Silbermann said the strong international draw of Fresh Summit and the work of PMA’s Global Development Committee is a reaffirmation of PMA’s strategic plan to become a truly global association.
Statistics point to considerable progress already. As of mid-October, the group had 2,300 members in 45 countries, with 390 new members from all countries added this year, said Meg Miller, PMA’s director of public relations.
While Silbermann doesn’t see Fresh Summit being staged in other countries because of the size and the logistics of the event, he said the associations’ strategy is to develop country councils and affiliates in various parts of the world where members want to create their own region communities.
Australia and New Zealand are furthest along in that process, but groups in South Africa and Chile are also moving in that direction as well, he said.
“You will have events that will draw 1,000 people probably next year in Australia, where they have their own trade show and convention, and we’ve had Fresh Connections events in Mexico that have had 340 people and in Chile with 275 people, so I think that is more the model,” he said.
Silbermann said Fresh Summit provides a focal point for the produce trade in the U.S. and around the world, with regional shows also providing value.
“You can provide local value and also have a global meeting place, where the entire industry gets together,” he said. “The two are not mutually exclusive.”
PMA could play a role in the tomato dispute between Mexico and some U.S. growers. Silbermann said the role may be pointing out the importance of trade and seeing if common ground can be found between the two sides.
“The last thing we need is a trade war between the U.S. and Mexico, in which produce items in both directions are severely impacted,” he said.
Speaking about negotiations between national trade associations that ultimately failed to find enough common ground, Silbermann said the failed merger talks between PMA and United Fresh this year won’t kill the working relationship between the groups.
Citing the Produce Traceability Initiative, the Farm Bill Now coalition, the Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance and other joint efforts, Silbermann said PMA, United Fresh and other associations continue to coordinate their efforts.