Fearless Anabela Foods founder drives business in Burkina Faso and Pakistan

Since 2003, Anabela Foods represents companies from Africa and Asia – with three main focuses: rice, oilseeds and dried fruits and nut kernels. Raisins and dates come from Pakistan, mangoes and cashews from Burkina Faso. Behind Anabela Food is a special source of energy – founder and owner Anabela Lourenco Alves, for whom trade is a matter of the heart.

The Clipper: What is your business model?

Alves: We only have exclusive representations. The contracts run for 5 years. We do not buy and we do not sell under our own name, but we act exclusively as a sales department. The customer can carry out audits himself. The supplier is in direct contact with the customer, we organize every year trips with the supplier to the customers. We organize joint stands at various trade fairs.

On the customer side, we work exclusively with importers, we do not store and do not have a pallet business. We expect our partners to be able to learn and to be prepared to comply with the regulations in the recipient countries. Once the goods are here, it’s too late. This concerns hygiene, processing – this is the know-how that we pass on.

We do not act as a broker because we prefer to work exclusively with partners and I try to develop our partners further. This is my contribution. I do not want to work with partners who have a vision and do not want to make quick money. We ask for our advice and development work no money, we first earn a commission on business deals. I invest in people – sometimes it takes a bit longer.

The Clipper: Why do importers choose to work with your partners?

Alves: We are close to our importers. We understand the position of our importers and we take care that difficulties are avoided. We ensure that problems are resolved as quickly as possible. We take care of details.

The Clipper: What are the ususal topics that you discuss with your exclusive suppliers?

Alves: An example: We have a representative from Peru, these are farmers who grow the goods themselves. Like so many in Peru, they have grown Qinoa – the competition has grown too fast and prices and demand have declined. So I meet them to discuss what can be grown to make them different from others in the markets. Our job is also to tell the supplier that he has to be creative – and not always imitate what his neighbor does.

The Clipper: Which partnerships have proven to be the best?

Alves: These are once our partners in Pakistan. We started with basmati rice. It took a long time to find a buyer for basmati rice from Pakistan. Today this company is the largest organic exporter from Pakistan, with certificates according to IFS, Cedex and Fairtrade.

My second favorite project is in Burkina Faso, with whom we have been working for 10 years and is now the largest supplier of organic mango. We are currently building a fully automated cashew factory in Burkina Faso with him. For example, the most successful representations are those who are always socially engaged.

The Clipper: Where do you see the best growth opportunities for the future?

Alves: Cashews certainly have good prospects – depending on the harvest in Vietnam. Coconut oil has many opportunities – this has to do with the delivery problems in Sri Lanka.

The Clipper: How do you rate the situation in Burkina Faso??

Alves: Burkina Faso had no significant processing industry. The raw material has almost always been exported. The government is changing that. Over the next few years, it will become clear whether this will be realized.

The Clipper: You have been at Biofach for over 25 years. What has changed?

Alves: It has become an industry – and a tough business. That was very different 25 years ago. You can lose a long-standing customer today because of 2 cents difference in price. Of course, today it’s about larger quantities – and I do not want to say that it has gotten better or worse.

20 years ago, it was still quite family. It was a different relationship. It was also called the hippie fair. The organic world has become very commercial in recent years. What bothers me is that the Biofach is everywhere in the world today – and not just in one place. As a result, not so much international audience is coming to Biofach.

The Clipper: How did you get on the Biofach?

Alves: At that time we had a representation in South Africa – a young man who wanted to exhibit at the Biofach. At that time we had the smallest tea and medicinal plants. That’s how we started – and then we got a lot of requests for other products. One of my first missions was in Burkina Faso. Later dried fruits and oil seeds came to it.

The Clipper: How important are bio-goods for you?

Alves: Basically, this is not the main focus, because there are some suppliers who produce great products in a sustainable way, without having certificates. There are some conventional products that are better and safer than organic products.

The Clipper: Where do you see the biggest challenges in the European market?

Alves: Europe buys food very cheaply, almost everything is more expensive elsewhere. It may be that other countries in Asia will buy much more goods in the future and Europe will not have that much left. China is buying so much acreage in Africa – in the future, certain goods might become unavailable to Europe, or at very different prices. With cashew nuts, this development can already be observed.

The Clipper: Thank you for the interview.