The Dutch logistics group continues to seek out new opportunities, seeing great potential in areas such as Turkey and Colombia while also diversifying further with the launch of a cargo service operation

At Fruit Logistica in Berlin, Fruitnet sat down with Anton Filippo, commercial director of LBP Rotterdam, to discuss the latest developments at the Netherlands-based logistics business.

LBP Rotterdam team FL 2024

Filippo spoke about some of the opportunities in growth markets, the customs clearing business, and how LBP Rotterdam continues to diversify its operations, which include the handling, clearance and cool-storage of fresh produce.

You have spoken about Turkey as a market that has much potential. Can you go into more detail?

Anton Filippo: What we see here in Europe is that the retailers are saying ”we don’t want anything by air anymore” because of the environmental impact. They don’t want airfreight, unless they really need it. So this leads to them, and also us, looking more closely at what we are doing, and what else we can do.

We have now travelled to Turkey a couple of times with some small trade missions, and we think the potential there is enormous.

With Turkey we are facing some challenges though. Turkey is very much looking at Russia still as its main export market, as well as Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania – all the countries around it. Of course, it also has a very good trade with the UK as well. Anything in between those markets such as the Netherlands is more of a challenge.

But there is so much potential for a number of products, whether that is cherries, citrus, even blueberries which are growing in a big way now. I see the potential there, I think it is going to take some time, but we need to be there now.

There are some Dutch growers investing in Turkey in fields, in glasshouses for tomatoes, and other products, so we need to be there now, trying to get ahead, like we were in Colombia 20 years ago.

The people that I talk to in Turkey, they’re all interested in finding a way to use our services. They do a lot of visits to the UK, of course, but the potential is there to look at partnerships in Europe, away from the UK. We can help to take care of those needs.

You mentioned Colombia there, a country in which you have been on the ground for some time. Does it still hold a lot of promise?

AF: In Colombia, the range of fresh products is there, the knowledge of the people is there, the quality is good and there is a plan of action, but the problem is the infrastructure. Can you get the product from the farm to the port? The roads are, often, simply not adequate. This is where the main challenge is, infrastructure.

But, much progress has been made in the country. Colombia is growing. It is number two in avocados now from South America, so it is taking huge steps.

In the US market it is doing well in avocados, it does have big competition from Mexico for avocados of course, but the US pays better prices than in Europe, for example, so it is doing very well there.

What are you hoping for in 2024, after a challenging 2023?

AF: Last year was tricky, yes, very difficult. We have hopes that 2024 will be much better.

A lot depends on the consequences of El Nino in countries like Peru, Ecuador and Colombia. Look at how it was last year. In a normal pre-season we would do over 100 containers of blueberries per week, and we were doing a maximum 20 containers. There were also problems in Chile because of quality and everything, so low volumes, and then there were floods in South Africa, so that product didn’t come in. It was a year we want to forget very quickly, and look forward to this year instead.

How is your customs clearing operation going?

AF: That company is going well. There are 20 people working in that company now, not only working with products from the UK or Europe, but also the likes of China and many others. This is a growing business, every day we get new enquiries, new opportunities.

In addition we have now set up a new company, Dedicated Cargo Services (DCS) that is a spin-off of the customs company. When we got those enquiries asking ‘can you do my clearance?’, people also asked, ”can you also do my transport? Do you have some capacity to store a bit of my stuff?”. So we set up DCS as a general cargo operator, rented a small warehouse, and now we can do all of that as well.

After 2023 we needed to diversify a little bit and put our eggs in more baskets. So this is very exciting.