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PMA Goes To Australia

Our piece, PMA Convenes First Country Council, pointed out that PMA was going abroad in a big way by establishing a “country council” to ensure its products, services and events are relevant to members and potential members in Australia and New Zealand.

Now PMA just held its Fresh Connections Conference, in Darling Harbor in Sydney, Australia. The Pundit has many fond memories of Darling Harbor, having stayed at the Novotel there 15 years ago when Peter Pokorny ran Woolworths’ produce operation and arranged for the Pundit to give the keynote address for that year’s Australian United Fresh conference in Newcastle. You can read our perceptions of that visit here.

The Darling Harbor setting was more appropriate for the event than PMA might realize. Though this was the third year PMA held the Fresh Connections Conference, this was the year to kick things into high gear since PMA established its Country Council. When the Pundit stayed at Darling Harbor, he spent an afternoon at the Australian National Maritime Museum where there was a visiting exhibit related to World War II and a movie that included Sir Winston Churchill expounding on the importance of the bonds between the “English-speaking peoples.”

PMA’s Fresh Connections Australia Conference Kicks Off
David Smith, Freshmax Holdings, Ltd., Australia/New Zealand Country Council member; Robert Nugan, Fresh Produce Group of Australia, PMA International Council member; Bill Schuler, Castellini Company, PMA Transportation Task Force co-chair; and Michael Simonetta, Perfection Fresh Australia, PMA Australia/New Zealand Country Council chairman (and emcee of the Fresh Connections Australia Conference) networked and enjoyed the opening reception in Australia, August 2. The Conference continued
August 3 with almost 200 attendees.

Now a new bond was being formed at this conference. Of course, PMA doesn’t only do events in English these days, and so it called upon Tom Reardon to give a presentation in Australia. As we mentioned in PMA Broadens Reach In Chile, Professor Reardon also keynoted, in Spanish, PMA’s recent event in Santiago.

Professor Reardon has made many contributions to the Pundit, including this piece from our mailbag entitled, China, COOL And International Opportunities.

Michael Batycki, Woolworth’s, member of PMA’s Retail Board of Directors and Australia/New Zealand Country Council and Rob Robson, One Harvest; member of PMA Executive Committee, Board of Directors, and Australia/New Zealand Country Council.

We tracked down Nancy Tucker, PMA’s Vice President For Global Business Development, just as she returned from the opening reception, and she shared her enthusiasm:

Arrived in Sydney this morning and spent all day in the second meeting of the PMA Australia/New Zealand Country Council. There is great energy and enthusiasm among these volunteers about working for the good of this industry under PMA’s umbrella. Key topics for the meeting included review and modification of key products for this market, consumer research, education and bringing new people into the produce business (increasing the visibility of produce as a desirable career) through working with the PMA Education Foundation.

This evening we kicked off the Fresh Connections Australia Conference with a wonderful reception in the Star Room of the IMAX Theater on Darling Harbor. The participants networked while enjoying great food and beverages and the view of the harbor. There should be just shy of 200 participants at tomorrow’s program, which features the following speakers and panelists.

We were also fortunate to get a few photos of the opening reception. Michael Simonetta, Perfection Fresh Australia, Chairman of the PMA Australia/New Zealand Country Council and the emcee of the event, welcomed the group by noting that those attending were a ‘who’s who’ of the vertical supply chain for the industry in Australia and New Zealand.

The sessions offered substantial educational value as the agenda makes clear:

Global Supermarket Growth & Development

Keynote Speaker:
Dr. Thomas Reardon, Professor, Department of Agricultural Economics, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan, USA

Industry Panel Commentary

Moderator: Rob Robson, One Harvest


Robert Nugan, Fresh Produce Group of Australia, Australia

John Glover, Metro Cash & Carry, Vietnam

Ingrid Hoffma, Le Fresh International (NZ), New Zealand


Global Trends in Consolidation

Keynote Speakers:
William Schuler, President & CEO, Castellini Group of Companies, Newport, Kentucky, U.S.A. and Nancy Tucker, Vice President, Global Business Development, Produce Marketing Association, Newark, Delaware, USA

Industry Panel Commentary

Moderator: John Webster, Horticulture Australia Ltd (HAL)


David Smith, Freshmax Holdings Ltd, New Zealand

Michael Worthington, Timbercorp, Australia

Paul Moraitis, Moraitis Group, Australia

And the conference received substantial support from the local trade:

Excellent support has also been shown by conference partner Horticulture Australia Ltd (HAL) and 10 co-sponsors from Australia and New Zealand:

Brisbane Produce Market
Fresh Produce Group
Moraitis Group
Perfection Fresh Australia
Zespri International

Following the event, John Baker, PMA’s representative in Australia, confirmed that almost 200 people attended the conference — to be precise 197 attendees — up 20% from last year’s event.

Michael Simonetta, Conference Chairman and Chair of the PMA Australia-New Zealand Country Council added these thoughts:

“PMA’s third Fresh Connections Conference was one of the most stimulating and beneficial local conferences I have attended.

It has set new standards in networking and information exchange for all of us in the fresh produce industry in Australia and New Zealand.

A feature of the conference was the representation and interaction from key businesses in all sectors of the supply chain, from growers to packers, marketers, retailers and service providers. It was particularly pleasing to see retail representation from supermarkets and independent retail groups alike. This is the first time I have seen all the main Australian retail groups together at one event.

As a result, networking was again rated the most valuable component of the conference.

Delegates also said insights into global trends and their impact were valuable and very well presented by the keynote speakers and panels.

Attendees spoke very highly of the event with content and networking vying for position as the key benefit of attending. For example, Robert Cavallaro, a Business Manager at Woolworths Ltd., praised the presentations for providing “the latest market trends,” while his cohort, Michael Batycki, Senior Business Manager of Produce, Woolworths Ltd., found that the “networking and interaction were most valuable.”

Australia is a big country, and it was particularly interesting that attendees seemed to think the conference worth a trip. For example, Graham Morgan, Managing Director of Bullfrog International, praised the organization of the effort and emphasized that it was “worth the effort to get here.” This is no small praise for a small conference considering that Bullfrog is located in far off Western Australia — the capital city, Perth, is 2,041 miles to Sydney!

And one North American expatriate, Dawn Gray, a Canadian who long has been active in the U.S. and who we profiled after she moved to New Zealand in our piece pundit Pulse Of The Industry: Enza’s Dawn Gray, thought PMA ought to be commended because of the impact of the event, beyond its immediate utility. As Dawn, now the General Manager for Enza/Turners & Growers, explained: “Keep up the good work PMA — our industry needs a common voice.”

Of course, the success of the conference just raises more questions for PMA and United back in the USA. As our series has been discussing, there is some question as to the compatibility of this type of international focus and a focus on lobbying the U.S. government.

After all, PMA’s international involvement has reached the point where an Australian is now holding a position on the PMA executive committee that, traditionally, leads to the chairmanship. As we discussed in Is It Possible To Have A PMA Chairman From Outside The US? and followed up with Pundit’s Mailbag — In Support Of Rob Robson, this would truly be a transformational event for PMA and certainly would color any discussions of merger between PMA and United.

A question for another day. For now, a tip of the hat to PMA and our Australian and New Zealand friends for making the conference a big success.

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