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PMA Convenes First Country Council

Jim Prevor’s Perishable Pundit, May 23, 2007

Winston Churchill wrote a four-volume series entitled, A History of the English Speaking Peoples, which chronicled the historical journey and unique bonds that connected the peoples of the United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and the United States.

Alas, Churchill only told the story through to the end of the 19th century. So it falls to this lowly Pundit to tell you that a new volume must be added to this work:

PMA forms Australia-New Zealand Country Council

Newark, Del. — In a major step for the fresh produce industry, the Produce Marketing Association (PMA) has established an Australia-New Zealand Country Council with member representatives from both countries.

Alicia Calhoun, PMA presents Michael Simonetta, Perfection Fresh Australia with a token as he assumes the Chairmanship of the PMA Australia — New Zealand Country Council

Speaking at the first Council meeting in Sydney on May 21, Alicia Calhoun, director, industry technology & standards said PMA aimed to ensure its products, services and events are relevant to current and potential members in both countries.

“With almost 80 members in Australia and 20 in New Zealand, the Council will play an important role in recommending to PMA how to provide the best value and service to those members and potential members. Council members will help PMA establish long- and short-term goals and will participate in product and event development for both countries,” Alicia Calhoun said.

The foundation members of the PMA Australia-New Zealand Country Council represent the entire supply chain of the industry, including growers, exporters, importers, wholesalers, and retailers.

Serving under the chairmanship of Michael Simonetta, chief executive officer, Perfection Fresh Australia, the Australia-New Zealand Country Council members are:

Australia

Michael Batycki, Woolworths Supermarkets
Fabian Carniel, Mulgowie Freshex, Pty. Ltd.
David Harris, Harris Farm Markets Moraitis Group
Mike Nichol, Flavorite Hydroponic Tomatoes, Pty. Ltd.
Rob Robson, OneHarvest
Craig Spencer, Carter & Spencer Group
Michael Worthington, Timbercorp, Ltd.
Andrew Young, Brismark

New Zealand

Ingrid Hofma, Le Fresh International (NZ), Ltd.
David Smith, Freshmax Holdings, Ltd.
Kevin Wilcox, AS Wilcox & Sons, Ltd.


Top row: Andrew Young, Brismark; David Smith, Freshmax Holdings Ltd.; Kevin Wilcox, AS Wilcox & Sons Ltd.; Craig Spencer, Carter & Spencer Group; Michael Worthington, Timbercorp Ltd.; Paul Moratis, Moraitis Group; Michael Batycki, Woolworths Supermarkets; Michael Simonetta, Perfection Fresh Australia; Fabian Carniel, Mulgowie Freshex Pty Ltd.

Bottom Row: David Harris, Harris Farm Markets; Rob Robson, OneHarvest; Alicia Calhoun, PMA; Nancy Tucker, PMA; Ingrid Hoffma, LeFresh International (NZ) Ltd.

Also, for the first time, the Produce Marketing Association conducted member meetings in Sydney, Brisbane, and Melbourne, Australia in May.

“Our meetings were designed to provide members in Australia with convenient access to information that is tailored to their needs and local conditions. With the strong interest and attendance we received, we are definitely planning additional activities in Australia, including an annual conference and more member meetings,” said Nancy Tucker, PMA vice president of global business development.

“Many Australian fresh produce businesses continue to utilize our annual PMA Fresh Summit International Convention & Exposition as a key source of information and ideas. We anticipate the high level of attendance from Australia will continue at this year’s event to be held in Houston, October 12 — 15,” said Tucker.

This is really a wonderful moment. Across the boundaries of the broad Pacific representatives of the industry from three nations — Australia, New Zealand and the United States — join together as much to advance intellectually as to trade.

The enormous resources of PMA, the world’s largest produce-specific organization, now has a formal path of interaction with a roster of members with unique experiences that can enrich us all.

We have been paying much attention to things going on in Australia and New Zealand. When Rob Robson of OneHarvest was named to the PMA Executive Committee, the first person from outside North America to obtain such a position, we asked Is It Possible To Have A PMA Chairman From Outside The US? Then we reported on the positive feedback we received in our piece Pundit’s Mailbag — In Support Of Rob Robson. We offered a profile of a Canadian who has obtained an important position in New Zealand in Pundit’s Pulse Of The Industry: Enza’s Dawn Gray then we wrote up Pundit’s Pulse Of The Industry — OneHarvest’s Rob Robson And His Food Safety Team which was followed up by Pundit’s Mailbag — More Insights On OneHarvest’s Leaders.

It is important to cross-fertilize, and getting ideas flowing back and forth across the Pacific is the beginning of greater wisdom for all of us. This is the achievement of a dream for Nancy Tucker, PMA’s Vice President For Global Business Development, who is giving presentations all over Australia now but was just the other day in Chile.

It is doubtful it would have happened without PMA’s President, Bryan Silbermann. The fact that he is an immigrant doubtless reminds him of what we native-born Americans often forget: Most of the world’s population doesn’t live in the U.S.A.

John Baker, who is the “on the ground” representative for PMA in Australia, was also instrumental in seeing this happen.

We hope it is just the beginning. Once value is established, as we wrote after the PMA convention last year, we would like to see even more formal links:

It was interesting that at the recent PMA convention in San Diego, the largest single contingent from outside North America was Australia. Considering the Australian population of only 20 million, this is wildly disproportionate. And considering the very, very small scale of produce trade between the two countries, it is astonishing.

What it tells me is that Australians, almost uniquely, interchange with our industry in the U.S. for their own education and not, particularly, to capitalize on trade opportunities. This involvement so motivates people that at the Australian/New Zealand reception at PMA, there must have been well over a million dollars in airfare alone represented.

One wonders if PMA shouldn’t look at setting up an Australia/New Zealand Chapter. This might be an opportunity to use the two-tier funding mechanism the Pundit suggested in our discussion about the prospect of PMA/United merger talks. Basically PMA would collect membership dues and rebate, say, half, to the Australia/New Zealand Chapter of the Produce Marketing Association. This would hook the produce industry down under into all the information and activity of PMA, while giving them funds and structure to maintain a strong local association that can run activities and programs while drawing on PMA expertise and resources.

Of course there are challenges to all this international cooperation. As we wrote in the same article:

Without a doubt, an international perspective adds a great deal to the PMA Board. A growth in international membership, however, may run head on into PMA’s moves to enhance its role in government relations. Yes, there are trade relations issues that would certainly apply to both sides, but almost by definition, government relations is a domestic matter. This is a conundrum for the future.

Certainly this has to be thought of as we consider the future shape of our association structure in the U.S.

However we resolve this, one thing is certain: we must not turn our backs on international engagement. There are many challenges ahead, and our combined strength and wisdom will be needed to overcome those challenges. As Churchill told us in the face of the challenges of his age:

"If we are together, nothing is impossible. If we are divided, all will fail. I therefore preach continually the doctrine of the fraternal association of our two peoples, not for any purpose of … territorial aggrandizement … but for the sake of service to mankind."

So, in this union, we may not clean up on trade between our nations but we can surely get rich in knowledge and international comity, and these are prizes that have a price beyond measure.

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