Interview with Jaime Hernani, director of Agragex
One can say without fear to make mistakes that many Spanish companies would not today where they are without the export. The collapse of the domestic market from 2009 was key to persuading many of them that their only way out was to sell abroad. “Those who did not see it so, or not are or are in very bad condition”, says in this respect Jaime Hernani, director of Agragex, the Spanish Association of Fabricantes-Exportadores of agricultural machinery and its components, greenhouses, crop protection, irrigation systems, cattle equipment, Animal Health and nutrition, forestry, biomass and post-harvest machinery.
What is the current situation of our exports?
I believe that our exports are on track, growing steadily year after year, saving specific moments of economic stagnation. It should be noted that in 2013 we broke the barrier of one billion in the agricultural sector, something that we believe is very commendable if you look at the few existing aid to encourage the export or so limited our business size. Under these conditions, the figure has much more merit. The work of the associations of exporters in these years of neglect by the Administration is being, if anything, more important than ever, because companies are relying on us the Organization of promotional activities.
What are our target countries?
The first market in Spain is generally Europe and within it is France and Germany, by proximity and relationship of the past. Perhaps the dependence of these markets has been exaggerated to be 75% of our sales abroad, but the closeness and the potential of Europe as a whole – and France and Germany in particular – makes it easier to attack these next few markets which does not go to the ‘americas’ or ‘Africa’. But the crisis also come to these giants, and although at the moment we only notice it in our French neighbour, is something that we should take into account.
In Agragex, in particular, and the GAERC group, in general, have always had it very clear: should not limit ourselves to any market in particular. It must diversify as much as possible and never place all your eggs in the same basket. Agragex takes a lifetime (36 years old) looking for markets on five continents and encouraging their enterprises and the sector in general to leave, to leave the world and to have a small market share in many countries, on five continents, and in that way reduce any crisis that might arise.
What is the real scope of the crisis of the greats of Europe?
It is early to say that. France has stopped for the moment. As it says its Prime Minister, “France not can keep living beyond their means”. The announced cuts are hard and to their agriculture and, therefore, affect the purchase of machinery and equipment. Our sales to the French market have fallen in the first half nothing less than 31%. At the moment, we see no crisis in other markets in the area, but we must not forget that France is the first buyer of machinery and agricultural equipment from Spain.
What subsectors have been hardest hit?
For the French market, I would say that machinery, components, and livestock equipment.
And how our market has reacted? What measures have been taken?
Are we to abandon markets because they are down, see France. What will be done is to continue to expand destinations and insisting on those in which is was working, as Iran, Arabia and sub-Saharan Africa, countries of Eastern Europe or Kazjastán.
What other destinations we could export our products?
Few destinations are by touch. Until 3 years ago, we were very well positioned in North Africa. Our equipment is sold in countries such as Libya, Syria and Egypt. After the events of the spring of 2011, the situation of the area changed dramatically and we lost almost a years work. We are very well positioned in Latin America and in the Middle East. We also do interesting things in Asia and we slowly move as far away as the Oceania market.
Do we know in our country to defend our interests?
The truth is that the speed of mobilization with the Russian embargo on agricultural products shows that when there is interest the thing moves. We would like that the Administration also moved with so much diligence when equipment manufacturers have problems, as they can be in the same Russia or in North Africa in the events said.
Are we competitive? Tell us about our strong and weak points.
I think that in Spain work best in what is said. I think that Spain is better than us what we ourselves believe. We value more outside to inside. At home always are complaining, arguing, lamenting, that if the NAP, that if bars, that if the bulls…
In Spain it works similarly to other countries, and I say this with knowledge of the facts. What happens is that in Spain it works differently. We don’t have so many multinationals as in Germany, but we have much more waist than Japan to adapt to the requirements of the customer.
And also in price…
Yes, I think that we have good price. The only thing missing is that we mentalizing us that we should adjust the margins more. The time of the pitch is already over, and with a little help from the dollar, as it is happening these days, we can increase our sales abroad and continue taking market share.
Which products are better output overseas at present?
In general, all. Both agricultural machinery, components, machinery and livestock equipment, health and animal nutrition products, greenhouses, its auxiliary industry, fertilizers, irrigation, equipment of post harvest or storage. All are appreciated and all exported well. We could perhaps highlight especially the irrigation or greenhouses, by own experience applied indoors.
What are most projection in the medium-term future?
The livestock sector, both in equipment in health and animal nutrition, are having a spectacular behaviour in recent years. It is a very agile sector that moves a lot and is very participatory activities of Agragrex.
What would you do if, for example, Prime Minister?
Work harder and stop evading the issue!
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