By air and sea, freight heavyweight Fermac helps get produce across globe

FERMAC 1

Fermac is an International Freight Forwarders company specializing in transporting fruit and perishable products by air and sea. They pride themselves in speed, trust and reliability committed to personalized care and 24/7 services.

Produce Business UK sat down with Francisco Perez Romero, Ocean Freight Manager for Fermac Spain and the UK, for an insightful and visionary look into the future of international shipping:                                                                          

Could you start by giving a little history about the company? 

The first Fermac office opened up shop nearly 40 years ago in Brazil, where we became the No. 1 freight forwarder in perishable shipments, effective since 2010. In Spain, Fermac Cargo España commenced operations in 2012, and now we handle over 6 million kilograms per year, mainly by air. We are a young and small team steered by Gerardo Soto, a recognized guru in air transportation and reference in the sector.

How has the company expanded since then?

Argentina, UK and Barcelona are our most recent incorporations and soon we will also open an office in the USA. This, together with a global network of key partners in the Americas, Africa and the Far East, enables us to provide logistic solutions anywhere in the world.

Fermac is a “One-Stop-Shop” to cover all transport and custom clearance requirements to ensure quick dispatches and deliveries with “no hassle." We are also able to customize logistic solutions in accordance to each customer, regardless of whether they need door-to-door delivery, or anything in between depending on their purchase and selling conditions. 

What would you say are the specific demands of the produce industry today?

Specific to produce, clients are looking for best possible routes, preferably with several departures per week, refrigerated transport for pre-carriage or on-carriage deliveries, reefer cold stores, temperature control, cargo care, possible space guarantees and reliable carriers and service suppliers through the entire logistic chain.
 
To meet those demands, what is your main service now in 2018? Has anything changed dramatically over the years?

These days, we are experiencing a shift of fruit cargoes moving from sea to air: Air freight transportation is becoming a must for several fruits like mangos and pineapples, for instance. End consumers have tried these superior quality products and, as a consequence in many cases, importers demand daily deliveries. This is not easy and requires a deep knowledge of the possibilities and routes of many airlines around the world, their limitations with regards to peak seasons, the type of freighters they use, as well as the departure days of the week.

We also need a clear map of the seasonality of many products worldwide where we can assist importers throughout the whole year in the countries they are buying from. We provide information about the quality, availability, price, trends and suppliers of many products. Likewise with the exporters, we develop close relationships in order to help them reach out to more markets so that they can maximize their incomes.

Also important to note here is that Fermac is not only about air freight. We recently opened our sea freight department as a response to customers asking for a “one-shop-only” service to handle all their shipments regardless of the mode of transport. At the same time, we still offer the same level of expertise on perishable products handled by sea, as well as an assured and trusted service in terms of logistic solutions, reefer equipment, CA systems, reliable carriers and service suppliers, most optimal transit times, load and discharge ports, and maritime insurance.

This level of specialization and the personal touch we provide have really defined our niche offering. There may be many companies fighting on delivering the lowest rates, but our focus is on being dedicated, specialized, personal and true specialists in the sector.
 
Let’s talk about some of your most recent initiatives: For example, your collaborative efforts with Air France KLM for mangos. How did this partnership come out?

This collaboration happened two years ago after having done successful export campaigns of Mexican fruits to Europe with them. From a single hub in Europe we were custom clearing and arranging the final destination deliveries to several markets across the continent. Air France KLM approached us to team up and handle the entire mango campaign from The Ivory Coast to Europe. We did eight freighters that year, and it went very well. The cooperation did not continue as the airline opened their own perishables department and tried to organize it themselves.

Today they do not send the volumes they did two years ago. This past season, there has been only one freighter for instance. We however continue supporting our clients, as they have learnt and experienced that we could master these shipments more thoroughly from “A to Z."

Do you have specific examples of innovation, ways that trade in perishables has advanced thanks to Fermac Cargo?

It is sort of a secret recipe, I am afraid. What I can say is that we have taken the personal touch to a whole new level. We help our clients to grow and to reach more markets. So we grow together with them.

Our office in Barcelona is a good example of innovation for import cargoes by air. Before, many clients believed it was not possible to custom clear and arrange deliveries during the weekend. For us, this is not the case, and Barcelona has now become a key destination for produce that is distributed every day throughout Europe.
 
Your claim is that you are the leaders in the perishables sector, assessing the peculiarities of each product, as well as campaign time. Can you elaborate on this?

It is difficult to gain trust and very easy to lose it. We cannot guarantee there won’t be setbacks or unforeseen circumstances with any shipment, but clients at least can feel their cargoes and customs procedures are handled in the best possible way. 

With the international borders up for redefinition, how will this affect the shipping business, particularly the produce business?

If change is a constant, let’s embrace it! Borders may change, implosion and explosion of protectionism has been a constant in the history of international trade for centuries, but goods will still need to be moved from A to B, and markets will keep on demanding many products. So, in some cases, routes may change but companies will still need an expert in logistics to catch up on the new waves.

Our hope for our London office, for instance, is based on our belief that the UK is and will remain being a great and trendy marketplace, with many cultures that demand all kinds of products from many origins and of premium quality. So they will keep on demanding a service second to none for their logistical needs.

What other global challenges do you see as affecting trade in the future?

Carbon footprints will keep on playing a key role on logistics: shorter transit times, better quality fuels, alternative energies, as well as the fact that modern airplanes and vessels will have to prevail over low freight rates. Organic and Fairtrade products are here to stay, and something similar has to happen with the entire logistic chain. Also, food loss in the logistic chain is something of general concern, and we all should strive to reduce that. According to FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) worldwide, one-third of all food produced, worth around US$ 1 trillion, gets lost or wasted in food production and consumption systems. Food loss occurs mostly at the production stages, such as harvesting, processing and distribution, while food waste typically takes place at the retailer and consumer end of the food-supply chain.

For us — as advisors in international logistics — it is clear that from the moment of harvesting to the time people actually eat the product, we need to make sure that the least possible time occurs and that cargo is carefully handled to reduce as much food loss as possible. Regardless of whether the end consumers acquire their goods at the grocery store around the corner or if they buy them via the internet from their mobile phones, food waste must be managed.  

Do you think there is more demand now, or have growers and manufacturers found other solutions besides shipping?

Demand is growing for both air and sea freight shipments as the world population is also growing. In both sectors, it is important to note that demand exceeds the supply. More planes are being built, with more capacity to handle cooling sections. New and more efficient reefer containers are being delivered every day, aiming to increase the shelf life of products.

Exotic products, like bananas, citrus and deciduous fruits carried by sea worldwide have increased from nearly 25 million tonnes in the year 2000 to about 40 million in 2017.

The labor force composition by generation today is almost equally divided between the oldest and the youngest: Boomers, Gen Xers and Millenials. Particularly, the younger generations will keep on giving more and more priority to acquire organic, fair trade, tasteful and fresh exotic products.

We attended the CPMA in Vancouver and could reconfirm once more this is a small sector with a handful of people in the world with deep knowledge about it. Even a small shop like us can make a great difference for many companies, regardless of which continent they are located, or with which countries they trade.
 
Finally, let’s talk about the London Produce Show. Is it your first time exhibiting there? What do you expect from the show? What can people expect from you?

Yes, it is our first time. We were looking for a platform in the UK where we could promote our new office in London to explain our immense potential and expertise, and to be able to meet importers and connect them with reliable suppliers, particularly in Latin America and Africa. We also want to show them how arranging their logistics via Spanish ports and airports could lead to better transit times and more cost-efficient shipments. This is possible by air, thanks to the very well-established routes between Spain and Latin America, and by sea, because Algeciras is the fist European port of discharge for many shipping lines, and enables us to arrive to the main markets in Europe like Madrid, Barcelona, Rungis, Milan, Portugal, Amsterdam or London within two or three days at most.

Fermac is exhibiting at The London Produce Show and Conference 2018.

Register here to attend the three-day event. 

Join us on 6-8 June at the Grosvenor House on Park Lane.

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