Deeply involved in the challenges of food safety, security and overall quality that are essential to the fresh fruit and vegetable value chain, the technical department plays a key role at Omer-Decugis & Cie. We asked Vérane Moreno, Group Chief Technical Officer, to provide some insight into her job and the work of her department.
OD&Cie.me: What is the role of the technical department at Omer-Decugis & Cie? How is it organised and what is the Group’s main strength?
The technical department’s role is to guarantee that the safety of the fruit and vegetables distributed by the Group meets customer requirements and complies with French, European and local regulations on exports. These regulations cover food safety, labelling, traceability and farming practices.
On a day-to-day basis, this means checking fruit and vegetables on delivery, site inspections and audits, and setting up and monitoring inspection plans. It also means listing and overseeing Group suppliers and producers and seeing that they comply with good farming practices and maintain the certifications required by the Group, namely IFS Food, Fel Partenariat, Global GAP/Global Gap CoC, Agriculture Biologique and Fairtrade.
The technical department is a team of five people including two quality inspectors responsible for checking deliveries and inspecting operations, a quality engineer in charge of monitoring inspection plans and suppliers, a deputy quality manager specifically responsible for monitoring certification at the Rungis site and a technical director tasked with overseeing the entire food safety and quality management system.
The Group’s main strength lies in its global approach from production to customer delivery, including oversight and support for producers in keeping with the Group’s quality and CSR policy. While it is common for agrifood groups to have a technical department, it is less common for them to have such a broad remit including agents integrated upstream in production.
Within the Group – and this is another strength – the technical department works closely with R&D on the continuous development of farming practices and taste quality, so we can be sure we always offer the best possible consumer experience.
OD&Cie.me: What in your opinion is the biggest quality challenge facing the Omer-Decugis & Cie Group? Has the health crisis impacted your challenges and your work?
The main challenge is undoubtedly to ensure that social and environmental practices comply with the most demanding international standards in all our production regions. Covid has forced us to curtail or even cancel travel, including visits to production locations. We therefore had to find other means – and implement new drivers – to ensure optimal monitoring in production areas in order to guarantee a uniform level of control worldwide. Another challenge has been managing teams in France with the implementation of health measures, starting with telework, which was more difficult for an overarching department like ours with a major operational component. That said, the Group business continuity plan rolled out at the onset of the pandemic enabled us together to adopt the new behaviour required by this unprecedented crisis quickly and minimise the impact on operations.
OD&Cie.me: What are your main projects for the coming months?
We obtained Global GAP CoC (Chain of Custody) certification this summer.
Our projects for the coming months are focused on strengthening upstream traceability via the imminent implementation of our new business ERP system. Another goal is to update the packaging station quality systems in accordance with the new version of the Rainforest Alliance agricultural standard.