Marina Sulimenko, export manager for Veliorganic s.r.l., traveled from Italy for Organic Produce Summit 2018.
Welcome to Monterey. Please tell a little about your background.
My native country is the Ukraine. The last twenty years I’ve worked mostly with Italian businesses, getting them in touch with Ukrainian businesses, from construction to hydro power. I now live in Italy. Italian became my second mother language, Italy my second motherland.
How did you begin working with organic produce?
First I worked in a company specializing in merchandising Italian agricultural products. My focus was traceability—so important—seeing the entire picture, field to warehouse to consumer.
Veliorganic s.r.l. was born as the trading department of historical kiwi-grower Tre Colli s.r.l. Veliorganic is already selling in the United States. They knew me as someone able to get around the world to promote their product. I also organize shipping and final documentation.
As a producer, we could be teaching. But as exporters, we’re still learning, which was part of my interest in attending this summit.
Marina Sulimenko, export manager for Veliorganic s.r.l. attended the Organic Produce Summit.
What does Veliorganic export to the U.S., and what volume?
We export fresh organic kiwi—Dori and Soreli yellow and Hayward green—grown in the province of Rome. This year we sent 26 containers, 20 tons each.
Are all kiwis exported by Veliorganic grown on Tre Colli’s own plantations?
Yes. Tre Colli is an old grower that owns its kiwi plantations and cares deeply about organic. Tre Colli is certified BIO (organic), as is its trader, Veliorganic.
Tre Colli is also certified GLOBALG.A.P. and GRASP. We’re working on Demeter—biodynamic—certification as well.
Veliorganic is the supplier of the famous italian kiwi.
More consumers are learning how the United States–European Union Organic Equivalence Arrangement helps protect organic integrity. What EU-accredited certifying agent currently issues certificates for Veliorganic and Tre Colli?
Suolo E Salute, which was one of a small number of Italian agents accredited earlier by USDA National Organic Program. Beginning June 2012, products could be traded under the Organic Equivalence Arrangement, so Suolo E Salute began operating accordingly—still satisfying NOP standards.
What other produce does Veliorganic export, and where?
Organic pomegranates and lemons—grown by Tre Colli, as with our kiwis. Veliorganic also exports organic grapes grown by our neighbors; in 2020 we expect to harvest our own organic grapes.
Most of our produce is sold in Austria, France, Germany, Great Britain, and the Netherlands.
What percentage of Veliorganic employees are women?
All managers are women, maybe 70% of workers caring for kiwi, and about 85% of warehouse workers. It’s pretty much a women-run business.
How did you learn about the summit?
Initially through Expoplaza, and then from Awe Sum Organics, who kindly provided us an invitation. Since we exported to the U.S. this year, it was logical to come see the market and people.
Marina at OPS 2018 in Monterey, CA.
What did you enjoy most about it?
This summit is very different from events in China, France, Eastern Europe, and other countries. While shorter in length, it’s much more informative. I was very pleased with the level of organization. I learned a lot. And I enjoyed the exhibition hall very much. I met many nice people, potential new clients.
This is a valuable opportunity to meet growers and importers as well as distributors. I appreciate the summit organizers, and Awe Sum Organics, for giving Veliorganic the opportunity to be part of it. I hope to come again in 2019.
Anything else you’d like to say?
Organic is the future! There’s much room for growth in all countries. Veliorganic and I are happy to be part of the expansion of organically grown produce. It’s all for the health of consumers and the planet.