If you see how much money disappears in this industry, it’s truly bizarre

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Mark Weitjens from AgroCheck says that payment problems are increasing globally. He also says that AgroCheck is seeing an uptick in collection requests. “There is a global economic downturn,” Mark points out. “In many countries, we are seeing an increase in companies unable to meet their financial obligations. Even in a market like Germany, generally known as a good payer, it’s becoming more common for buyers to encounter problems.”

Worrisome developments, one might say, which may lead to quite annoying outcomes. Yet, pinpointing the causes is challenging. A possible reason is the need to repay overdue taxes and loans accumulated during the coronavirus crisis. On top of that, inflation and various sharply-risen costs are likely culprits. It’s often the smaller entrepreneurs who are most vulnerable, Mark says, and as they gradually accumulate more credit, they quickly run into trouble.

This naturally leads to the second point, the rise in the number of collection requests and bankruptcies. “This is not only observed by us but also reported by major credit insurers like Atradius and Coface. Quite suddenly, these requests began to surge in August and September last year to two to three times above normal. And it has remained at that level since.”

AgroCheck is an international collection agency primarily specializing in the flowers and plants sector. It holds a unique position, which, thanks to its brand recognition in the industry and the fact that a large portion of all exporters, wholesalers and growers are clients, can actually exert ‘leverage.’ “Agencies claiming to recover 90% of all claims are lying; it’s impossible in this sector, and our clients know that. However, our network is extensive, and no one has such a comprehensive overview of buyers with dubious payment morale. If a client anywhere in the world encounters payment problems, there’s a high chance we’ll register it at an early stage and share it with our members. Additionally, we have a good view of the notorious fraud rings, who reappear under different names but always come from the same corners (often using the same phone numbers, addresses, travel patterns, and trade flows).”

Prevention is better than cure
In most cases, payment problems are resolved through arrangements. That’s the amicable way, but if it comes to a lawsuit, there’s still no guarantee of getting your money back. “What makes it particularly difficult in our sector is that you don’t deliver a product that can be seized. Because it’s simply not there anymore. On top of that, many debtors don’t have much in the way of assets; they rent a business premises, lease a van, and an old desk and computer yield nothing obviously.”

The lesson, then, is that prevention is better than cure. “If you see how much money disappears in this industry, it’s truly bizarre. Do your homework, and know who you’re dealing with. Is it wise to give that small florist a 15,000 euro credit? As for those fraudsters, they are ‘professionals,’ i.e., parties from which we will hardly collect anything. However, we’ve often had them in our sights for years, and a misstep can be avoided. We warn our clients about these through the AgroCheck database and associated Warning List, and our advice is, use it! Of course, we earn our bread and butter here, and naturally, it’s advertising when I say we’re not expensive. But tell me: it only takes being not cheated once…”

Flowers, plants, bulbs, and F&V
About 80 percent of AgroCheck’s clients are active in the flowers, plants, and bulbs sector, the remaining 20% are in the Fruits & Vegetables sector. In the coming period, the company hopes to especially grow in that last sector. “There are still strides to be made, all the more so because the overlap is large and the dynamics similar. In the coming period, we will also directly target that market more through our website and other communication outlets.”

For more information:
Mark Weitjens
Tel.: +31 (0)297 785 753
[email protected]

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