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interview


Stephen Rannekleiv, Rabobank


KNOWLEDGE bank


Rabobank’s report on Chile’s Strategic Plan 2020 revealed a profound understanding of the country’s wine trade. Patrick Schmitt speaks to its author Stephen Rannekleiv


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WHILE MANY might mock the idea of a bank giving advice to the wine industry, it is hard to find an organisation which can comment independently and dispassionately on the nature of the global drinks trade. With Rabobank, however, which specialises in the global agribusiness, and within that the wine industry, you get an outlook that is about as disconnected as they come – allowing it to criticise and advise without fear of upsetting colleagues, or customers. As for the credibility of its own operation, it should be noted that Rabobank was one of the few major banks that didn’t require a bailout during the economic crisis. Indeed, its net profit even rose slightly during the course of 2008, while this year’s European Banking Authority (EBA) “stress test” saw the Dutch-owned business achieve a capital ratio more than twice the level required to pass the investigation. So Rabobank can comment from a financially sound foundation, as well as independent positioning, making its pronouncements valuable. This doubtless explains the peak of interest when it reported its findings on the Chilean wine industry last month, appraising the country’s “Strategic Plan 2020”. Standout verdicts from the bank’s analysis and reported by the drinks business at the time, included a growth projection deemed “optimistic” and UK pricing for Chilean wine that remains “roughly 20%” below the country’s average export price. In short, Rabobank concluded that Chile should be “developing new markets, expanding production of higher-valued varietals, improving wine quality and improving brand-building strategies”. It also warned of “the need to show restraint in future expansion of vineyards to avoid oversupply that could undermine pricing”. Hence, in a month when db’s attention turns to Chile, it seemed logical to speak with the author of the report, Stephen Rannekleiv, who is executive director of Food & Agribusiness Research at Rabobank. His views, formed by five years at the bank, and eight years in Latin America supporting agricultural development, show a detailed understanding of the country combined with a pragmatic perspective on the


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