I’m Olivier Herrera Marin, the son of landless peasants. I spent my childhood in a small house made of wood and stone in the middle of an orchard, without radio or electricity. From the age of eight or ten, I helped my mother sell tender grass for the animals and fruit and vegetables at the town market. I spent all my time in the fields, with books, work and watching the moon and stars. When I was twenty, I rented plots of land to grow melons and watermelons, tomatoes and peas. At 24, I worked summers in Sweden and then studied in Paris. Like so many young people in the late 60s and 70s, I dreamed of a better world, with more solidarity and more humanity. After opening three bookshops in 1976 and 1980, selling books, newspapers and educational toys, in 1991, faced with the economic crisis, I decided to come to Paris, to Rungis Market, to offer my knowledge of fruit production and trade to import companies. I then started travelling around Spain and Latin America, specialising in red fruit, cherries, grapes and citrus fruit. I continued until 2012, when I decided to set up our own Fresal company with Veronika, my wife. The beginnings weren’t easy, but today, thanks to my travels and business contacts over the past two decades, and thanks to my wife’s training and management skills, which were essential, three brands of her own creation have come into being: Vale-Oh, Verso and Artes. And Fresal has become a benchmark at Rungis, particularly for strawberries and raspberries, grapes and lemons, watermelons and melons.
HEALTH, COLEAD AND ACP
The most important thing is the health, healthy food and well-being of consumers. It is essential to respect fair trade practices that show solidarity for all. Agriculture and trade are a whole culture, and contribute actively to the consolidation of human links and civilisations. In a good business ethic, profit is not just an objective, but an expected and logical consequence of daily work, of the ability to react, adapt and innovate in terms of the values and know-how of the company’s human capital. After Spain and Portugal, we were thinking of importing from Latin America and the ACP (especially the Caribbean) to add our little grain of sand to help improve human, social, commercial and cultural relations between the South and the North.
When I presented my candidacy for the COLEACP Board of Directors on 17 June 2016, I stressed the importance of developing relations with the ACP countries by honestly supporting their agriculture, trade and tourism. For me, it was a challenge and a great honour to take part in the fair, loyal and sustainable defence of fruit and vegetable production and trade between the EU and the countries of Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific. It was important for me to be able to make a humble contribution to reducing their poverty, by helping small producers to export their agricultural produce. COLEAD’s mission is to train them and help them to stay and grow up with their families in their own homes, and to contribute through their work and know-how to the development of their countries of origin. By creating work and wealth in this way, it gives young people better prospects for life, so that they don’t lose it by crossing the Sahara or the Mediterranean. And for all the children, the aim is to be able to offer them a book and an educational toy, a pen and a notebook, a roof over their heads and a doctor when they need one, a loaf of corn or wheat bread, a glass of milk and five pieces of fruit a day to eat.
Seven years later, I can see that, with the help and support of COLEAD, we are now beginning to be in a position to make our greatest social, cultural and human dream come true, to help promote painting and poetry in schools. And hand in hand, committed, we will be able to grow together with our partners in the Dominican Republic, the Caribbean and ACP, faithful to the essential principles of life, to build a world of freedom and fraternity with greater equality and solidarity, where the light and indestructible force of love are capable of illuminating minds, opening eyes and awakening consciences. Our goal is to realise the eternal dream of living and growing up in PEACE, for children and men and women of goodwill, by eradicating, with all the means and resources available worldwide, the shame of extreme poverty, famine and war, and all the wars on Earth.
May humanity grow and advance by defending the fruits of the earth’s generous womb, a blue planet that we must love and defend above all else. And the Rungis MIN is more than just the world’s largest food import and distribution market, it is a mirror that reflects the know-how of the trade on a daily basis, the reality of life and the hope of a cleaner, better world for children and the future of humanity. To this end, COLEAD has more than just a role, it has a mission to fulfil: that of contributing with all its resources and human capital, with each of its partners, advisors and collaborators, technical staff and management… to the extent of their own responsibilities and possibilities to the common task, to reach the remotest corners of Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific to help realise the dreams of those who need it most today and who are not asking us for charity, but for training and the opportunity to then be able to fend for themselves and live and work with dignity in their natural environment. This titanic task would obviously be unthinkable without the moral and economic, enthusiastic and firm support of those who are the living energy and the big hearts that pump the pure blood that runs through all the arteries, veins and even capillaries of COLEAD to maintain it so that they can move forward and carry out their laudable work.
We are all aware that we are evolving in a society with an increasingly cultured and demanding public when it comes to defending the health of planet Earth, all its children and all the different and complementary species that populate it, complementing and enriching us. The major commercial chains are well aware that today, more than ever, they must focus on good practice and a commercial ethic that gives priority to Peace, freedom and the dignity of all human beings without making differences between classes, beliefs, races or genders. We must offer healthy food that contributes to public health and well-being, with control over the entire food chain, from production to the final consumer’s table. In the same way, we must eradicate all forms of sexual exploitation of women and children, as well as slavery and discrimination at work.
Son, you will love the sea and the land above all else
Thou shalt defend the natural landscape and the wilderness
Thou shalt respect the life of trees and animals
The translation of the three verses in Castellan, published in 2007 by Ediciones Belin in its ! QUE BIEN ! for teaching Spanish, aim to raise awareness among pupils in France and its Overseas Territories of the need to combat climate change, and belong to the 1993 poetry collection BESA LAS ESTRELLAS.
Paris 29th November 2023
Olivier Herrera Marín
CA de COLEAD