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Brazilian unified citrus group jeopardised by disagreements

Friday December 24 2010
Volume: 38 Issue: 52

THE formation of Consecitrus, a new body that would assemble representatives of the citrus juice industry and citrus producers in Brazil (FOODNEWS passim) , has seemingly stalled after a protocol of intentions to set up the body was signed on 25 October.

While the official reason for the delay is the inability of citrus producers to agree on a precise model of representation, the true reason is a lack of consensus among industry and producers on the very role of Consecitrus and how it should deal with pricing issues.

"Our original idea, when we started talking about Consecitrus 10 years ago, was to create a new system for negotiation and a [new] relationship between citrus producers and the industry. The remuneration system should be able to collect juice prices from supermarket shelves abroad and bring these values to a central point where this value would be distributed between the juice producers and citrus producers, proportionally to the incurred costs and risks," said Flávio Viegas, president of Associtrus, the citrus producers' association.

Speaking during a round-robin interview of the major players involved in the Consecitrus discussions on Brazil's TV Estadão, he added that Consecitrus is not only about prices, but should also represent a formula to "re-establish our relationship".

The very need to establish Consecitrus was disputed by another representative of the citrus producers, José Osvaldo Junqueira Franco, president of the SRB citrus producers' association. "In my opinion, it is not necessary to create a new organisation which is being called Consecitrus for negotiations to take place," he claimed.

Despite scepticism on the part of some producer organisations, Christian Lohbauer, president of the CitrusBR association that represents the interests of the largest citrus juice industries in Brazil, called on all involved parties to "come to the [negotiating] table to define a [Consecitrus] proposal". He dismissed talk of the industry trying to impose its own model, claiming this was impossible as there "is still no Consecitrus proposal made by the industry, despite such claims made by the Associtrus president".

Lohbauer also dismissed any proposed linking of fruit prices to juice prices in supermarkets, adding that no viable model for this exists. "If the idea is to link fruit prices to retail prices in Europe, we want to see a specific proposal on how to do this," he said. "If we are to link fruit prices to the price of all orange juice products on sale in supermarkets across 27 countries I have no idea how to do this. It is impossible to do this. The only thing that we can do is to obtain prices paid by clients who buy juice (directly) from the industry."

Caros Viacava, corporate director of Cutrale, added that Consecitrus should represent "а forum that will lay down the strategy for the sales of citrus fruit .... that will allow industry and producers to fight against the common enemy". The common enemy, as seen by Viacava, includes the exchange rates of the real and the Chinese yuan, rapidly expanding sales of apple juice, high production and shipping infrastructure costs and European tariffs.

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