Potato broker – An orchestra conductor

Potato broker - An orchestra conductor

La pomme de terre Française, Béatrice Rousselle

Rigor, objectivity, confidentiality and responsiveness: these are just some of the qualities required to be a potato broker. Silvana Paolozzi and Christelle Denis tell us about their role.

“A potato broker is like a bank loan officer: you go to him to save time and get the best price for the merchandise you need”, says Silvana Paolozzi, president of Paris-based Jacques-Albert, a broker since 1982.

Her core business?

Bringing together buyers and sellers in France and abroad.

“We have a network of buyer customers who let us know their needs. We then contact our sellers – producers, merchants or cooperatives – to find the corresponding merchandise. In this business, reactivity is key – it’s the law of supply and demand,” explains Christelle Denis, manager of D.Vegetables based in Donnery (45), a broker since 2014. Like an orchestra conductor, we set the sale to music, hopefully without too many false notes.”

Complementary to traders

“Because we know the market and are in touch with everyone, some buyers prefer to offload this task and work with a broker rather than call all the potential suppliers themselves. However, we are complementary to the traders,” asserts Silvana Paolozzi. We work with them, we’re part of the same family. We are a link in the chain, and we all need each other.” The profession of broker dates back to the time of King St. Louis, and has therefore had its place as a trade intermediary for several centuries. The broker is not a commercial agent; he is independent and can work with all players. He has no stock to sell, no variety to promote. He does not charge for merchandise, but takes a brokerage commission defined in advance on the tonnage sold. He also plays an advisory role. He reflects the market. He is the impartial witness to a contractual agreement. So much for the broad outlines.

sncpt-presse

A wide range of functions

In detail, “we work with the seller to ensure the solvency of all new customers, without, of course, guaranteeing payment. Going through a broker often reassures a producer. We bring him our knowledge of the customer. This has nothing to do with a deal struck at the end of the day with an unknown canvasser,” notes Silvana Paolozzi. Some, like Christelle Denis, also approve certain batches, “especially at the start of the campaign”. For Silvana Paolozzi, on the other hand, “it’s not our job, but that of the producer or merchant. I concentrate on knowing the market and following the business”. So, depending on who you talk to, there are many facets to this function. The geographical area of influence of French brokers has expanded with the development of the European Union. “As France is Europe’s leading exporter of ware potatoes, brokers essentially establish relationships between their French sellers and European buyers.

These are mainly located in Spain, Italy, Portugal, Great Britain, Germany and, for some years now, Eastern Europe”, emphasizes Silvana Paolozzi. She herself specializes more in the sale of unwashed potatoes in big bags, notably to Italy and Spain, while Christelle Denis deals more in packaged firm meats to northern countries. Once the parties have agreed on the terms of the transaction, the broker draws up a contract setting out all the conditions, in compliance with the Rucip rules (Rules and Practices of the Inter-European Potato Trade), all the subtleties of which he masters. If required, the broker also organizes transport.

“We’re not the principal, but we help our customer as much as we can,” says Silvana Paolozzi. As a general rule, the contract also contains an arbitration clause, providing for recourse in the event of disputes, as well as the Rucip arbitration commission. “Because, in the event of a dispute, the broker’s mission is also to quickly find a solution and diplomatically propose an agreement between the parties involved in order to avoid arbitration measures or a lawsuit,” explains Christelle Denis. We’re also a bit of a psychologist,” adds Silvana Paolozzi humorously. And in fact, we maintain good relations with everyone.”

A guarantee of professionalism

For over twenty-five years, a number of brokers have joined forces within the SNCPT, Syndicat national des courtiers en pommes de terre et oignons, as a guarantee of their professionalism. Currently numbering eight, they are committed to respecting the brokers’ code of ethics: objectivity, neutrality, commercial morality, confirmation of a completed deal, professional secrecy prohibiting disclosure of the names of counterparties, absence of personal interest in any contract, in particular. Although they remain competitors, brokers respect each other. “Competition should only exist on the basis of the quality of information, the precision of contract drafting and the follow-up of business. Of course, we refrain from making derogatory remarks about our colleagues,” emphasizes Silvana Paolozzi. The ABCs of business and good manners…

The SNCPT is also a member of the FFSCM, Fédération française des syndicats de courtiers de marchandises. Seven SNCPT brokers, most of whom are Rucip arbitrators and experts, are also sworn in by the CNCMA, the Conseil national des courtiers de marchandises assermentés (National Council of Sworn Freight Brokers). Swearing-in is obtained after passing three tests – written, oral and technical – in front of one’s peers. Christelle Denis, the SNCPT’s youngest sworn member, obtained her diploma four years ago, and Silvana Paolozzi in 2010. As such, they are authorized to issue price attestations at a given point in time, official quotations for goods, and expert appraisals. Having taken an oath, they can be contacted by lawyers in difficult cases, to assess a loss. With the entry into force of the Egalim law, sworn brokers have been called upon to establish an economic price indicator.

Brokers and commitments

Brokers can join the SNCPT (Syndicat national des courtiers en pommes de terre et oignons) on behalf of their company, and Fedepom and/or CNCMA (Conseil national des courtiers de marchandises assermentés) on an individual basis (only for brokers who have passed the CNCMA exam).

The SNCPT sits on the board of directors of the CNIPT, as part of the Commerce college. It is also a member of FFSCM, the Fédération française des syndicats de courtiers de marchandises.

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