The company operates a major public system of warehouses in the State of Sao Paulo and 13 terminal center markets, that offer supply to most of the State and other States. It is considered one of the largest markets of the world in sold volumes. It is truly a city within a city. It opens at 3am to receive, 12,000 trucks enter the market daily, 50,000 people enter the market daily, 25,000 growers sell their products their annually. There are large and small farmers (1000 square meters) selling at the market. The market provides the logistical structure and infrastructure, as well as training (in 2009 they trained 7000 people in the schools about using fruit and vegetables in the school lunch program) while the farmers, wholesalers, distributors, supermarkets (the buy 25% of their produce at the market), groceries, restaurants, food service providers are involved in the transactional business. Carts move the produce from the designated areas to trucks. These man pushed carts are heavy and you do not want to get in the way of a push cart loaded with no breaks!
Anita Gutierrez, who is the Quality Control Manager, acted as our gracious tour guide. We were joined in our group by a few business men from Italy looking to buy fruits and representatives from a Swedish beverage company.
There is no way I can explain in words the activity that occurs at this market. There is a section for fruit, vegetables, fish and fresh flowers. We walked for well over an hour and covered less than 1/3 of the market! Many of the fruits are unfamiliar to us in the US and we found that no one had every tried a cranberry.
The market provides some basic level of packing but struggles in several areas:
- Structure - Anita feels with investment structure they could operate more efficiently
- lack of cold storage
- Quality control and tracking - because there is no fruit tracking, no one is monitoring FOOD SAFETY or CERTIFICATION - pesticide use, damage control, traceability, photo sanitary;
- two major problems arise out of the lack traceability - potential for sickness and also if it is determined that there are infected fruits/vegetables by the Health Ministry, ALL of the vegetable must be destroyed as there is no way to know where it came from - no one gets paid
- logistical challenge of small farmers getting their products to the market timely
When asking them about sustainability, their focus is on social sustainability in distributing food to the CEAGESP Food Bank or if unsuitable for consumption, the food is converted to manure through composting. CEAGASP promotes recycling of hay, wood, paper and iron.
This public market is a far comparison to the farm we visited in the afternoon which I will discuss in the next post.
Please enjoy the pictures of the fruits. We tried several and they were delicious. I am curious to discover more about the consumer's concern and interest in food safety.