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Fruit Logistica 2009 underlined its role as a leading global trade event for the fresh produce industry as exhibitors and trade visitors alike praised the international character of the event and the fact that it attracted a large number of top decision makers, according to the organizer of the event, which was held Feb. 4-6 in Berlin.

Emphasis was also placed on the excellent contacts with wholesalers and retailers, fruit and vegetable growers, importers and exporters. Fruit Logistica 2009 attracted 50,000 trade visitors from 125 countries. The share of trade visitors from abroad rose to 78 percent compared to 75 percent in 2008.

"Fruit Logistica continues to gain importance in the international produce trade," Christian G?ke, chief operating officer of Messe Berlin, organizer of the event, said in a Feb. 9 press release. "There was no trace of crisis in the air this year. Despite difficult financial times, the industry's leading trade fair confirmed its status as the most important marketing platform for all players in the global value chain. The event provided an important impetus to the fresh produce business."

A record-breaking 2,288 exhibitors (up from 2,110 in 2008) from 80 countries (up from 68 in 2008) presented the full spectrum of the logistics services required to ensure a year-round supply of top-quality fresh fruit and vegetables to consumers all over the world.

The exhibition space for this year's event was increased to 88,000 square meters (up from 81,000 square meters in 2008). Approximately 89 percent of the exhibitors came from outside Germany.

Fruit Logistica 2009 was officially opened by Ilse Aigner, Germany's federal minister of food, agriculture and consumer protection. The trade fair was also attended by Chilean Minister of Agriculture Marig?n Hornkohl, representing this year's Fruit Logistica partner country. Other officials in attendance were Egyptian Minister of Agriculture Amin Abaza, Greek Minister of Agriculture Sotiris Chatzigakis, Trade Minister Fredis Cerrato from Honduras, Jorge Ruede Sousa, Mexican Minister for Europe and Italian Minister of Agriculture Luca Zaia.

In all, 39 ambassadors and a number of national delegations were on hand to represent their countries and set up new business contacts.

Trade visitors voted for the sweet green pepper from the Dutch company Enza Zaden as the winner of this year's Fruit Logistica Innovation Award. Chris Groot, marketing project manager at Enza Zaden, said in a press release, "We are extremely proud of this award. It's a great compliment to our seed-breeding department and to the grower."

The School Apple Project sponsored by the Association for the Promotion of Organic Fruit from the Altes Land region of Germany took second-place honors in the competition. This project also received a special jury prize. Third place went to the T.R. Turoni company of Italy for its portable DA- Meter ripeness tester.

Key objectives for exhibitors at Fruit Logistica included new business development, company presentation and image building, and fostering customer relations and professional contacts. More than half of all exhibitors presented an innovation or enhancement of existing products, and 92 percent of exhibitors said that their participation at the trade fair had a positive impact on business.

The majority of trade visitors identified themselves as fruit and vegetable growers, representatives from import-export companies, or involved in wholesale or retail trade. The level of trade visitors' decision-making authority remained high, with 75 percent of trade visitors holding management positions in their companies and 88 percent having a key role in purchasing or procurement decisions.

The FreshConex 2009 trade fair for the rapidly growing fresh-cut convenience sector was held for the second time this year in conjunction with Fruit Logistica, and 73 exhibitors from 13 countries presented their products and services in an exhibition space of more than 4,000 square meters.

More than 87 percent of exhibitors and more than 98 percent of trade visitors gave a positive assessment of their business results at the trade fair.

Hein Deprez, chief executive officer of the Belgium-based Univeg group, parent company of Vero Beach, FL-based Seald Sweet International, said in the press release, "Univeg staff from all over the world were at Fruit Logistica to meet customers, colleagues and friends from across the fresh produce industry. The trade fair offered opportunities to share fresh produce ideas and experience, assess the changing market demands and identify and explore new innovation possibilities."

Reinhard Hagemann, general manager of Del Monte Germany, added in the press release, "It is important for Del Monte to attend Fruit Logistica. This year, we are particularly pleased with our international contacts -- especially to Scandinavian and Eastern European markets."

Fredis Cerrato of the Honduras Chamber of Industry & Commerce, added in the press release, "At Fruit Logistica, we can show the world the wide variety of good products our country has to offer. The trade fair also encourages our producers to enter the export market."

Christel E. Wagner, marketing specialist at the USA Pavilion, added, "We had five new companies from the U.S. join us this year. And they are all more than satisfied. Nobody was expecting to achieve this level of success in terms of the number and quality of contacts. We attracted a lot of interest from Eastern Europe and Central Europe."

Blanca G. Villarello, general coordinator of trade promotion for Mexico's MexBest program, said, "MexBest invested heavily in its trade show presence this year, and this was a major risk in the face of the current financial situation. All our expectations have been surpassed. Now we are very optimistic about our future export figures."

Fruit Logistica 2009 was organized by Messe Berlin GmbH in cooperation with Fruchthandel Magazine. Fruit Logistica 2010 will take place Feb. 3-5.