ASOEX President Ronald Bown Discusses the Growth of the Company's Agriculture and Export Business
CHILE - It’s a time of change and growth across domestic and international markets for the fresh produce industry as consumer demand grows for year-round availability, as well as variety in their fruit and vegetable options.
Ronald Bown, President of ASOEX, took the time to explain to me that Chile's agricultural center is in flux as it sees changes, some good and some yet to be determined, that are reshaping its fresh produce audience.
“As a country, we are significantly investing in a range of ports, not just in terms of operations but in other ways as well,” he tells me, explaining that though Mother Nature has dealt Chile a few heavy blows this year, the ports continue to do very well and the political aspect of the agricultural industry is transforming.
“In the coming months new labor regulations that we have been working on for many years will [come to fruition],” Ronald adds.
The Chilean government has not, until recently, looked to regulate agricultural labor any differently from other industries. About five years ago, Ronald tells me, agricultural members looked to change that.
“Agriculture has a very different situation from urban or human relations, our rules and regulations and with Mother Nature, where you never know what is going to happen, are very different.”
As a result, ASOEX worked together with laborers for new regulations, resulting in guidelines specific to agricultural that will soon be up for review by the Chilean government.
And it is not just the country that is changing, but the world around it. Ronald explained that ASOEX set itself both short and long term goals several years ago about what markets it wanted to ship to outside of its own, beginning with the Latin Americas and expanding outward to places such as North America, Europe, and beyond.
While much of this, Ronald says, has been a positive development for Chile, such as the strength of the U.S. dollar and demand for what they can provide to help strengthen the economy, it also presents more challenges.
“Regardless of what market we are operating in, there is a lot more competition than there was 15, 10, even five years ago,” Karen Brux, Managing Director of the Chilean Fresh Fruit Association, elaborated. “We are constantly having to raise our bar because we need to have better quality and better produce. The growers are constantly meeting and trying to find out; how can we better serve our markets? Because that is the key, essentially, to staying ahead.”
In staying ahead, some of those short term goals have been realized, such as Chile’s exponential export growth just in the past few years. Currently, Ronald said, they are working with China to further broaden their horizons and meet the demand of even more consumers.
“It’s not easy to deal with different countries, different ideas and points of view,” Ronald tells me of working with foreign markets. “But, we trust in the Chinese authorities in terms of conditions to allow a transparent market and free trade competition. Many of these free trade agreements that were, 15 years ago, long-term goals have come true.”
And now that those have come into fruition, Ronald seems optimistic for new long term goals to kick into gear. Labor regulations, health initiatives, and public education are a few that he remains confident will, he said, be addressed or even met with in the next few years.
As for the growth of the country’s fruit industry?
“Another important factor might be India,” he says thoughtfully, commenting that other big markets like China tend to be more consistent. “But India is constantly changing, even in the last year. They could be a very important factor.”
With a constant eye to the future and the desire to continue its growth, we will continue to follow the Chilean and other influential produce markets, so keep checking in with AndNowUKnow.