The Biomarket will receive 20% of all the ecological fruit and vegetables in Catalonia and, by 2030, its market penetration could reach 50%.
Fruit Today euromagazine talked to Josep Tejedo about its upcoming opening and other topical issues.
What is the latest information about the upcoming opening of the Biomarket?
Biomarket, Spain’s first wholesale ecological food market, will be opened in the autumn. It will have 20 points of sale, above all for fruit and vegetables, and some devoted to multi-produce. Most of the companies in the market will be wholesalers, but there will also be agricultural cooperatives and an area for small local farmers.
The initial business catchment forecast is for 20% of all the ecological fruit and vegetables marketed in Catalonia. The penetration on the market will foreseeably reach 50% by 2030.
How will it be publicised to the large number of national and international clients?
Using communication campaigns and participation in trade fairs, such as Fruit Attraction, Fruit Logistica, Alimentaria and Organic Food Iberia.
We will emphasise Biomarket’s differential values: the largest concentration and variety of ecological fruit and vegetables in Europe and specialised logistics, which will allow the produce to be stored and transported quickly, in the best conditions.
The market’s figures for fruit and vegetables were encouraging in 2019, but due to circumstances that we are all well aware of, what is the balance for the first half of this year?
Mercabarna continues to be the first wholesale market in Europe in terms of sales of fruit and vegetables, with 2,108,354 tonnes marketed in 2019, 4.6% more than in 2018.
The first 3 months of this year were positive on the Central Market, with an increase in sales of 2.64% compared to 2019, but logically, the Covid crisis has affected sales negatively and the accumulated volume recorded a 1.2% drop in June. We trust that it will recover by the end of the year.
At a time when solidarity is very important, and Mercabarna has always been a flagship on this point, what actions are being carried out?
Mercabarna and the companies located in its food complex have put all our efforts into organising food donations. A large part of these donations for the most vulnerable groups have been managed, as normally happens, through the Mercabarna Food Bank. Up to June, 771,160 kg have been given out, 22% more than in the same period of 2019. However, this healthcare crisis has tripled the number of people in need; therefore, we have added new, supplementary actions.
One of the most innovative actions was the creation by Mercabarna and T-Systems of an app that helps entities and groups in need. This application allows wholesale companies in Mercabarna with surplus offer to be put into contact with the demand by social entities and with the logistics company in charge of transporting these foodstuffs to the destination, free of charge. This app, which has been recognised and spotlighted by the FAO in its wholesale markets report, has allowed 68,000 kg of fruit and vegetables to be given to the Red Cross from the 15th of April until the end of June. The work of the 6 wholesale companies participating and the logistics company should be mentioned.
Another example is the summer campus “Refresh yourself with 5 a day”, for around 500 vulnerable children, organised by Mercabarna in July to help families at risk of social exclusion. On this campus, which Mercabarna has been running since 2016, games are used to help the children learn to eat healthily and to not waste food.
What steps are used to manage the market’s daily activity regarding this healthcare crisis?
There are many steps that have allowed us to keep the fruit and fish markets open every day and to guarantee food supplies to the population. During the State of Alarm, for example, Mercabarna held a daily meeting by video conference with the representatives of the wholesale associations of the 700 companies located in the food unit to evaluate the situation and adopt the necessary steps at all times.
We were the first wholesale market in Spain to obtain material for temperature control. The compulsory use of face masks and gloves was established in the markets and common areas. Accordingly, Mercabarna made an effort and supplied around 15,000 face masks amongst the wholesalers and another 20,000 amongst the buyers, with the collaboration of the City Council of Barcelona and Mercasa. Currently, we are still occasionally supplying PPEs to the users.
The cleaning and special disinfection activities were doubled in the different infrastructures of Mercabarna. Every day, a communiqué was sent to the companies with the new regulations and recommendations. And a communication campaign was carried out to ensure that no one let down their guard.
After the State of Alarm, we maintain and control the compulsory use of face masks in the markets and common areas; the cleaning and disinfection measures of spaces continue to be extended; and a direct communication is kept open with the companies in the complex.
Mercabarna has always backed digitalisation, and COVID speeded up the process. What can you tell me on this point?
We continue working on the digitalisation, both of our installations and of the services we provide for our users. Covid has speeded up some of them, such as the starting of online training for wholesale and retail businessmen during the lockdown.
Regarding the companies located in Mercabarna, the healthcare crisis has shown the importance of electronic trade, the use of which shot up during the lockdown.
You have the figures provided by the Trends Observatory. What does it mark out for the future?
In short, it tells us that there will be a generalised growth in the world population, the average age of which will be increasingly higher. Additionally, citizens will increasingly live alone and they will use more and more technology. Food shopping will be carried out more frequently, although less time will be devoted to preparing and cooking food. The trend will move towards a healthier diet, using local produce.
For this reason, along with the wholesale associations, we are working on projects to promote electronic trade, specialisation, local produce, food for single people and pre-prepared and pre-cooked ranges even more amongst the companies in Mercabarna.
As with the studies entrusted to our Trends Observatory, the Mercabarna Innova awards, the actions with start-ups for the Innofood and Food&Tech programmes or our training courses, are all attempts to collaborate with companies in the food sector to make them more competitive on a daily basis, promoting innovation, encouraging talent and helping them to discover the latest trends.
Mercabarna has an important social function.
Yes, indeed, Mercabarna contributes to society through the many projects that we carry out, such as the Summer University, the Prizes against Food Waste, the Mercabarna Scholarships or occupational training. All of this to give companies greater awareness and also to train and give work to unemployed people in the food sector.
Also, using activities such as the Mercabarna Race, the Unusual Visits or the ‘5 a day’ programme, we bring Mercabarna closer to the population, to emphasise its essential role in our diet, the work of the professionals who work here and the importance of fresh food for our health.
Finally, I would like to underscore the national prize that Mercabarna has recently received from the Fundación Alares, for family-work and personal life balance, the promotion of co-responsibility and social responsibility in Medium-sized companies.