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San Gabriel predicts Export Expansion

VERACRUZ - Mexican lime exporter San Gabriel is forecasting a major increase in exports to European markets this season, thanks to strong demand in northern Europe.

By EUROFRUIT MAGAZINE - July 2011


San Gabriel limes

SAFETY FIRST Following Europe's 'cucumber crisis' San Gabriel UK's Pedro Rodrigues is keen to emphasise the firm has taken "the necessary measures" to assure customers its products are safe. Despite this, he says San Gabriel did notice a slight downturn in sales during June.

For the last 12 months, Mexican lime exporter San Gabriel has been growing its exports to Europeat a steady pace, with a stable demand across the continent helping protect the company from the worst of the recession. For the year ahead, the company is confident this demand will not only be sustained, but increased, as it moves into new markets and strengthens its presence in Europe.

According to Pedro Rodrigues, managing director of the firm's European import subsidiary, San Gabriel UK, the Veracruz-based producer last year exported an estimated 4,300 tonnes of limes to the European market.

With new orchards coming into production, Rodrigues expects volumes to continue to increase at a steady pace over the next few years. In fact, for the 2011/12 campaign alone, he predicts that export volumes to Europe will rise by 35 per cent compared with 2010.

During the season, San Gabriel has regular arrivals in Europe every week, with around 60 per cent of its volumes arriving through the Dutch port of Rotterdam and the remainder reaching the ports of Tilbury and Thamesport in southern England.

"We have a bigger split in mainland Europe due to the fact that we can serve customers in other countries with a certain level of logistical flexibility that we cannot achieve from the volumes that we import into the UK market." explains Rodrigues.

 

The European market represents close to 30 per cent of San Gabriel's total annual volume and, to keep pace with increasing demand for limes, the company has already begun to invest in new limes groves and machinery at its Martinez de la Torre packhouse in the southe eastern state of Veracruz.

San Gabriel packhouse

The implementation of the new machinery, says Rodrigues, is enabling San Gabriel to increase its production capacity by introducing more technology into its selection and packing operations.

This, he continues, has achieved a reduction in the costs of running the operation at source, which he believes will balance the increased costs the firm has seen in the other areas of its business in the longer term, such as production in the fields and freight costs.

Rodrigues says San Gabriel has also invested in the development of a new selection of packaging for the European market, which will feature a redesign of its boxes. "This will hopefully enable us to maintain our quality standards and the brand that our customers require from us", he explains.

"We are proud to be recognised by our quality standards, our competitive prices and the volume required by our customers to meet the demand that we currently have and that which is in future development," Rodrigues adds.

But, like the rest of its sector, San Gabriel has faced some challenges during the last 12 months, especially given the rising costs of fuel and freight transport. A major consequence of the greater fuel costs has been that production costs have risen in general, and Rodrigues says this has brought extra pressure to bear on exporters, who must achieve the best prices possible in an ever more competitive market-place.

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