Tuesday, January 8, 2013

4 important facts about Romanian food business

Romania is an emerging food processing location in Eastern Europe, and despite some challanges, more analysts predict: this country will be the bread basket of Europe.

When it's about European expansion in food business, it's good to know about opportunities provided by Romania:

#1 Romania is the only country in Eastern Europe which regards food industrial direct investments as a strategic business
The investment promotion of Eastern European governments typically focus on fancy industries like automotive, biotech, IT etc. Romania has a unique approach: they love agricultural and food processing investors, and government grants support food-related investments. (The high motivation of Romanian politics in food business are also represented by the fact: the EU-comissioner - "federal minister" - Dacian Ciolos is also from Romania).

#2 The Romanian food business -related population is one of the largest in Europe.
The agricultural population of Romania reaches 3 million people, far the largest number in Eastern Europe. This means low-efficiency, and the same time inexhaustible labour supply for any food business, including the highest level processing (the government is keen about re-training subsidies).

#3 Romania has the 2nd largest crop land in Central- and Eastern Europe
Romania is viewed as Poland in 5-7 years ago: the large farmland investments doubled-trippled the land prices in Poland. Currently, Romania has large and deeply underpriced croplands. The increasing agricultural production can be the base of any food processing business in the country.

#4 Challenges
The main structural challenges before Romania on the road to the top are the following:
  • Small average farm size, a need for concentration in the industry. It's a returning task for Romanian goverments to improve farm structures and promote mergers in agriculture business. Foreign direct investors can aquire farms without limits, and domestic agri-companies also invest in land.
  • Weak financial support, e.g: low-level bank loans. Getting a bank loan in Romania is not easy in food business, however relevant EU funds support the industry.
  • Weak infrastructure: the transportation infrastructure and public utility services are under the average Eastern European level, but the above mentioned EU funds also finance large-scale motorway developments and infrastructural projects.

Background: ongoing agriculture reforms in Romania

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The future of European agriculture

The European agriculture is much more regulated industry than, let's say, the U.S. one. The government has fundamental impact on the future of regulated market. The government, in this case, means the European Commission, the 'almost-federal-government' of the European Union. Its agriculture policy (called CAP, Common Agriculture Policy) will fundamentally changed after 2013, impacting the future of European agriculture and food business.

Current situation
The EU's Common Agriculture Policy (read a good summary on Wikipedia) goals "to provide farmers with a reasonable standard of living, consumers with quality food at fair prices and to preserve rural heritage." In other words: the CAP always have involved "off-business", environmental and social efforts, and this is behind the European food business protectionism. The CAP has 2 focuses: current or direct payments (DP) to farmers and the rural developments, which represent the major share of EU budget.

CAP post-2013: European Commission's proposals
The European Commission realized the need for a reform in CAP. The CAP reform has 3 objectives:

#1 enhanced competitiveness: The Commission would like to finish some old school protectionism: eliminate production limits (e.g: for sugar) and certain aid schemes, would like to improve food supply chain positions (e.g: enforcing producer organizations), and increase funding for some programmes like school milk and fruit programmes.

#2 improved sustainability: The 'almost-federal-government' proposes a redistribution in direct payments, and tries "to green" DPs. "Green payment" goals to diversify crop production, enlarge permanent grassland, and introduce some ecological focus areas. The proposal is about a 30% green share of direct payments. Improving sustainability also means a 'young farmer programme' for <40 years farmer.

#3 greater effectiveness: The Commission would like to emphasize much better the importance of effective agriculture policy. For this purpose, it tries to shorten food supply chains, implement local promotions, and support producer groups and organic farming. The advisory services and business development support for young/small farmers also goals a better usage of agruculture budget.

The following presentation is the official communication of European Commission about the CAP 2014-20 reform:

European agriculture policy 2014-2020 from Balazs Csorjan dr.

The European food market is one of the most (over?)regulated markets - and unfortunatelly it won't be much easier to entry to EU food market in the future. It will be greener, more organic, more effective, but, if you are a non-EU food seller, it will be challenging also in the future to entry this market. One option is to launch a new food production facility, let's say, in the low-cost Eastern Europe.

Or, if you had any better ideas, we were more than happy if you share it with us.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Case study: food distribution in Eastern Europe

The leading German retail company, Rewe has several brands in Eastern Europe. One of them is 'Penny Market', a discounter chain. This story is about Penny's food logistics.

About Rewe Group
"With a turnover of more than 48 billion euros and about 323,000 employees (2011), REWE Group is one of the leading trading and travel and tourism companies in Germany and Europe. Since its foundation in 1927, the cooperative Group has developed on the basis of sustainable and long-term growth."

penny market

Rewe Group has several well-known retail store brands in Europe: Billa, Rewe, Bipa, Merkur, Adeg, and last, but not least: the Penny Market. Penny is the most successful European brand of Rewe, focusing on Central- and Eastern Europe and Italy. Penny is the market leader discounter chain in the Czech Republic and Romania, and the nr.2 player in Hungary. The 1,200 European Penny stores achieved 3.4 billion euros turnover in 2011.

Karcag Industrial Park
Karcag Industrial Park is a low-cost, food industry focused business park in Eastern Hungary. The location's strong food business traditions, focused education and excellent transportation connections also supports the food logistic activities.

Penny Market, Karcag

Penny Market Distribution Center in Karcag
The Penny's Eastern Hungarian Distribution Center was launched in 2008, as the 2nd distribution center in Hungary. The company employs 150 people in the 19,000 sq.meter (~205k sq.feet) facility, where goods are not only distributed, but also received from domestic and international suppliers and get prepared for distribution.

Finally, here is a short video about Rewe's world:

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Government grants to boost food processing investments in Eastern Europe

Agriculture is one of the most subsidized sector of the European Union, and Eastern European governments are keen to subsidize food processing investors.

Generally we can say, Eastern European governments' threshold stimulus is around 50 million euros investment and approx. 250 new jobs in food processing industry, under these numbers you are a very small investor. Governments normally sign an agreement with investor, so receiving a government grant is a contractual connection between the company and the government. It means, you get some money, but you also have some obligations, e.g: for job creation money you have to employ your staff for 1-2 years - and when you could't, you have to pay back the grant.
The subsidizing process always starts at the governmental investment promotion agencies: the PAIZ in Poland, the HITA in Hungary, and the RomTradeInvest in Romania. Decision making about the government subsidy requires normally 1-3 months.
There are several dues you can apply for, here we overview the most important:

#1 Subsidies for investments in "assets"
Governments appreciate the investments is real estate (new processing plant) and machinery. Machinery investments can be the main part of investment costs, e.g: Polish government subsidizes it with a 2-10% grant.
When you think about real estate grants, do not forget: real estate business is a particular profession, and real estate costs are approx. 10% only of the total investment - it's much easier to lease a property on a subsidized fee.

Case study: subsidized leasing in Polgar, Hungary Polgar Industrial Park, Hungary won an EU grant in 2012 for development of a new, 7,000sq.meter (75,000 sq.feet) manufacturing hall, available from Q4 2012. The grant provides a leasing fee discount for potential investors, and in the meantime they don't have to invest in a real estate.

#2 Job creation and other HR-related subsidies
The G-spot of Eastern European governments is job creation, this is the magic word you should build on. Some countries simply provides a "head money" for each new job created, others provide grant frameworksFor example, if you invest 40 million Euros in Romania, AND create at least 300 new food processing jobs, the Romanian government will offer a maximum 20 million Euros package. The final job creation grant in Romania depends on the location of the new plant (investments in underdeveloped regions get higher grants), contribution to infrastructure development, involving research and development, energetic efficiency improvement etc. Other governments subsidize also smaller costs (e.g:  training costs and employees' commuting cost in Hungary), but these are the typical schemes.

#3 Tax relieves
Eastern European governments are a bit shy when its about tax relieves. Before EU accession, most government provided large scale corporate income tax relieves, but the European Union doesn't like it indeed. However, most of the governments found smart, EU-compatible solutions for tax relieves. For example, the Hungarian government provides "development tax allowance", with the following scheme:
  • Amount of subsidy: exemption for 80% of the corporate tax payable for 10 years following installation. Up to HUF 500 M turnover the corporate tax rate is 10%, above HUF 500 M the tax rate is 19%.
  • Conditions: investment volume min. HUF 3 B (EUR 11.3 M), min. 150 new jobs OR HUF 1 B (EUR 3.7 M) investment volume and 75 new jobs in preferred regions
  • Application: depending on investment volume request or application needs to be submitted
  • Provider of incentive: Ministry for National Economy

#4 Cash grants
In the love packages of Eastern European governments there is two types of cash. All the grants above have specific goals, preferences, and obligations (e.g: re-training grants have to spend for local trainings), but when you hear about "cash grants" it means in general: you get money (normally not more than 5% of total investment costs) as a bonus.

The European sandbox
Finally: the government grants ("state aid" in European jargon) are generally prohibited by European Commission (the "federal government of EU"), because government grants have a negative impact on internal market competition. However, there are some exceptions, when EU not prohibits but supports state aids: the underdeveloped regions of Eastern Europe can provide grants on this way. The understanding of EU state aid policy can help to make better investment decisions, so lets take a look at the following presentation:

Thursday, August 23, 2012

6 reasons to start food processing in Eastern Hungary

Expanding on European market could mean a new food processing plant in the low-cost Central and Eastern Europe. Eastern Hungary's strong food cluster provides more benefit to start here.

Eastern Hungarian food processing cluster

#1: Save the long-distance food transport costs
It has relevant shipping costs of exporting processed dairy products to the European Union. If you spare long food miles, you not just save money, but also protect our environment. Plus, there are no legal barriers befor market entry inside the EU. The Eastern European food processing countries, like Poland and Hungary, have relevant food export to the western part of the EU, so its an existing model for businesses. Eastern Hungary has excellent transportation connections to Western Europe: the length of the Eastern Hungarian motorways reaches 600 kms (373 miles), it’s longer than the motorway system of entire Slovakia and almost two times longer than Romania has.

Boosting milk production
#2: Boosting raw material production, increasing efficiency
The Eastern Hungarian food processing cluster is based on one of the strongest agriculture in Eastern Europe. Raw material production and sales is the integral part of local economy. The agricultural production is not low-cost only, but its efficiency is also improving.
Join the winners
#3: Award winning location
Eastern Hungary is one of the most awarded Eastern European locations by Financial Times’ fDi Magazine: 2 regions and 2 cities of Eastern Hungary was ranked for the top doing business locations of Eastern Europe.

#4: Specialized business park offers
Eastern Hungary has 95 industrial parks, it’s more, than the number of industrial parks in Poland. The competing real estate market resulted specialized business parks, including food processing parks (e.g: Karcag Industrial Park).

#5: Large labour supply
The number of unemployed people in Eastern Hungary is more, than 300,000, more than 60% of total unemployment in Hungary. Big numbers of blue/white collar workers are available, and strong governmental re-training programmes provide company-specific knowledge for them. The food business is one of the target sectors of government`s job creation strategy.

#6: Governmental incentives are focusing on Eastern Hungary
The goal of governmental incentives is to orient foreign direct investments into underdeveloped regions with high unemployment. Eastern Hungary is among the most intensively (potentially 50%) subsidized regions of the EU. So, when you think about to invest in Eastern Hungary, prepare for a pleasant surprise.

European perspectives
Food trade is free inside the EU common market, however Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) of EU has a fundamental impact on member state's agriculture. The following short video helps in the better understanding of presence and future of CAP:

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The best food logistic hubs in Eastern Europe

Food business requires a strong logistic support, to organize supply chain as cost-effective as possible. The Eastern European food market is served from some matured and some emerging hubs.


 M0 Motorway, Hungary

Budapest. The main logistic hub of Hungary (and maybe Eastern Europe) is Budapest. The M0 Motorway around the City is not a bypass only, but the location of several logistic parks and warehousing companies, developing ~3 million sq.meters (approx. 32 million sq.feet) industrial and logistic facilities. The US-based Prologis is the market-leader service provider in Hungary, and has almost 500k sq.meter (~5,3 million sq.feet) warehousing spaces in more logistic parks along the M0. Besides transportation infrastructure, developed logistic services are the keys to success.

Rewe Group's logistic hub in Karcag

Karcag. The emerging hub of Karcag Industrial Park is located by the main route nr.4, which connects Budapest and Western Europe to Ukraine and Russia. Romania, Ukraine and Slovakia can be reached in 2 hours by truck. The Germany-based food retail company, REWE (Penny Market) has the Eastern-Hungarian distribution centre in the Park. The REWE evaluated the logistic potential of Karcag Industrial Park: the nearness of suppliers and consumers.
Subsidized rental fees are under 3€/sq.meter/month (under 3.3€/sq.feet/year).


Poland's logistics map 2012

The polish logistic market is devided in 3 parts: the Sector I is the City of Warsaw, Sector II are the logistics parks around Warsaw, and Sector III are the logistic locations outside Warsaw. Although the Warsaw-sectors with ~2,5 million sq.meters are the largest logistics sites of Poland, the food market are supported mainly from smaller hubs, like Lodz. Average rental fees are between 3-3.5 €/sq.meter/month.

Lodz. Lodz is located in the cross-road of north-east A1 motorway and the east-west A2 motorway, in the heart of Poland. More logistics-focused facilities provides A-class warehouses on 1 million sq.meters. The Goodman Lodz Logistic Centre has 27k sq.m total size, and the Logistic City in Piotrkow (Lodz Metro Area, closed to Lodz International Airport) with its 450k sq.m is one of the largest facility in Poland.

Czech Republic

 Czech logistic market 2012

Food processing is not a leading industry in the Czech Republic, however food consumption makes it a relevant marketplace in Central and Eastern Europe.

Prague. The logistic centres around Prague are available for 2.5-4.5€/sq.meter/month (2.8-5€/sq.feet/year) rental fees. The Airport Logistic Park has a 56,000 sqm hall development in the surrounding of Prague International Airport.
Brno. Brno, the second largest city of the country is also the second most relevant logistics center. The CEE market leader Prologis will launch soon a brand new development called Prologis Logistic Park Brno on 90,000 sq.meter

Related content
If you are interested in food business, do not miss the presentation of Dr. Csorjan, FoodSites' chief editor:

related content on FoodSites Blog: 
Food logistics in Slovakia

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

3 hot trends in Europe's agriculture

The European Comission ("federal government of EU") published its agricultural yearbook in March 2012. The following brief overview would like to provide a starting point to European food raw material business.

Share of agriculture in GDP (source: EC)

#1: Boosting agri-production

After the horroristic 2009, 2010 and 2011 was characterized by +10% and +3.7% increase in real agricultural income.The general agri-production was increased by 1.4% in 2011 (and the prices increased by  5.7%). Raw milk production has increased to 151.4 million tonnes, the average yield per diary cow is approx. 6,431 kg (17,230 pounds).Poultry meat production slightly increased by 0.4% in 2011, but the EU export grew by 13% (mainly to China and to Middle East). The EU beef consumption remains at 16.2 kg per capita, and the beef production increased by 1.8% in 2011. The pig sector is facing a continuing process of concentration  to larger production units, and the production increased by 1.7% in 2011.

#2: Rising prices

The increasing global demand for food has increased both production and prices of EU agriculture in 2011. The raw milk prices has increased with 11% in 2011, from 30.5€/100kg to 34€/100kg (=12.68€ per cwt). Polutry meat prices has reached the historical 194€/ 100kg (=72.38€ per cwt). Beef prices were between 333-380 €/100 kg (124-142€ per cwt), higher levels in all categories than in 2010. Average pig meat prices reached 153€/100kg (57€ per cwt), 13€/100kg higher than in 2010.

#3: Increasing efficiency 

The agricultural employment fell by 2.7% in 2011 (compared to 2010). The agricultural income per annual labour unit (practicly, the labour productivity) boosted in more Eastern European states, especially in Romania and Hungary (over 40%). Developing technologies, concentrating farms resulted a more efficient agri-business in EU.

Some background information

The following short video provides a brief guide to the EU Common Agriculture Policy, for the better understanding of European food business' sandbox: