks of a particular food, including the history and severity of foodborne illness outbreaks attributed to such food, taking into consideration foodborne illness data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention;
  • likelihood that a particular food has a high potential risk for microbiological or chemical contamination or would support the growth of pathogenic microorganisms due to the nature of the food or the processes used to produce such food;
  • point in the manufacturing process of the food where contamination is most likely to occur;
  • likelihood of contamination and steps taken during the manufacturing process to reduce the possibility of contamination;
  • likelihood that consuming a particular food will result in a foodborne illness due to contamination of the food; and
  • likely or known severity, including health and economic impacts, of a foodborne illness attributed to a particular food.

With the docket, FDA released a tentative draft approach document for the review and evaluation of data to designate high-risk foods. As you’ll see, fresh produce is cited as an example in the approach document; FDA says it is considering using a semi-quantitative risk ranking model similar to the produce risk ranking model.

To learn more about this docket and the draft approach document, visit the What’s New tab in our FSMA Resource Center for this and a variety of other resources on the various FSMA proposed rules.

Monday, February 03, 2014 by Lee Mannering

FSMA update: PMA’s comments on foreign supplier verification proposed rule

Last week, PMA submitted comments to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) foreign supplier verification program proposed rule, which can be accessed on our FSMA Resource Center. To help our members quickly understand the key points of our comments to FDA, we have developed a six-page executive summary. I’ve highlighted some of these below but I encourage you to read the full summary and our comments.

PMA Chief Science and Technology Officer Dr. Bob Whitaker commented that “we have great expectations that the FSVP rule, by providing a more preventive approach to import produce safety, will significantly reduce the frequency of produce testing at the border, which often causes severe and significant economic losses of perishable commodities.” He addressed these key issues, among others, in our comments:

  • Importer Verification Activities of Foreign Suppliers (FDA Proposed Option 2). Here, we noted that, for the importer to perform verification audits before purchasing produce from a foreign supplier, this may greatly restrict the flexibility of marketplace purchases for these highly perishable commodities.
  • FDA Proposed English-Only Requirements for FSVP Recordkeeping. Our comments here focus on the industry’s international scope. Since many languages are used to transact business and to verify implementation of produce safety preventive controls, we strongly recommended FDA allow for FSVP recordkeeping in English as well as other languages.
  • Mandatory Importer Use of Certifying Bodies (i.e., Auditors) Accredited by FDA-Recognized Accreditation Bodies for FSVP Verification Activities. PMA at this time does not support the mandatory use of certification bodies that are accredited by FDA-recognized accreditation bodies. Since FDA has not established and implemented the processes and procedures necessary to recognize accreditation bodies, it is unclear if there would be sufficient certification-body audit capacity to accomplish all the audits if required.

Our comments also addressed the need for FDA to reduce redundancy of the foreign supplier verification program proposed rule with other FSMA regulations.

To learn more, visit the What’s New tab in our FSMA Resource Center to access the executive summary of our FSVP proposed rule comments, the full comments, and a brief video below from PMA’s Dr. Whitaker on this topic.

Tomorrow I’ll share highlights from our comments on the FSMA third-party accreditation proposed rule, filed last week as well.

Monday, January 27, 2014 by Lee Mannering

Talking technology with PMA’s Dr. Bob Whitaker

One of the (many) interesting things I’ve found about my time in the fresh produce industry is watching the evolution of business practices. When I came on board, Price Look Up codes were just beginning to be adopted; now the focus is on the Databar. The same holds true with technology.

Recently PMA announced a new focus on technology and how we’re helping members understand and connect with future opportunities. So I asked Dr. Bob Whitaker, PMA’s chief science and technology officer, to share his perspectives in this brief Q&A:

Why are we focusing on technology?
“We know that technology holds the key to helping us feed the world through innovation. It’s PMA’s job to help members glean inside knowledge about cutting-edge, emerging technologies, and how to apply that knowledge to improve their bottom line. We’re going to help members do that, not only by introducing the industry to the possibilities, but also educating them on what problems these technologies could really help alleviate, and how.”

What resources do we offer in technology?
“We’ve been working with members over the last several months to grow the value we’ll deliver in the Science and Technology area of our new strategic plan. Building on existing resources in the field of technology like UPC Link, Databar Online and the Food Safety Modernization Act Resource Center, we invested resources in developing resources that are geared toward building profitability and global demand for fresh produce. This year, we’ll have three new offerings – two unique events and a series of year-round technology content in the areas of food safety detection, production input management, and data science.

What tech-focused events are coming up on our calendar that members may be interested in?
“We’ve got two scheduled for this year. On March 26 in St. Petersburg, Florida, we will host PMA Tech Talks, where a handful of speakers will talk about technologies that are doing great things in other industries, and then bring them home to produce. Then on May 21-22 in San Diego, California, we’re holding Tech Knowledge, which will help companies looking for education and connections to technology that’s on the very near horizon. Additionally, entrepreneurs and solution providers will have the chance to connect with potential investors and other key decision makers.”

To get more details on the upcoming technology offerings, visit the PMA website, where we’ve also added a new Tech Center that highlights all available member resources.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014 by Kathy Means

Government market data: Understand how it can work for you

Here on Field to Fork, Lee and I often write about government reports and statistics, especially those from USDA. Many factors affect your business: consumer demands, weather, prices, trade policies, and more.

Government reports offer baseline information about market variables. These resources can help everyone in the supply chain make essential business decisions. Yet today, the nation’s data and statistical agencies face unprecedented pressure to assess and reduce their costs. As a result, there have been suspension, aggregation, and even, in some cases, an elimination of data and statistical assessments critical for alleviating market volatility and uncertainties.

However, in the midst of these changes, a consortium of organizations is offering a webinar on Friday, January 24 at 2 p.m. EST, on the role of federal data sources in fruit and vegetable markets.

If you’re interested in this information, you can register here.