Fruits of Thought
Beyond Our Borders
In February, Produce Business magazine and its sister website, PerishablePundit.com, will be exhibiting at Fruit Logistica, a produce trade show in Berlin. We decided to go because a significant number of our business associates started asking if we were going to be there. In addition, significant trends and events are drawing our attention beyond our borders:
These seven facts point to the enormous international influence on our industry. The interconnected web of world affairs is demanding even closer connections between countries.
If you look at a behemoth such as Wal-Mart, you see it is virtually compelled to build up its global sourcing arm. It is not a question of saving a few pennies by cutting out the middleman; it is question of interests that are assisted by being a big buyer.
If someone wants to fight Wal-Mart’s expansion in Mexico, Wal-Mart wants to prove it purchased and exported billions from Mexico. It makes it harder for a competitor to paint Wal-Mart the enemy of the Mexican people, and it creates, in the supplier base, a ready-made lobbying force of hundreds of domestic operators that can be asked for help in a political pinch.
Everything has to be executed well, of course. Wal-Mart may do itself more harm than good if its Global Sourcing arm accepts product that would be rejected if it were supplied by a third party or accepts out-of-stocks or rejections in quantities that would cause a third party to be dismissed as a vendor.
Some international connections pose significant challenges. An organization such as PMA benefits from the perspective of international players on its board, and non-U.S. members can benefit from the chance to leverage the resources of a large organization. But where does it lead? In most countries, such as Chile, the only people interested in PMA membership already have substantial U.S. ties.
In some cases, exporters who do little or no U.S. business reach out to an organization such as PMA for the same reason they subscribe to Produce Business: to stay educated about the cutting edge in the world of produce. On PerishablePundit.com, we’ve argued there are so many of these people in Australia and New Zealand, for instance, PMA should start a chapter.
However, a membership-based organization changes as its membership changes. A few seats on the Board for foreigners helps everyone, but as more produce is imported and the supply base moves outside the United States, a vertically integrated trade association may one day have to confront a situation where much of its membership comes from outside the United States. How does such an association formulate positions on things such as the AgJobs bill?
We don’t need a crystal ball to see the answers will involve greater attention to international realities than most in the industry have been used to. On the willingness of the trade to acknowledge this new reality and ability to adapt to it hangs our future. pb