( File Photo )

The past year has been a whirlwind for Les Mallard, who steps down as Canadian Produce Marketing Association chairman April 4 at the annual convention in Montreal. 

“It’s been the best work year of my life,” said Mallard, vice president sales for Fyffes Canada, as he travelled across the country from his home in Halifax to Vancouver for CPMA; south to Washington, D.C., for the United Fresh Produce Association; and overseas to Berlin for Fruit Logistica.

“The big surprise was how much work there is to be done,” he said. 

“I told my family there would be a lot of extra work and travel, but I didn’t realize how much.”

Working with CPMA staff, “who were terrific in facilitating everything I had to do,” Mallard said he’s pleased with all the association has accomplished in terms of creating value for members. 

He’s especially satisfied with the new CPMA innovation hub, established to connect CPMA’s nearly 900 members around the world with new ideas, tools, products and concepts capable of growing the fruit and vegetable sector and creating new business opportunities. 

The chairman has also been working on ways members can reduce food waste.

“Food waste is no longer just a buzzword,” he said. 

“Businesses can increase their financial performance by 10% by implementing simple practices that not only improve their bottom line but remove unnecessary food loss and waste within their operations.”

In the coming months, he said CPMA will team up with Value Chain Management International to provide members with resources that will help them decrease inefficiencies and encourage supply chain partners to get on board. 

Canada’s new Food Guide is another bonus for the entire industry, he said. 
“I was on the initial task force for CPMA’s Half Your Plate program, launched in 2014,” he said, “and to see where it is now is very gratifying. You can tell consumers to eat 5 to 10 fresh fruits and vegetables a day, but when you actually say half your plate should be fruits and vegetables, they can’t get it wrong.”

The outgoing chairman said he’s excited about the Montreal convention, which will focus on innovation and bring together various groups of produce people in informal receptions, from women to under-40s to international dignitaries. 

“Of course, we’re also going to have a terrific trade show,” he said. 

When the convention is over, signalling the end of his term, “it’s going to feel good to actually exhale.”