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Announcing Feb. 12 its new business practice of working directly with "selected strategic dealers and key customers," Nunhems USA will begin a different approach to product distribution in the United States, Mexico and Canada beginning April 1.

Nunhems' dealer network is being consolidated to what a company release described as "a few strategic dealers." The company's "key customers" that include grower-shippers and other supply chain contacts will receive more personalized, local service.

The statement went on to say that the change is being made "to maximize value for the vegetable seed industry and throughout the produce supply chain."

Roger Tripathi, Nunhems marketing manager, told The Produce News that this change affects only North America, but he noted that it reflects some of the successes seen in a similar strategy implemented in Europe.

Mr. Tripathi said that Nunhems' goal is to "get closer co our ultimate customers and to those customers' customers. We want to meet consumer preferences and help retailers, brokers and shippers, and our strategy is to get closer to our real customer, which is the grower."

As with most seed producers, Nunhems historically sold most of its products through a dealer network, which limited its direct involvement with growers and the supply chain.

The statement noted, "Currently, dealers and distributors make up the majority of Nunhems' customers. Under the new strategy, Nunhems plans to collaborate with selected strategic dealers and key customers directly." Mr. Tripathi reiterated the comment, saying, "We still value our dealers and will work with a strategic group."

A subsidiary of Bayer CropScience, Nunhems USA is based in Parma, ID, and it produces most of the onion seed utilized in that area.

The U.S. operation also develops seed varieties for carrots, cauliflower, cucumbers, leeks, melons, peppers, squash, tomatoes and watermelon, and the global operation has facilities in dozens of countries.

Jeff Boettge, global head of marketing and sales, agreed with Mr. Tripathi's description of Nunhems' "more focused approach to the market," adding, "We are always trying to improve, and while we're a global specialist with integrated systems, we're also a team that's organized by crop."

Addressing the Idaho-Eastern Oregon onion industry, Mr. Boettge said that Nunhems has developed varieties that are disease-resistant and have high yields, and now the seed company is focusing on consumer traits as well. Those traits include health compounds and flavor characteristics such as sweetness or mildness.

"Onions are now a commodity but are becoming a specialized crop," he said. Ko Remijnse, managing director of marketing and sales, said in the statement that the company's approach to its customers goes beyond just the seed, and two strategic dealers were quoted as being in favor of the change.

As preparations are made for the new approach to take effect, existing Nunhems customers are being contacted regarding the change.

"We are excited to be able to provide our customers a specialized, global approach but with local expertise. We are able to bring resources and value to our customers that they may not have otherwise," said Ron Amarel, Nunhems' country head/USA and managing director of operations.

He added, "With strong customer relationships come successful partnerships." Mr. Boettge added, "This is a comprehensive approach to the produce industry. Ultimately, we want to make a difference."