The World Union of Wholesale Markets (WUWM) Conference will be held between 27 and 29 May, 2015 hosted by Budapest, the capital city of Hungary.This grand event will take place with the patronage of István Tarlós, Mayor of Budapest. The three-day conference is organized jointly by the Board of Directors of the Wholesale Market in Budapest Plc. and the Municipal Government Market Hall. On this occasion European Diplomacy & Economics made an interview with Mr. Zoltán Házi, the CEO of the Budapest Wholesale Market Plc. about the mission and plans of WUWM.

You really had a vast professional experience in the field of trade before you became CEO of the Budapesti Nagyba-ni Piac Zrt. (Wholesale Market in Budapest PLc.). Over the past decade the Budapest Wholesale Market was characterized by outstanding professional development and significant investments. With your infrastructure and outstanding services you can contribute to a great extent to the security of the sales of Hungary’s agricultural products.

How do you see the situation of wholesale markets in Europe?

The 110 wholesale market members, operating in 22 countries, have in total of over one million permanent employees in the locations concerned. The annual turnover of the companies operating in these markets is approximately EUR 42 billion. The volume of products traded at the markets is 33 million tonnes per year, which accounts for about 40% of the total of European fruit and vegetable sales (24 million tons annually), 10% (1 million tons per year) of the European sales of fish and fishery products, and 2% (1 million tons) of the European sales of meat products.

Is there a difference between the wholesale markets in Budapest and in Europe?

The main difference is that the Western European wholesale markets are typically high-tech sales and logistics warehouses. Direct sales by farmers is not typical. However, in the Budapest Wholesale Market every day throughout the year a large number of producers offer fresh fruit and vegetables – in the summer peak period up to 1500 of them a day! In addition, as a result of the past 10 years’ developments now we have approximately 30,000 m2 of warehouse storage space.

Why do you think Budapest was chosen by WUWM? Is it the recognition of your professional work, or simply the attraction of the city?

I hope that both of the above reasons contributed to it. In addition, it is important to note that in 2013, the Grand Central Market was chosen to be the most beautiful and best market in Europe by CNN Travel. The 11 thousand square-foot area market has three floors and it is one of the main tourist attractions in Budapest. The number of visitors in the busy summer period can be 20-25 000 people a day. The Grand Central Market in Budapest is a traditional food market with all the basic food which is necessary for ordinary households, and it is also a popular destination for tourists.

What is the actual mission of WUWM and what goals has it set for itself?

In Europe, most of the wholesale and retail markets are members of some global market organizations.The World Union of Wholesale Markets – WUWM is a non-profit organization based in the Hague (NL), dedicated to facilitate the exchange of international information concerning the wholesale and retail markets and thus improving the operation, management and organization of these. WUWM pays special attention to the efforts of wholesale markets, taking into account the challenges and opportunities arising from the international economic situation. WUWM considers it essential that the management of the wholesale markets lay emphasis on promoting innovation, professionalism and excellence in the market infrastructure and services and in the food supply. In return it provides conditions that can create opportunities for competition and prosperity in the wholesale markets of the rapidly changing global food industry with ever growing needs. It also provides space for the domestic small and medium-sized businesses.

What is the level of vegetable and fruit consumption in Hungary, compared to European countries?

A FAO survey shows that we rank in the middle in Europe. Less than one third of the Hungarians meet the 400 gram (approximately 3 apples) recommended daily fruit and vegetable consumption which means 150 kg per year per person. However, this ratio is worse if the 250 grams of vegetables consumption is taken into account. As it is known, the most fruits and vegetables are consumed in the Mediterranean countries; the population of Italy, Greece, Turkey, Portugal eat a lot of these. The benefits of Mediterranean eating habits and lifestyle can be really appreciated. In the long run, hopefully – although to varying degrees – vegetable and fruit consumption will increase.

Do you think that as the WUWM Conference which will be held in Budapest that can be another opportunity for further development and progress of the Wholesale Market in Budapest?

At an event like this – usually planned as three-day events – there are 150-200 participants from all over the world. Besides the professional challenge, this large-scale event is also an excellent opportunity to promote the Budapest Wholesale Market and Hungary since there will be a possibility to introduce the delegations of countries partici-pating at this event to the agriculture and trade of our country and capital and the famous sights of Budapest. With this event we would like to emphasize the importance and the prominent role of the wholesale and retail markets in developing healthy eating habits.

What is the vision you think the wholesale market should have?

10 years ago an excellent initiative was launched in the United Kingdom and the capital of France, Paris, aiming to promote and celebrate the institution of local markets for a month each year. The founding members offered their help and shared their experience with people interested from WUWM. A number of countries joined the campaign in 2014, including Cyprus, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Poland, Slovenia and Slovakia. With the help of the founders of LYLM – Love Your Local Market campaign, WUWM is committed to support the expansion of this campaign to as many countries as possible in Europe and in the world. In addition to the above-mentioned countries in May 2015, a number of cities and countries will join the LYLM campaign, including the Netherlands, Germany and Spain. I consider it important that we continuously and effectively promote the largest wholesale market in Hungary for consumers, policymakers and the public, and provide more space for the high quality and valuable products of our domestic agricultural producers. Besides preserving the Hungaricum values, continuous development plays a prominent role and provides high level service to the members and HORECA professionals.

What is the key to the long-term success?

As we all know, markets ensure that people can buy affordable, value for money healthy foods, especially fruit and vegetables. The wholesale markets may also provide educational opportunities for students and adults. Just like most of the European markets, we actively promote healthy eating and the consumption of fresh products for example with organic labels, product descriptions and short descriptions on display about the positive effects of various types of fruit and vegetable that are considered healhty. After all, based on the results of the many studies on nutrition carried out in the world we can say that the regular consumption of fruit and vegetables help to prevent various chronic diseases. If the new generation is introduced to a balanced and healthy diet and we manage to make them get used to it, it is already a success in itself.