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Pundit’s Mailbag — ONE Global Produce Industry Needs ONE Voice

Jim Prevor’s Perishable Pundit, August 2, 2012

We’ve run lots of letters related to the United/PMA merger saga, including our Pundit of July 21st and our Pundit of July 30th, and they have generally come from leaders in the industry. Sometimes it is good to read a comment from an informed observer without any skin in the game:

I have been following this soap opera story for many months. It had to be scripted by a bunch of screen writers who have no idea about the dynamic produce industry. The events played out like a segment from the HBO series, 'Game of Thrones' where the focus is: 'every man for himself and no one can be trusted'. Very entertaining, but no real value.

As you know, I am food industry veteran of many years, but not a produce dude so I have no skin in the game. 

From an outsider's perspective, the results are a disaster and downright stupid!

To me, there is ONE global produce industry, with many different parts, players and challenges. The supply chain is complex with tremendous pressures to perform, faced with the responsibility of feeding 9 billion people by 2050.

Leadership needs to deal with fluctuating prices, drought/weather, government interference, shortage of employees, traceability, tremendous waste, GMO's, etc. and the list could go on and on.

To effectively deal with these overwhelming issues, requires ONE voice which represents the entire supply chain: farms, producers, distributors, retailers, and consumers. It needs to include both industrial and organic partners; foodservice as well as retailers; bricks and clicks; global and local.

The industry needs to focus on solutions and put aside egos, attitudes and history. Leadership needs to be moving the group in one direction.

I believe Patrick Henry said it best:

“Let us trust God, and our better judgment to set us right hereafter. United we stand, divided we fall. Let us not split into factions which must destroy that union upon which our existence hangs.”

Richard Kochersperger
Practise Leader — Education and Research
KOM International
Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Quite a slap in the face.

But he is right.

Richard is no stranger to the food industry. He is the former Executive Director of the Center for Food Marketing at Saint Joseph’s University and has worked with many retailers and food manufacturers. He has written many books and given many lectures.

So in Richard’s eyes, many of the motivations for and against merger are small, rooted in individual self-interest and concerns over particular events or programs.

In one sense, Richard points to an almost metaphysical imperative, a Karmic oneness that simultaneously demands and derives strength from oneness.

In another sense, he looks at the big obligations of the trade — how many have addressed the issue of merger from the perspective of which organizational structure will best help us feed the population in 2050?

How small our bickering seems when one reads this letter. Maybe that is the real issue. Can we get beyond our own limitations?

Perhaps in reaching for unity, we can stretch past the limits that constrain us as individuals.

Perhaps coming to one association may be a win beyond our calculations.

Many thanks to Richard Kochersperger for helping us to see above the wall of our day-to-day enclosure.

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