Fruit and vegetable export: how to go abroad, and where

Jessika Pini

As we have seen, there is a need for Italy to develop fruit and vegetable export. Of the 24 million tonnes of fruit and vegetables it produces, Italy consumes 9 million. Performances of fruit are very good, as they mark an increase by 32.8% in volume and + 25% in value. Marco Salvi, Fruitimprese President, says ‘However, there are other productions whose potentialities in foreign markets have not been sufficiently exploited by Italian companies. For example, pears, of which Italy produces a third of European production, but exports only 25%, and oranges, of which we export only 7% of production’. A positive model indicated by Salvi is kiwi, of which our Country, with dedicated area of 26-27 thousand hectares and production of almost 450 thousand tonnes per year, exports 80%. Germany remains the main market, with 53,487 tonnes, although it decreased by 8% in comparison with 2013. On the other hand, the protocol for overcoming phytosanitary barriers signed in 2009 with China has successfully opened the Asian market, which reached almost 10 thousand tonnes of made in Italy kiwi.

Salvi continues: ‘In Europe, Spain is the largest exporter of fruit and vegetables, followed by Netherlands and France. Italy, with 3.2 million tonnes in the EU and 0.608 million tonnes outside the EU, is in fourth place, but is the most active European Country in the export of fruit and vegetables outside Europe, with 19% of exports (+ 220% in comparison with 2004). Today the development of new markets is certainly slowed down by the political conditions of North Africa and the Middle East, Russian embargo (this Country absorbed 39% of the European exports concerning fruit and vegetable), as well as phytosanitary barriers. However, an expansion policy involving commercial businesses must be pursued, in order to finalize investments and spend to the best the limited resources, such as for instance the 260 million Euros of the Programme for the internationalization of Mise entrusted in management to Ice’.

Let us see together with Claudio Scalise, SgMarketing managing partner, how to go abroad and both pros and cons of five potential business models.
They include direct management of the relationship with retailers, which involves large volumes and has the advantage of direct contact with customers. On the other hand, this model involves the burden of logistics management, completely entrusting sales to importers or distributors, who certainly guarantee a good knowledge of the market, but offer lower margins, because the big competition among distributors is played on price. In the world of wine, the use of brokers or agents is widespread: this system concerns low volumes, which implies for the company low customer control and charge of both financial management and logistics.

Finally, there are two models of delocalization: joint ventures with either manufacturers or local distributors, which in the fruit and vegetable sector mainly concern processing (e.g. packaging) in order to reduce costs, or, if a distinctive know-how is owned, the opening of branch offices for production or sales abroad. This allows achieving high margins of profit, business rapidly growing, but involves a high initial financial expense.

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