Vitor Fonseca is managing director of leading Portuguese fresh produce importer-distributor Ferreira da Silva. The company imports approximately 40,000 tonnes of fruit, including citrus, apples, avocados, melons, kiwifruit, stonefruit, berries and exotic fruits, of which up to 85 per cent is sold on the domestic market.
How did you first get into the fresh produce business?
VF: I started in Venezuela, in 1983. We founded a fruit export company, exporting fresh fruit, such as mangoes, melons, limes and avocados, to Europe and the US.
When did you start working for Ferreira da Silva?
We founded Ferreira da Silva in 1988. I was one of the company’s shareholders and did only business counselling at that time. In 1998, I relocated to Portugal and began working 100 per cent for the company, as an import manager.
What other roles have you had at the company?
VF: I did a little bit of everything – import manager, export manager, fleet manager.
What do you see as the biggest challenge facing the fresh produce industry?
VF: It is not a secret that the biggest challenge nowadays is the global crisis. The fresh fruit industry is affected in various ways. Firstly, people have less money and consume less fruit or fruit of worse quality. Secondly, market players face oversupply and can ruin your market when trying to sell their excess stock on your market.
Describe your typical day-to-day schedule?
VF: I start around 7.30-8am. I open my emails and try to respond to all of them. The next thing is to discuss with my fleet manager the status of all the containers we have on water. We have a lot of containers arriving from all over the world, so control is vital.
After that, I make an analysis of the current market situation, checking the price levels for various products in Europe, and then speak to my colleagues on the European market to gauge demand and price tension. Based on this information, I speak with our salespeople and coordinate sales. I also do sales myself with our old clients.
After lunch, the Southern Hemisphere wakes up and we discuss the next shipments. Usually I also have at least one meeting during the day. Every day keeps me busy. I only leave the office around 8pm.
Do you prefer doing business over the phone or via email, or both?
VF: I mostly do business via email and Skype. Email is convenient because it allows you to communicate with people in all time zones and to discuss details efficiently. If any discussion is needed, I use Skype. It is a cheap means of communication for the fresh fruit business, which involves so many countries.
How many people are there on your team?
VF: My office team has seven people, including import and fleet managers. I also work with our sales team, which consists of around 15 people.
How much travelling is involved in your work?
VF: A lot! I visit the farms of our suppliers, which involves travelling to almost every country in Latin America, as well as to South Africa.
What do you love in particular about your job and what, if anything, would you change?
VF: I love that every day is different. It is not a routine job. You have new challenges all the time. This keeps me interested and enthusiastic. As for changes, I would like to see less protectionism. Protectionist measures create bureaucracy, which can kill business or make it less efficient.
What do you do to unwind after a tough day at work?
VF: The best place to relax is definitely at home. After work, I have a nice dinner at home and enjoy spending time with my family.