Lia Bijnsdorp
Managing Director
United Producers of Mexico
Expert Contributor

2020 brought change, and the 12-day Express Sea Route

By Lia Bijnsdorp | Thu, 11/12/2020 - 09:43

COVID-19 was a gamechanger for everyone and for us, November 2020 looks very different from what we expected back in January. United Producers of Mexico, or UPM as most people know us, had planned several trade missions for 2020 with Mexican exporters visiting Europe to participate in matchmaking sessions and visits to importers in Dutch territory. COVID-19, however, meant less turnover, so we reinvented our UPM wheel: we adapted to the new normality using technology and we changed to informative webinars and online forums, which kept exporters in touch with importers in Europe and with UPM.

Fortunately, we already had our most important project for this year going: starting a much needed 12-day Express Sea Route from Veracruz to Rotterdam, which allows Mexican fruit exporters to have much better access to the European market for their fresh avocados, mangos, limes and other fruits. This had been in the pipeline for many years for Mexico, as well as the Netherlands, as other shipping options take almost twice as long as our direct route, greatly impacting fruit quality at arrival.  

To promote this new sea route, our main objective in 2020 was to visit producers and exporters in Mexico, as well as Dutch importers. UPM’s focus has been on bringing together these two groups, improving all necessary aspects along the way. Unfortunately, virtual meetings cannot compare to personal contact and meetings where we can read peoples’ faces! At one point, we had a necessary physical meeting with exporters, all of us wearing facemasks and lots of sanitizing gel. I remember vividly the feeling of eeriness among all of us as we could not see each other’s expressions to see if we were getting our message across.

At its core, UPM stands for perseverance and creativity to reinvent ourselves for the past five years, always focusing on the needs of the clients that we serve. More than good luck, we have the fortune of having a strong, hard-working team of professionals who have proven over time to be extremely resilient amid difficult situations. Stopping or giving up has never been an option, even at the lowest points when we were still able to make a difference through our work. Was it the Dutch work ethic or the Mexican resilience that made this possible? Probably a good dosage of both has kept us going strong, even during this challenging year. Eventually, our hard work paid off and the first vessel of the UPM Express Sea Route sailed for the first time in September 2020 with many more shipments to come.

At a personal level, it was difficult to see hardworking Mexicans struggling with job losses and trying to make ends meet. The neighborhood groups on social media were full with messages from people that had a very hard time to feed their families. So, together with my husband and Banco de Alimentos de México, we built a weekly package of fruits, vegetables and regular household staples like milk, cheese and sugar for several neighborhoods. Life is not only about business.

The winner takes it all, so let both Mexico and the Netherlands be the winners of this crisis through our daily activities and our drive to make a difference every day to improve all mayor aspects for both sides of the agricultural chain. We have come a long way in a relatively short time to put Mexican producers and exporters on the Dutch map. The UPM Express Sea Route is an important breakthrough for all parties. It has been an enormous challenge on both sides of the ocean but we are pleased to say: Mexico, Holland… we did it for you!

Everard van Zoelen, President of ISAOSA, Lia Bijnsdorp, Managing Director of United Producers of Mexico and Jeroen Posma, Founder & CEO of Mexico Business have been nominated for the title of “Entrepreneur of the Year 2020” by Holland House Mexico. You can cast your vote here.

Photo by:   Lia Bijnsdorp