IFT: How did you get your start in the world of food commodity trading? What makes the Pedon/Acos story unique among global trading enterprises? Remo Pedon: My brothers and I started back in 1984 with a small pulses’ packaging line in Italy to serve the fast growing retailers and supermarkets. Our first break came from adding the bar code to our beans’ packs, and we have not looked back since. Pedon, which was the original company, has been the market leader in pulses retailing in Italy for the last decades. Commodity trading came in the early 2000s with the birth of Acos (Agricultural Commodity Supplies). Initially we intended to scout for goods to fulfill our own requirements. We eventually opened our first factories in China, then Ethiopia and Argentina. Now we sell our products all around the world. I would say that our unique selling point is quality. We serve high-end canning industries all over the world. We have opened new markets from origins such as Ethiopia. I believe the Acos name stands for service and reliability. We stand by our product, and this is a key point for our company. IFT: What inspired you to become involved with the Nazreth project? What prior experiences did you bring to the table? Remo Pedon: We believe in social sustainability for all our projects, but Ethiopia is a unique environment. As a group we believe Africa is the food basket to the world, and with a predicted population of 8 billion by 2025, we all need to invest in Africa for the long term. My first time in Ethiopa was in 2002, and when I arrived I saw that Ethiopian mothers would come to work with their babies and sit on the floor all day hand picking beans. I knew I had to do something about it. I believe that depriving children of their childhood means taking away part of their future, and our vision is that a happy and educated workforce is a benefit to our company. We are still at heart a family business with solid Christian values. My father, who founded Pedon, was always active in the community as a benefactor. He first started to help the people in our region after the Second World War, giving food and credit to those in need. It’s just something that’s in the family blood.
IFT: What in your view is Ethiopia’s great agricultural potential? How do beans play into this? Remo Pedon: In Ethiopia only a small fraction of land is actually used for production because of the lack of infrastructure. Because of its physical position—it is on a plateau—it’s a country that can have several continuous crops, so it could become an important source of food for the whole world. Traditionally we look for countries that don’t have internal consumption of beans. We are not interested in feeding a domestic market; we export them to different destinations and to new markets. The Ethiopian navy pea bean is now a strong competitor to the American variety, the traditional market leader. Ethiopia has come to the foreground as a new variety. It is a little smaller because of the dryness of the country and a little creamier in color. It also holds under cooking better because it’s a slightly harder bean. IFT: What are the main pulses processed at the Nazreth plant and what is the approximate volume? Are there plans to expand into new markets or increase volume? Remo Pedon: Our main product from Ethiopia remains the navy pea bean. It was traditionally a cash crop for smallholders, and it is now a traded commodity on the Ethiopia Commodities Exchange (ECX). We will process 35,000 MT during next season and we expect to reach 50,000 MT capacity by 2015. Ethiopian small reds are also a strong product and are being very well received in the market. Acos has concentrated on opening new markets with leading canners in Europe, USA, Saudi Arabia, Israel and South Africa. We have been the leading Ethiopian exporters for the last four years running. Traditionally, Ethiopian exporters tended to serve the loose product market in countries like Pakistan, India or North Africa.
Exclusive Interview: Remo Pedon Featured Topic: Emerging Markets