With 332 exhibitors at the ASIA FRUIT LOGISTICA 2011 trade show in Hong Kong last week, there was a smorgasbord on offer for the more than 5,300 visitors to the event.
Asiafruit Magazine, organiser of the Asiafruit Congress conference which runs alongside the trade show each year and official media partner of ASIA FRUIT LOGISTICA, was on the ground at the show, and turns the spotlight on a few of the exhibitors at this year's show.
Chilean Blueberry Committee (Chile)
This year’s ASIA FRUIT LOGISTICA marked a big change in Asia for the Chilean blueberry industry. With the opening of the Chinese mainland market earlier in the year, the Chilean Blueberry Committee’s general manager Andrés Armstrong said interest at this year’s show had risen dramatically. “We’ve had a lot of interest from importers,” he said. “Two years ago it was hard to find anyone interested in Chilean blueberries, but since last year we’ve really felt a difference.” Chile’s blueberry entry into the market will kick off in late November, and the Committee is planning a promotion with Chinese retailers at the beginning of 2012.
Massachusetts-based company Sensitech chose ASIA FRUIT LOGISTICA to unveil its new line of Ryan-brand ethylene absorption products. A major provider of cold chain visibility solutions, Sensitech believes that control of ethylene gas during storage and shipment is an important component of maintaining the post-harvest quality of produce. Consisting of filters and sachets in varying sizes, the new system is placed in the refrigerated air delivery systems of storage facilities, trucks or sea containers to minimise the damaging effects of ethylene gas on fresh fruits and vegetables. Product benefits include reduction of wastage and dehydration as well as minimising unpleasant odours that come with decaying produce.
Lytone Enterprise (Taiwan)
Taiwanese produce exporter Lytone Enterprise was promoting a more recent addition to its product line-up at ASIA FRUIT LOGISTICA, namely red-fleshed dragon fruit. Boasting a deep red colour, the fruit has been achieving good results in Hong Kong and China, particularly during festive seasons where it is used for gift giving, according to Lytone Enterprise’s Cherry Lin. The company is now looking to introduce the product to the Japanese market in the latter half of this year. “Being so attractive, we expect this fruit to perform well in Japan,” said Ms Lin. While traditionally focused on Asian markets with its product range that includes Irwin mangoes, rose apples, starfruit and grapefruit, Lytone has recently scored success further afield developing the Canadian market. The company plans to conduct its first seafreight trials of Irwin mangoes to Canada next year.
Onions from Holland (The Netherlands)
Representatives of Onions from Holland, the body which promotes sales of the Dutch vegetable alliums in markets worldwide, presented the Netherlands’ very first onion exports of the season to Vincent Fung, Hong Kong’s acting commissioner for tourism, during his opening tour of this year’s ASIA FRUIT LOGISTICA. Jochem Wolthuis, international director at GroentenFruit Bureau – the national fresh produce marketing body which oversees the Onions from Holland campaign – revealed that, while the Netherlands’ top onion market in Asia imports around 450,000 tonnes each year, Hong Kong remains comparatively under-developed, taking just 6,000 tonnes. A delegation of Chinese onion importers are due to visit the Netherlands later this year to find out more about the potential for growing that figure.
Mehadrin Tnuport Export (Israel)
Israeli grower-marketer Mehadrin Tnuport Export’s (MTEX) presence at ASIA FRUIT LOGISTICA over the past several years definitely seems to be paying off, with the company’s business in Asia performing particularly well in a number of categories. One of the company’s headline products is red-fleshed grapefruit, which it trades under its Jaffa brand. With a season starting in just a few weeks, MTEX expects a 40,000-tonne crop. But the company’s big success in Asia this year has been with its line of Medjool dates. Last season production in Israel doubled on the year before, according to MTEX’s Sandra Greif, and orders for Ramadan demand this year were very strong.
Naturitalia, one of Italy’s largest and most successful fresh produce companies, will run trials of the distinctly Italian pear variety Abate Fetel in Asian markets this season, according to marketing manager Augusto Renella. “We’re going to be able to send over a few trial consignments this season because Italian production is higher this year, especially for medium to small sizes,” he said. The company was also involved once again in helping to promote the Kiwigold consortium and its Jingold kiwifruit brand at this year’s show.
Chang-Rak Farms (Korea)
Chang-Rak Farms was one of more than a dozen organisations exhibiting under the Korean pavilion at ASIA FRUIT LOGISTICA and the company’s marketing director Kim Sung Ho said that exhibiting alongside other Korean companies had worked out well, with the pavilion raising a lot of interest. In the coming months, Chang-Rak Farms plans to run a promotion in a number of supermarkets in Dubai, he added. “We want to develop the Dubai market and the government is giving us some money so we can do this,” he said.
South American nation Uruguay was represented for the first time at ASIA FRUIT LOGISTICA this year, with major citrus producer-exporter Caputto making its debut appearance as an exhibitor. “Last year we visited both the trade fair and the Asiafruit Congress and it made us realise the importance of having a stand at the show in order to collect all the contacts to develop our business here,” said commercial manager Marcos Araújo. Caputto already has an established business in Indonesia and the Philippines, where it sends good volumes of soft citrus varieties such as Murcott mandarins, but the company was exhibiting to develop its presence in other markets and expand the range of products it sends. “We’re finding new contacts to develop markets such as Hong Kong/China and Malaysia,” said Mr Araújo. “Currently we only ship soft citrus to Asia, but we feel there are also opportunities for our oranges. We’ve also had some good interest in our blueberries at the show.”
Hengfeng Fresh Produce (China)
With the value of the Chinese yuan steadily appreciating against key global currencies, many Chinese exhibitors this year said they were keen to grow the import side of their businesses. Peter Li of Hengfeng Fresh Produce said his company already imports small volumes of citrus and table grapes, but will look to increase the volumes and start bringing in new categories. Hengfeng plans to start importing cherries and table grapes from Chile during China’s winter months, according to Mr Li. He pointed out that a successful import programme takes years to build up and his company would be taking a cautious approach to the volumes it brings into the country. “You have to be familiar with the suppliers,” said Mr Li. “It takes a lot of time to build personal relationships.”
Fern Ridge (New Zealand)
The spotlight for New Zealand grower-exporter Fern Ridge this year was on the company’s new Koru apple variety, which has been getting good feedback from the two containers that hit the Asian markets this season. The variety is a chance seedling cross between Braeburn and Fuji, with a taste Fern Ridge’s Sam Newbigin described as exactly in the middle of its two parents’ flavour profiles. “It’s had a good response in Taiwan, and the trials to Russia and India have been good too,” he said. Volumes of the grower-friendly variety will hit eight containers next year, and production is being run on a licencing model similar to the Juliet apple variety.
Potatoes Canada & Norfolk Fruit Growers’ Association (Canada)
The Canadian produce industry made its initial appearance at ASIA FRUIT LOGISTICA in 2011 represented by two organisations, Potatoes Canada and the Norfolk Fruit Growers’ Association. According to spokesman Dave Thornton, Potatoes Canada was exhibiting in the hope of expanding the country’s export shipments beyond Thailand and the Philippines to new markets such as Vietnam and India. Thomas O’Neill of the Norfolk Fruit Growers was touting the Ambrosia apple variety, which he says grows particularly well in Ontario province. “We believe there is strong interest in South East Asia for Ambrosia,” he said. “It’s a great shipping apple and production will be increasing over the next several years thanks to newly maturing acreage.”
Summerfruit Australia (Australia)
The reopening of the Taiwanese market to mainland Australian stonefruit late last year was a much anticipated step forward for the industry, and free of last season’s rocky climatic ride Australia hopes to make a bigger splash in the country this year. “All the signs are that it will be a good season,” said Summerfruit Australia CEO John Moore. “Exports were down last year, but with the promotion at ASIA FRUIT LOGISTICA and elsewhere, we’re hoping for a return to normal.” A protocol for Australian plums has also been negotiated with Taiwan. Now in the final stages of approval, growers are hoping it will be finalised in time for this coming season.
Thai Agricultural Standard (Thailand)
The need to ensure food safety standards and the potential to secure premium prices by guaranteeing clean and traceable produce was a popular topic of discussion at this year’s event. And it was certainly of interest to managing director of Thailand’s National Bureau of Agricultural Commodity and Food Standards Vinaroj Supsongsuk as the country has in recent years struggled to meet stringent import quality standards in EU nations. In an effort to ensure product from Thailand is up to the necessary standard for these markets, and as a mark of quality assurance, the government last year initiated its ‘Q’ mark of accreditation. “We have created this so that consumers will be able to trust product from Thailand,” Mr Supsongsuk said.
Christopher Ranch (US)
The largest grower and shipper of garlic in the US, Christopher Ranch had at one time exported to Asia, but withdrew from the market due to competitive pressures from China. According to sales representative Justin Guibert, the company feels the time is right to re-enter the Asian market thanks to the availability of a variety it now grows in increasing volume. “We have an Italian heirloom seed that provides a richer flavour profile than traditional garlic varieties grown in Asia,” said Mr Guibert. “We had pretty much ceded the Asian market to China, but because our Italian heirloom garlic is such a unique product, we see opportunities for sales there once again.”
Exhibitors on Egypt’s first national pavilion at ASIA FRUIT LOGISTICA were keen to expand into Asia as the economies of some of their major markets begin to slow. “We’re trying to diversify our market,” said Khaled Al Anani of grower-exporter Dakahlia. “The European market is our traditional market, but it is saturated during our season. The competition is fierce and the European economy is not developing like we would like it to.” He is confident Egyptian produce, such as grapes, citrus and pomegranates, can find a place in Asian markets. “We believe we have some very good competitive advantages with our production times and our production costs.”
Nader & Ebrahim S/O Hassan Philippines (Philippines)
China is the best hope for expansion of Philippine banana sales in the future, according to a prognosis from exporter Nader & Ebrahim S/O Hassan Philippines (NEH). The company, a long-time exhibitor at ASIA FRUIT LOGISTICA, has this year turned its prime focus from the Middle East to the growing markets of Asia. “We see China as the fast growing market of the future,” said general manager Jeroen de Haas. “We believe that if we take China as a Class 1 market like Japan or Korea, there is a real opportunity.” The company was also promoting its young Fair Trade line of bananas at this year’s show.
ASIA FRUIT LOGISTICA provided major Peruvian table grape exporter Pedregal with an opportunity not only to meet its existing customers from around Asia, but also to make contacts in prospective new markets. “We’ve had a lot of Korean buyers visiting us as this market recently opened to our fruit,” said the company’s Jesica Larovere Frigo. “We’ve also met some people from Kuwait.” Pedregal is gearing up to send its first trial shipments to Korea in the coming season. “The shipments will mainly be made up of seedless varieties like Sugraone and Crimson but we’ll also send some Red Globes,” Ms Larovere said. Japan is another market on Pedregal’s radar. “We’ve had some Japanese companies come by the stand looking to make contact. Even though this market has not yet opened up, we expect to have access soon.” China, the flagship market for Peruvian grapes in Asia, is also seeking to source more fruit this season with Chinese New Year falling earlier, Ms Larovere added.
Malaysian Agrifood Corporation (MAFC) reported strong interest in its Paiola papaya from Chinese buyers visiting ASIA FRUIT LOGISTICA. The government-linked company began shipping the unique papaya variety to China two years ago but shipments had to be suspended due to problems with bacterial dieback disease and farm management, according to the company’s vice president of national sales Lee Lian Eang. Paiola production has since been relocated to different growing areas that are more disease resistant and the company is looking to resume exports in the second quarter of 2012 as volumes build up again. “We’re looking for potential new importers in China in cities such as Shanghai as much of our business has been based in the southeast of the country around Guangzhou and Shenzhen so far,” said Mr Lee. “We expect to make our first shipments to Shanghai this year.”
Rijk Zwaan (The Netherlands)
Leading vegetable seed developer Rijk Zwaan has launched a new website, LoveMySalad.com, in Australia to raise awareness of salad vegetables and their potential use. “We believe in the need to increase transparent communication to consumers and to create a better environment for eating salad products,” explained Rijk Zwaan’s chain manager for Asia, Jan Doldersum. The group is also helping to develop a broad range of items for Chiquita Asia’s recently unveiled consumer range of salad products in China, and has managed to secure similar partnerships with quickservice restaurant operator McDonald’s in a number of Asian markets.
At the start of 2011, Greek exporter Protofanousi was granted permission to begin sending kiwifruit to mainland China, so this year’s ASIA FRUIT LOGISTICA represented a golden opportunity to establish new contacts with Chinese importers, especially those based around the group’s target destination, Shanghai. According to the company’s marketing director George Kallitsis, direct shipments could begin later this year as the Greek overseas export season is set to commence in November. Cherries, meanwhile, could also offer some long-term potential in the Asian market for Protofanousi. The company plans to trial the product in Singapore during 2012 following test shipments to Hong Kong this year.