In early April, the Fruit Logistica event was held in Berlin after missing a year due to COVID and had been put back from its normal time of February to April.
This is a flagship event in the international produce calendar, with some 80,000 normally attending, from over 130 countries and 3,500 exhibitors from across the supply chain.
There seemed to be good deal of debate before the event as to how many would be there this year.
Would COVID still act as a disincentive to go? Has the ability to talk to customers, supply chain contacts and colleagues remotely in the last 2 years meant that people felt it was not necessary to meet in person? Or would the cost of attending, in what are clearly tough times in the produce world, mean that some would stay away? Some of all these factors were evidently at play.
While overall numbers were down, there were still some 40,000 people attending from all around the world. We were kept suitably busy for the full three days. Many of the people we met seemed just glad to be “out and about” again after a prolonged period of being “locked down”.
The following three issues seemed to be “top of mind” for most the people, we spoke to, regardless of where they came from:
• The situation in the Ukraine: producers, not least in Latin America and South Africa, are concerned about the closure of the Russian and Ukrainian markets and the impact this will have on their exports. There are ways still into these markets, via countries such as Turkey, but it will almost inevitably lead to downward pressure on prices or diverting produce to other international markets at short notice
• Soaring input costs: there is a danger that markets around the world get over supplied with consequences for prices at a time when all input costs are soaring, be it for transport, packaging, labor or energy. There are clearly still big issues with the cost, timing, reliability and availability of international shipping. This is putting extreme pressure on producers/exporters all around the world and then onwards into the distribution chain
• The need for good sustainability credentials: this is a huge global issue and impacts on all farms, packers and exporters/importers alike. Sustainability in produce can cover anything from reducing pesticide usage and selling more via more localized supply chains, the whole issue of water usage and the recycling of packaging. It can be responsible employment of labor, reducing airfreighted produce, increased use of renewable energy, growing on a more seasonal basis and reducing food waste in the supply chain.
The pressure for changes in the way produce is grown and then distributed, be it close to home or to the other side of the world, is not going to go away. It will only intensify from a plethora of sources, including governments, major customers at the point of sale, NGOs and consumers themselves.
Horticulture has a major role all around the world in developing a more sustainable supply chain and there seems no point in looking over the fence at dairy and beef farms, as examples, and saying, well, you’re the problem and we in the produce sector, are not….
Returning home from Fruit Logistica, often tired – but happy, you are left with a sense that with all these factors at play we really are at the point where a fundamental re-think is required on how the supply chain looks going forward.
It was great to see so many of the people we know and have worked with in the past (and hope to work for again in the future too!).
While the numbers attending in 2022 were down on the past, it is still a “must attend” event for any serious organization in the international fresh produce world.
On a final point, what a joy to finally see the new Brandenburg Airport finally in operation – a big change from the likes of Tegel – wunderbar!