04 September 2003 | Robin Parker
Global food company Chiquita is moving its main division's purchasing team from the US to Costa Rica in a bid to forge closer links with its fruit growers.
The group is transferring its 20-strong procurement team from Ohio to San Jose, one of its seven Latin American export locations. It is to appoint a vice-president of procurement and a vice-president of tropical logistics to oversee the function.
Jeffrey Brown, senior vice-president of global supply chain operations for the Chiquita Fresh division - one of the world's largest banana producers - said: "Most of what purchasing buys is to support our Latin American operations, and to try strengthening teamwork, we felt it was good for them to move out there."
The team will comprise several staff relocated from Chiquita's US headquarters in Cincinnati and local buyers in the region.
Those not wanting to move will either relocate within the company or find new jobs.
As well as procurement skills, buyers must also speak Spanish and understand the local cultures, Brown said.
"These locations previously had their own reporting lines, and to make them work together needs a clear understanding about how cultures work. English is still our operating language, but you can only take that so far."
The moves are part of a wider initiative to integrate procurement, which was previously seen as a support function, within the wider supply chain operation.
"There's an opportunity for procurement specialists to provide direct and strategic support to the people who buy bananas," Brown said.
"Professional purchasing negotiation skills can be applied broadly to any part of the business where procurement of either goods, materials, services or products is being conducted."
To deliver this goal, Brown has moved up from vice-president of global logistics to the new role, which covers global supply chain planning, procurement, ocean shipping, fleet management, logistics and port operations across Latin America, the US and Europe.
He is based at the group's global shipping team at Chiquita's European headquarters in Belgium. More than half of its products are sold in Europe.
Chiquita is also stepping up its corporate social responsibility policy by getting its materials and service suppliers to adhere to its own code of conduct in any new contract.