This time in our series “Yexpert Stories”: Edwin van Leeuwen, our Commercial Manager. He tells us about how we at Yex have dealt with all the challenges associated with this special time.
It’s a good thing we didn’t know what would be hanging over us six months ago. That the whole team would be working from home for weeks, for example. That supermarkets would take some of the exotic assortment off the shelves. That catering sales would all but disappear. That we would no longer be able to travel. Or that the supply of many exotics would become impossible due to high freight rates. Yes, 2020 is one of the most dynamic Yex years ever, that is clear. But we are pleased with the enormous flexibility everyone – colleagues, farmers and customers – has adopted to get through it.
This flexibility meant that from mid-March we were able to quickly take appropriate action. Suddenly, we couldn’t give baby corn or tamarillo away if we’d wanted to. Retailers made room for bulk products such as potatoes or carrots. We went from a wide range to a more limited selection. Which turned out to be a good thing, because air freight transport was discontinued for some products. It meant that we had to improvise, and so did our farmers. They grow for export, and now they suddenly had to look for other sales channels, such as the local market.
At Yex, we are a partner for our farmers. We don’t simply send an email to let them know we won’t be ordering anything in the coming months. At times like these we look for -flexible- solutions together. You try to help each other as best you can, each within their own capabilities. So, communication has to be done via Teams, Zoom or other channels. It’s a solution, don’t get me wrong, but it is the social aspect in particular that determines your relationship with a farmer. Being able to look each other straight in the eye. Going out on the land. Eating together.
This hasn’t happened for months, and it may not happen at all this year. My most ‘exotic’ business trip was to Germany, two weeks ago. Only time will tell how things will go with the Covid situation. The second wave, predicted for the autumn, is already here. What will happen this winter, traditionally the time for infections and viruses? We had hoped to go from 80% to 100% occupancy in the office from September, but will that even be an option? And what will happen in areas on which we depend for our purchasing, such as South America and Africa? Nobody knows.
I am happy to be back at Poeldijk four days a week. And yet, despite spending a lot of time at home, the coronavirus has brought us closer together as a team. We all have a strong determination to get through this. As a Yex team, and with our farmers and customers.
However, there’s one thing we wouldn’t want to change, and that is our sustainability efforts. Fortunately, these are not up for discussion for farmers in difficult times either. After all, our suppliers are highly dependent on exports, which is why they are aware of the importance. The quiet time they have had (in terms of sales that is) has created space for growers to put the finishing touches on sustainability.
No doubt, the coming months will be challenging. Thanks to our great cooperation within the team and with our farmers and customers, we will get through this!