As we start 2022, the produce industry enters a new era as one association represents our broader interests.
It was first announced last spring that the Produce Marketing Association and United Fresh Produce Association would merge, and then at the end of October, leaders of the two groups explained the details of the new International Fresh Produce Association or IFPA.
We won’t really know how effective it will be until we start to see it in action, and that starts now.
Many questions and concerns accompany the start of this new association.
Before we dig into some of those, it’s worth noting that this merger was a long time coming. It has been attempted many times before, and it has strong industry support. It makes sense to have just one association represent the produce industry, and we certainly support and hope for its success.
The association’s first chairman, Bruce Taylor, CEO of Taylor Farms, and former chairman of the board for PMA about a decade ago, says the produce industry’s challenges are complex and unprecedented, so this new association can’t use solutions that have worked before.
He says the solution to these problems must be transformational, and so should IFPA. If Taylor says to expect a new kind of association, I believe him. I also think he’s as good a leader as the industry could have found as IFPA’s first chairman.
The IFPA’s name uses “international” purposely to acknowledge that it’s a global industry, but what happens when a U.S. member’s interests conflict with those of a foreign member? Or when a member from a buying organization’s interests conflict with those of a grower-shipper?
We will learn a lot when these inevitable incidents arise. The reality is that while it’s true we work in a global industry, it’s not global to everyone.
The IFPA says it is founded on seven strategies:
1) serve all sectors of the supply chain;
2) provide expertise and solutions in key areas;
3) government advocacy;
4) bring all sectors together;
5) advocate free trade and global standards;
6) enhance business connections through events; and
7) increase demand and sales of fresh produce.
I see this list, and I don’t see seven equal strategies. I see two that stand out much larger, because if they are done well, they will boost all the others.
The most important are demand creation and advocacy.
Consumers of every nationality do not eat enough fruits and vegetables. They know they should, and their lives would be better if they did, but they don’t.
We know some motivators that work, but if our industry had all the answers, this wouldn’t continue to be a problem.
The IFPA needs to make increasing consumption its top priority, and it’s an easy measuring stick to its success. Is consumption growing? If so, it’s working. If not, why not?
Second, advocacy is critical because attacks come from all angles, and many are unexpected. Members need to know their association will have their backs when they need it. What good would an association be if it can’t be counted on when a member is in need?
If the IFPA can be good at demand creation and advocacy, it will be a success.
If it can’t, then it won’t.
This is the First Glance column from the January/February 2022 issue of Produce Blueprints Magazine. Click here to read the whole issue.