Interview with Raúl Calleja, director of Fruit Attraction
The ninth edition of the international fair for the fruit and vegetables sector will be held again in Madrid, between the 18th and 20th of October. As it occurs every year, participants continue to increases, novelties multiply and technical sessions provide opportunities to exchange ideas, knowledge and technological innovation. Its director, Raúl Calleja, assures that Fruit Attraction is the best showcase for companies of any size, because with a small investment they have the opportunity to make themselves known and contact a range of buyers worldwide.
Valencia Fruits. What’s the participation forecast for Fruit Attraction this year?
Raúl Calleja. We expect to reach the figure of 1,500 participating companies during this 2017 edition, which represents a 20% increase on last year’s data. We estimate that around 60,000 professionals from 110 different countries will visit this year.
Valencia Fruits. Who are the guest countries for the ninth edition?
Raúl Calleja. This year we have Brazil and China as guest importing countries, which will nurture the fair together with other business delegations of buyers from all over the world.
Valencia Fruits. Are they potential destinations for Spanish and European productions?
Raúl Calleja. The figures for these countries are eloquent: Brazil receives 75% of fruit and vegetable exports from the European Union and distributes them in all the Latin American market. And China, for its part, also has a lot of potential, although the protocols opened to imports are still scarce.
In the three days of the fair, there will be different professional seminars on marketing these fruits and vegetables to these markets, for which the Institute of Foreign Trade is already working on, in order to boost the access of Spanish companies into these countries.
Valencia Fruits. The increase in participation is a result of the entry of new international companies or is there also a greater presence of Spanish firms?
Raúl Calleja. Given that the fair is, above all, a commercial tool, the increase affects both sides. I like to say that the fruit and vegetable sector is eminently an exporting sector and that we are in a global market in which Spanish producers are very powerful. Having said that, with the fair we play at home and we must promote the opportunities it offers.
Spanish exporting companies operate in Europe, especially in markets like the United Kingdom, Germany, Holland and France, but there are increasing shipments to other more distant countries each year. So Fruit Attraction, whether used by a national company or a firm with tax headquarters outside of our territory, allows those commercial contacts that can open new destinations.
At an international level, we have a significant increase this year with regards to the participation of companies from France, Italy … and there are also new additions such as Colombia, Costa Rica, Turkey, Tunisia and Greece … that did not attend past editions of Fruit Attraction.
Valencia Fruits. Amongst the new features presented by Fruit Attraction this year, which would you highlight?
Raúl Calleja. On the whole, all are important, but this year the great innovation in research is the VI International Conference of Postharvest Unlimited.
Valencia Fruits. What does it consist of?
Raúl Calleja. The conference aims to facilitate talks on all aspects of the quality of perishable fruit and vegetable products, from production to post-harvest handling.
It is a joint initiative of the Departments of Food Science of the Miguel Hernández University of Alicante and Cebas-CSIC, Murcia, which will include sessions focusing on problems related to physiology and physiological disorders affecting fruit and vegetables. Thus, aspects related to bio-control and storage, as well as packaging and the reduction of losses after collection, will be of particular relevance.
Valencia Fruits. What’s the significance of the Smart Agro Space, another one of the novelties on exhibition this year, for the sector?
Raúl Calleja. Smart Agro aims above all to promote the digital transformation and technological innovation of all the links of the Agri-food chain, i.e.: production, transformation, distribution and commercialization. But it also aims to publicize the activity carried out by the R+D+i centres dedicated to the fruit and vegetables sector.
These agencies and institutions work to achieve a more efficient production, with more exhaustive levels of quality and control, thus limiting the impact on the environment.
Smart Agro will be located in Hall 8 of the Ifema venue, and will cover over 1,000 square meters of exhibition space; it will include presentations, talks and eminently practical workshops, that will offer solutions to participants that range from the producer sector, marketer, consumer with apps, drones, software/hardware, IoT, Big Data, ERPs, monitoring, automation, robotics, sensors … It is the space for innovation and the search for sustainable profitability of fruit and vegetable companies.
The initiative also tries to be an essential tool for positioning products in the international fresh market.
Valencia Fruits. The launch program, which has been added this year, together with the Nuts Hub and Seed Planet Area, have they been well accepted by exhibitors?
Raúl Calleja. Companies have embraced these new areas with enthusiasm. In the case of Seed Planet, innovation and new varieties is its leitmotiv; it is the executive board, that groups all the companies related to seed and plant breeders.
It will also highlight the importance of seeds as a starting point of the food chain, as well as their value to make agriculture more competitive. In addition, Seed Planet will focus on the developments in research and the development and innovation of seed producers.
In the case of Nuts Hub, nuts, the idea is that Fruit Attraction will gradually expand the knowledge within other sectors, to allow nut companies to introduce their products and contact the industry and its distributors from 110 different countries.
The Shuttle Program is a new project aimed at companies that are new to the market. It will consist of an exhibition space in ‘ready2exhibit’ format, created to give visibility to fruit and vegetable firms that have been set up in the last two seasons. It is about adding value to entrepreneurship and the initiatives of young business people of the sector. In fact, it includes a prize of 12,000 euros for the best project of the call.
Valencia Fruits. With the projection that Fruit Attraction has, because it increases each year, what short and medium term challenges do you have in sight?
Raúl Calleja. Future challenges remain unchanged: to be able to offer a profitable business tool, to continue to expand the international spectrum of its call and for Fruit Attraction to be the space for innovation, new trends and lastly, for the future of the fruit and vegetable sector. It is the main goal we have as an organization.
Let us not forget that the fair is based on three main strategic factors: on the one hand, commercialization (it is a commercial meeting tool between supply and demand for both the importing and exporting sector).
The second pillar is that Fruit Attraction is the showcase to announce the latest developments in the sector. And thirdly, knowledge, since during the three days of the event, professionals can attend a series of technical sessions and parallel activities, with topics of interest and presentations of a high level.