Crop’s Solidifies Polish Supply Line with Agram Purchase
Ooigem, Belgium-headquartered Crop’s has acquired Agram S.A., a Lublin, Poland-based producer of frozen vegetables and fruits. The two companies have had a cooperative business relationship since 2006. Terms of the deal, which was finalized on the eve of the October 7 kickoff of the Anuga trade show in Köln, Germany, were not disclosed.
While no formal announcement of the sale was made, this reporter realized that something was up upon entering Hall 4.2 of the Koelnmesse fairgrounds and seeing the Crop’s red, green and white logo prominently displayed at Stand C9, which was booked by Agram and listed as such in the Visitor Guide. Not only were Crop’s colors flying, but samples of its ready meal packs and other products were on exhibit.
A stroll over to Crop’s spacious flagship stand at C28/B29 and a chat with Managing Director Michel Delbaere confirmed the sale. Further information was provided during a conversation with Crop’s General Manager Johan Polfliet and Agram Managing Director and CEO Dariusz Mroz.
With weather irregularities becoming all too regular in Europe during recent years, it makes more sense than ever to secure access to harvests in multiple geographical locations on the continent and elsewhere in the world to meet growing demand for frozen vegetable and fruit products.
Crop’s, which was established by Delbaere in1977, sources about 50% of raw material requirements from the productive fields of Belgium, home of its state-of-the-art Hesbayefrost processing unit in Geer and a value-added packing plant in Ooigem. Approximately 25% is procured from Poland, where Agram has two production facilities. The remaining 25% comes from Spain and Portugal, where Mediterranean vegetables are processed at plants in Badajoz and Alpiarca.
Agram’s current output of 30,000 tons per annum runs the gamut from broccoli, carrots, parsnips, parsley, celery, leek, onions and tomatoes to strawberries, cherries, raspberries, black and red currant, and forest fruit blends. Ninety percent of the vegetables and fruits are sourced from long-term contracted farmers and producer groups in eastern Poland.
Crop’s plans to make a major investment to modernize Agram’s production capability and double output in Poland by 2019. The project will include a new packing hall, coldstore and freezing tunnel.
Approximately 200 people are employed by the Polish operation, which has been in business for more than 45 years. Eighty-five percent of its production is exported to retail, foodservice and industrial customers throughout Europe, North America, Japan, China, Israel, Russia and other markets.
The frozen vegetable and fruit production sector in Poland is highly fragmented, with hundreds of companies producing an estimated 500,000 to 600,000 tons of finished product per annum. This is in stark contrast to Spain, where just a handful of big players pack roughly 400,000 tons a year.
It would seem that the time for consolidation in Poland has arrived. – Reported by John Saulnier