THE BIG FRESH PRODUCT TRADE FAIR
Under the name of FRUIT LOGISTICA takes place every year in Berlin in February, a large trade fair dedicated to fresh fruits and vegetables. There are several others, spread throughout the world (Madrid, Hong Kong, Sao Paulo and Dubai, among others) and throughout the calendar.
But Berlin is currently the largest in the world.
It should be said that the date is particularly well chosen, as it is just before the start of most of the major harvests in the northern hemisphere, marking in a way the start of the spring/summer production period of the current year.
For the 2017 edition, its 25th anniversary, 84 countries were represented among the more than 3,100 exhibitors, and more than 75,000 trade visitors from over 130 countries have developed contacts.
It is an agricultural trade show, specializing in fruits and vegetables, yet you will not find tractors, field-machines or tools.
It is a trade fair, three days during which the main transactions of fresh fruits and vegetables destined to the consumers will be negotiated for the following months. Much of your purchases from March to October have been negotiated during the Fruit Logistica.
It is a fair in which the farmer has virtually no place. The actors are sellers, and buyers.
On one side we have supermarkets and wholesalers in the role of the buyer, who walk the corridors, going to their appointments, or trying to find a novelty, an exclusivity or something that their competitors would not have.
On the other side, we have cooperatives, grower groups, shippers, or some large individual growers, who present their products, their image, their working methods, their specificity, something that their competitors would not have, in order to attract the potential buyer.
It will also include all the latest developments in sorting and sizing, cold storage, non-chemical conservation technologies, food-compatible chemistry, packaging, labeling, and specialized computing and refrigerated transport.
In other words, we will find everything that will make a raw fruit or vegetable freshly harvested, transformed into an "object of desire" for consumers.
There will be conferences for professionals, during which the latest market trends, public concerns, consumer surveys will be presented. They will also be an opportunity to launch new quality protocols, new conservation techniques, and new types of packaging, new commercial strategies.
We will talk about volumes, programs, promotions, weeks, possibly prices (but this is a criterion that is negotiated day by day, not several months in advance). It will also talk about production methods and techniques, residues, certification, quality criteria.
The sales unit is often the truck, or the container, or more exactly the truck per day or the truck per week. Gigantic volumes will be negotiated there.
It must be said that this is the launch of the main consumption period of the main consumer markets of the northern hemisphere, by far the most populous and richest.
The marketing departments of each of the companies present will have done wonders of design, presentation, colors, animation, tasting, and music.
One can breathe the artificial cheerfulness, the game of who deceives who. You have to look cheerful, but not too much, rich, but not too much, serious, but not too much. Above all, you must inspire confidence and professionalism.
It is necessary to attract the attention of potential new customers, without appearing to do more than reality.
The atmosphere here is very different from that of the agricultural fairs. One feels that the public to be seduced is not the same. It's more sophisticated, some don't skimp on ways.
The production side will make promises of volumes, timing of production, quality, pesticide residues, respect for the environment, compliance with social laws, traceability, hygiene, packaging, labeling.
They go with the concern to find customers for all the volumes expected, for all the levels of quality that they are likely to have to sell, with the priority of seducing and retaining the customer, with commitments to keep prices at the best possible level.
The buyer will require traceability, pesticide residue commitments, compliance with social laws, a precise type of packaging, a type of quality, labeling, and perfect logistics.
he is concerned to find the products that correspond to the objectives set for this year, to find suppliers capable of meeting both its specifications and its volume requirements, and with the need to find adequate guarantees of not to have a problem, or in any case, in the event of a problem, to be able to demonstrate that he has nothing to do with it, and to reject responsibility on the supplier. It is a question of reputation for the brand it represents.
There will be agreements that will allow everyone to prepare the harvest according to their own criteria, but in a manner consistent with the commitments made.
There will be discrete discussions about the consequences of non-compliance with agreements, and therefore penalties, which always go from the buyer to the seller. There will also be negotiations about commissions and retro-commissions. After all, it's trade, don't forget it.
Everybody will speak about the same language, some will go with needs and demands, others with forecasts and promises.
Then everyone will go back home, happy or not, and the campaign will begin, with its foreseeable lot of imponderables, the usual difficulty to respect the agreements.
On the production side, and therefore on the seller's side, everything will be done to keep the commitments made. The sales teams will then set in motion everything necessary so that the production, often absent in the negotiation, can respect the commitments taken.
At this moment, it will be realized that some of these commitments are untenable, or will require unforeseen investments, and for which it will be necessary to show treasures of inventiveness in order to be able to hold them.
The unavoidable unforeseen (climatic, quality, volume, logistics) will require renegotiations, with two fundamental objectives, to maintain prices at the best possible level, and above all to safeguard its reputation, to avoid a quarrel, because one will have to continue selling, year after year. But the penalty clauses will then come into action.
On the distribution side, and therefore the buyer, they will be pleased to have been able to make commitments to respect the programming, knowing that it will be almost impossible for the campaign to run as planned. And at the moment of truth, they will do everything to tighten prices, depending on the market, to ensure the expected margins. If quality is not forthcoming with the planned suppliers, it may be necessary to look for new ones. And if prices don't allow the margins to be respected, it will be necessary to negotiate purchases downward, to initiate the penalties (or to find qualitative pretexts), because the price of sale to the consumer can't vary a lot.
After the agreements have been passed in good humor, it is likely that the campaign will proceed with a high level of tension that the agreements in question should have avoided.
But it would be to forget that we are talking about food, produced by living beings that live and react to many stimuli, the quality of which varies according to the climate, and that it's impossible to predict how the campaign will unfold.
At the moment of passing these agreements, everyone forgets, more or less voluntarily, that we are not talking about manufactured products, but about foods whose quality is never constant, because it is exposed to many factors on which the grower has no hold.
In short, we always forget that we are talking about agriculture.But Nature always takes care to remind everyone of reality.