As the Maltese season from Tunisia draws to an end, Med’Essor will soon start marketing its first Spanish melons. “We are at the heart of the Moroccan campaign and we are about to start with the Spanish origin. For the moment, everything is going well. The quality of the melons is good, prices are reasonable, volumes are satisfactory and there is no supply problem. This year again, we will continue with our Rouge Gorge brand. We hope that consumption will be good,” Mourad Ben Salem, manager of Med’Essor told Fresh Plaza.
“For us, the Maltese season from Tunisia was very satisfactory”, despite the various problems the Maltese campaign from Tunisia had to face, sales went rather well for Med’Essor. “There are still approximately two weeks of the campaign left and we can say that the Maltese season was a success. We are very familiar with the product and the sector, that’s why we were able to obtain merchandise throughout the whole season.
But generally speaking, it has been complicated. On the one hand, the logistics have been disrupted by the health crisis we are currently going through. Before, ships were leaving Tunisia every day, while there are only three per week now. There is also a shortage of trucks from North Africa, because of the few trailers available.
Then, between Marseille and Paris, it is difficult to find drivers. On the other hand, the COVID-19 crisis is starting to settle on the other side of the Mediterranean. All these factors lead to a reduction of the offer and the inflation of commodity prices. It used to cost approximately 3,500 euros for a truck of Maltese melons from Tunisia going from Tunis to Paris. At the moment, we observe a significant increase per truck,” explains Mourad Ben Salem.
“What we fear the most are the indirect effects of the crisis”
As for many wholesalers, the government announced the closure of restaurants and collective catering which was a major blow. “We have lost an important part of our clientele. But we were able to compensate for part of this loss thanks to the increased sales among consumers at the beginning of the lockdown. Although we then lost 30 to 40% of our revenue, we were still able to get by. But it is the decision to close open-air markets which were catastrophic for us. Supermarkets and small retail stores now represent most of our clientele. We hope that the situation will improve rapidly and that markets will soon open again.”
But for Mourad Ben Salem, the crisis is not done impacting the professionals of the sector. “What we fear the most are the indirect effects of the crisis. Market retailers represent 40% of our clientele. Many client credits are in progress and we no longer see our clients, since their activity has been momentarily frozen,” explains Med’Essor Manager. “We, therefore, have no way of recovering these funds and we do not even know if it will be possible, although the outstanding amounts are the same and we will have to pay our suppliers. For the professionals of the sector, this is the most dangerous phenomenon.”
The closure of Rungis on Mondays presents, according to Mourad Ben Salem, both an advantage and an inconvenience. “It is true that in the current context, Mondays are not the most dynamic days. This helps concentrate the activity on the one hand, but increases the health risk on the other hand since the influx on Tuesdays is larger, including the Monday customers as well.”