Our CEO, Enrique Barcelli, was interviewed by the Netherlands publication FreshPlaza.
Below the transcription of the interview:
Singapore: A good destination for quality niche products
The international company Locate & Grow is devoted to the export of fresh produce from South America to the world, although with a clear strategic focus on Asia, shipping to destinations like China, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines, Indonesia and Taiwan, where it competes fiercely with the big players in the Southern Hemisphere, namely Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.
L&G’s produce is grown in Peru, Chile, Argentina and Uruguay, with the range including grapes, apples, pears, citrus, cherries, blueberries, kiwifruit, avocado and asparagus, “but we keep developing more produce according to our customers' needs,” assures CEO Enrique Barcelli.
“At L&G, we stay very close to our business partners and spend a great deal of time getting feedback from consumers. We also firmly believe in long-term partnerships with our clients, and that starts by making the effort to getting to know them personally, understanding their business needs and requirements, and ultimately understanding what final consumers demand,” affirms Enrique.
In Asia, the firm is headquartered in Singapore, where about 5% of its business is concentrated. Enrique explains that “the retail is somehow divided in this country; there are supermarkets catering to high-end consumers, others targeting more medium incomes, and traditional markets, which are not necessarily cheaper, but whose produce is perceived as fresher.”
Another feature of the Singaporean market is that it is considered the most open in the region, as it imposes no restrictions of any kind. “This means that any time something goes wrong with any cargo, it gets directed to Singapore. This has a direct impact on competitiveness and prices in the markets for the lesser affluent people, where conditions are very tough,” explains Enrique.
He assures that, despite the fact that the medium income market, as in most other countries, is the most relevant, “Singapore has a good percentage of high-income customers willing to spend more on exotics and niche products. As a result, it is possible to market, for example, several boxes per week of yellow pitahaya, which would be impossible in other destinations.”
This, according to Enrique, has also had an impact on the table grape market. “5-7 years ago, most of the grapes sold in Singapore would still be Red Globe, but now volumes are much smaller, as people are getting used to seedless grapes, which are more expensive and delicate. What makes this possible is also that Singapore has a very efficient cold chain management.”
Overall, the most important products for L&G in the Singaporean market are grapes, citrus and blueberries, “but Singapore takes absolutely everything from overseas,” states Enrique. “Bananas probably account for the country’s largest import volumes, with most coming from the Philippines, but that market would be very risky for us because of the distance.”
Not only bananas, but also avocados present challenges in Asia, although in this case not in Singapore, which is familiar with the fruit, but mainly in China, due to poor knowledge about the fruit on the part of both customers and distribution channels. “We are, however, firmly determined to better equip our partners to substantially increase our market share of the fast-growing avocado market,” states Enrique. “I believe the volume can only grow, but I am sure that there will be mixed results, with some quality problems due to poor handling on arrival of this beautiful and delicious, but also delicate fruit.”
In terms of general future prospects, the Singaporean market is expected to remain small, and progress will have much more to do with the penetration of more exotic fruits and less on the increase of export volumes. “I predict that the Singaporean market will gradually enjoy a wider range of products, as well as more organics, but all in all, the key to succeed is being aware that the smaller the volume you are moving, and the more delicate the product, the more connected the supply chain needs to be,” concludes Enrique Barcelli.
Enrique (Kiko) Barcelli
Locate & Grow Pte. Ltd.
Mobile: +65 81259482
Phone: +1 786 2285564
Fax: +65 64916441
Publication date: 3/10/2015