How do you see the relationship between Britain and Spain developing post-Brexit?
Raúl Calleja (RC): This is unquestionably one of the greatest challenges of the sector in Europe right now. Let’s not forget either that the UK is the third-largest market for Spanish exports and one that, moreover, recorded significant growth last year, 14 per cent in value and 12 per cent in volume.
Logically there is concern, as indicated earlier by Fepex, which considers maintenance of a single market without borders between the EU and the UK to be a priority, with the aim not only of maintaining access to this country but also of maintaining the homogeneity of the legislation, given that progressive distancing from community rules could lead to phytosanitary barriers and distortions of competition.
Given the high level of trade between the two countries, how concerned are Spanish exporters about the Brexit situation?
RC: As I mentioned before, logically there is great concern in the sector, and we hope that for the good of both markets, satisfactory agreements can be reached by both parties and that a single market without borders is maintained between the EU and the UK, with the aim not only of maintaining access to this country but also of maintaining the homogeneity of the legislation, given that progressive distancing from community rules could lead to phytosanitary barriers and distortions of competition.
What impact has the Brexit situation had on Spain so far?
RC: The reality is that Spanish exports to the country have stagnated in the first quarter of the year due to uncertainty in the sector regarding the negotiations for the departure of the UK from the EU, the third round of which concluded without major advances. While Spanish exports to this country recorded the same value as in the same period of 2016, with €1.054 billion, the volume has decreased by one per cent, for a total of 849.4 million tonnes.
What are the major issues facing the Spanish fruit and vegetable sector generally at present?
RC: Spain occupies first place in the worldwide ranking of fruit and vegetable exports. The production of fresh fruits and vegetables in our country is 22m tonnes, of which approximately 60 per cent are dedicated to export and the rest to internal consumption. Similarly, the sector generates more than 400,000 jobs.
Maintaining this position requires that the business infrastructure invests in modernising and technologically advancing our fruit and vegetable farms, incorporating process improvements to strengthen it and ensuring its sustainability in the future. In this sense, and continuing with the challenges of the fruit and vegetable sector with a view to 2017, it is necessary to further pursue the diversification of foreign sales and facilitate the lifting of phytosanitary barriers that exist in many countries and which block access to their markets. Last year the Chinese market was opened to Spanish stonefruit exports, and this is the line along which to continue working jointly with the competent authorities in the countries with large consumption potential.
On the other hand, the process of innovation must be accelerated by boosting operational funds and programmes aimed mainly at financing investments on farm. Likewise, it is a priority to improve crisis and emergency management in the publication of the Delegated Regulation of the Commission, which includes new withdrawal prices - a measure that will be decisive for contributing to the sustainability of prices and palliating the negative effect of the Russian veto, in place since August 2014, considering that Russia was the number one-non-community market for Spanish fruits and vegetables and it has not been possible to offset the exports to this country with new markets.
Given the focus on healthy eating at the moment, how big an opportunity is this for the fruit and vegetable sector to increase sales and consumption?
RC: It is an opportunity that must be seized, as is Fruit Attraction. By organising the event, we boost, among other things, the function of emphasising diversity and quality as a means of promoting the consumption of fruits and vegetables, and also contribute to publicising the benefits of including these foods in the diet. Another of our tools for promoting the consumption of fruits and vegetables is the Fruit Fusion gastronomic space, where the aim is to turn it into a unique scenario for the promotion of agricultural producers in an international channel to underline the quality and excellence of these foods, as well as the infinite consumption possibilities offered within the foodservice channel.
What's new at Fruit Attraction this year?
RC: This year we have incorporated new features in the trade show with the aim of continuing to offer international markets the most effective marketing tool. Among these, we have undertaken the 'Guest Importer Market' with the countries demonstrating the best performance in their imports from the EU, which on this occasion will be Brazil and China.
The objective is to carry out institutional, market and commercial actions during the trade show that will encourage the growth and development of trade relations between China and Brazil and the countries of the EU. Through the Fruit Attraction Organisation, in addition to arranging invitations to the authorities of the two countries, we will assign a budget allocation for attracting the main players in these markets to Madrid. There will be around 200 sellers, purchasing managers, traders, importers and retailers from Brazil and China.
On the other hand, we are promoting the Smart Agro space, which aims to drive digital transformation and technological innovation of all the links in the agrifood chain - production, transformation, distribution and marketing - something we are also doing through the activity of the R&D+i centres in the fruit and vegetable sector, with the aim of achieving more efficient production with higher levels of quality and control, as well as lower levels of environmental impact.
We've also included the Nuts Hub, focused on dried fruit and nuts, which will allow all companies in this segment to present their products and make contact with the entire industry and the distribution channel.
"Fresh'N'Star" is the new programme that contains the entire directory of participating companies, workshops and product displays of the two stars of this edition, which will be lettuce and pomegranates. In fact, Proexport is holding Salad Attraction, a congress on the afternoon of Wednesday 18 October in Hall 5.
This year, we have also incorporated the Lanzadera Programme, a new exhibition space in "ready2exhibit" format, with 6m2 spaces at a very economical cost. It is effectively designed to give visibility to new companies in the sector in order to emphasise entrepreneurship and young businesspeople.