Soybean and Corn Farmers become Fruit Farmers and Exporter
In 2011 after years of corn and soybean farming we decided to try our green thumbs in the tropical fruits industry. While farming in Eastern Russia in the months when we had time we spent most of our days off researching in the wonderful islands of the Philippines. A natural place for some of the best fruits in the world, the friendliest people, and ports all around the islands for exporting activities. This became our first choice of country to establish our new business in the export of tropical fruits.
After studying and preparing ourselves in 2011 for Cavendish Banana exports by 2012 we were ready to commence with our first shipments. A very extensive and exhausting process of registering our business in a foreign country, mountains of paperwork, long days and three months of working through licensing issues we finally received our export permit.
Cavendish Banana and Challenges of Quality Supply
While the Philippines is a great country to establish a business there are still lots of areas that need improvement. The amount of paperwork and documentation required is immense, to say the least. You spend two days traveling from place to place to collect all of the documents required back in this time when we started shipping our first containers. Purchasing bananas from local “consolidators” is one of the shadiest parts of the whole export business. While the intentions of finding buyers are of their utmost concern they lack for the most part in supplying quality bananas as they do not wholly understand the management of the farmer.
The banana exporting industry is plagued with monopolized groups that hinder quality products and free capitalistic businesses to flourish. This is a whole other blog for those trying to jump into the export business.
However, facing this challenge we were able to find a quality supply of Cavendish Banana and establish a strong partnership with some local plantation owners. We eliminated the need for a “consolidator” and worked directly with a few select farmers.
Establishing our Team for Exports
One of the most rewarding parts of setting up a new business in any country is assembling a team. We were fortunate to find so many good workers and valuable employees in our first years of business. The Filipinos show such desire to work hard, enjoy their days at work, and share ideas in business. I have found some of the best employees from these first days that are still with us today.
Having our small team assembled we knew we could handle any of these shipments that came our way. A strong team is the backbone of any company.
Stocking the Warehouse
Lead times in the USA are typically short and getting things when we want them and need them is relatively a stressless process. Anticipating every segment of the operation in the Philippines is extremely important as lead times a lengthy and rarely is inventory something a vendor will have.
Before orders commence make certain to stock your warehouse and have all supplies in advance by two to three weeks to avoid costly delays.
Stocking the warehouse was a less stressful task than dealing with vendor lead times.
Cavendish Banana Inspection and the Packing House
There is so much to learn about Cavendish Banana that for owners and exporters being present at the farms and packing houses is a must. After staring at bananas day after day you will easily be able to tell if a bad one sneaks through the line. It is in every owner’s interest to hire well-trained quality inspectors to ensure bananas are of the highest quality. Consistent ongoing training and investment into your inspection team will not go wasted and funds well worth spending.
Making certain the bananas are handled with care, washed thoroughly, and packaged properly is of the utmost importance for arrival to your buyer for the best quality fruit. A lot of unseen damage can happen through this process.
Bananas and Buyers
The Cavendish Banana from the Philippines is highly sought after for its taste and appearance. Loading our first containers was a great feeling. Establishing connections in many different countries would open our doors to expanding on other tropical fruits grown in the Philippines.
We started off our early days learning the buyer’s needs and what was important for them. This is always a challenge as each buyer from different countries have the unique details they want with their orders. This can be difficult at times but well worth the repeat orders and a satisfied customer.
The Banana Box Container Loading Process
Coming from farms back in the USA most of what we do was automated. So our first loading experience would be one to remember. Loading containers box by box was a process we were a bit unprepared for. Of course, I like to understand every step of the process. So I took my place in line to load the containers. This was a great experience working with the guys and seeing them. As this was a routine part of the job all conversing and laughing as they loaded box after box.
Conclusion: Our first year in business was quite successful with a steep learning curve. It also was rewarding to see this project come together. Since the first days, our business has been transformed several times to includes our own leased plantations. We were also expanding our fruit offerings for export. As a result, we have created more efficient processes to satisfy the customers’ demands and needs.