Leon van den Hombergh:

“Non-committal import flows to Europe will dry up”

In May, construction started for the new Frankort&Koning site. 500 metres from the current premises, the new company building will be built. The trade company, which originally focused on vegetables, has seen the importance of imported fruit increase over a number of years. Leon van den Hombergh, commercial director of the company from Limburg, talks about the fresh produce trade in Europe.

Frankort&Koning imports a lot from South America. How important are these countries?
“In the past years, we established relations with the companies there. For us, in winter, being a traditional vegetable player, we supplemented our product range with import from Spain and Morocco. But within our organization and accommodation, we had the opportunity to do more. So we took up import of fruit as an addition to our winter activities. We were able to make use of our European network for sales.”

Are the volumes that come to Europe from Latin America, under pressure?
“Yes. For instance, we’ve seen a difficult top fruit market in the past year, and Chileans and New Zealanders are now saying: we don’t want to experience that again. So we see that when Europe is in season, it’s less interesting to export to Europe. Also because the euro weakened significantly. The countries on the southern hemisphere are looking more to new markets in the Far East, Middle East, United States and the domestic market. And that’s logical, because really, do we need to import that much when the cold stores in Europe are full of our own produce?”

New building of Frankort & Koning, built in Venlo, the Netherlands, expected to be opened beginning 2016.

Will that trend, of declining import volumes when Europe is on the market, continue?
“I think those non-committal import flows with which products can be shipped to Europe without really looking at the market, will dry up. Very few growers can afford to do that, and the risk is too high. The cost price in the production countries only goes up as well, which means the cost price can’t always be achieved. Additionally, there are new markets offering opportunities.”

Are those new markets a threat to Europe as well?
“A threat to the extent that nobody benefits from a market where products are sold below cost price. With the latest techniques, you see more and more companies are focusing on their own production for fruit and vegetables. It’s also good to have an alternative for those producers. It’s a pipe dream that Europe can buy everything. That’s why it’s also important to have a good relationship with your supplier and to be honest. If he can get a better price in Dubai, you have to say: I think it’s smarter to send that container to Dubai rather than Europe.”

More information:
Frankort & Koning
Leon van den Hombergh
Venrayseweg 126
5928 RH Venlo
+31 (0)77 389 72 72

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