AFI Association of Food Industries

AFI Serving the U.S. Food Import Sector

2023 Chairman’s Report

John Sessler
JCS Tradecom

The second of my one-year terms as chairman of AFI provided a great illustration of the scope of issues the association addresses and the breadth of products those issues impact. Ongoing geopolitical, economic and climate, problems continue to challenge our businesses daily. A measure of a successful organization is a strong team focusing on preparedness and response when confronted by unanticipated events in the marketplace. Olives, raisins, honey and olive oil, for example, all had issues that needed the type of assistance and expertise that only a strong, nimble association can provide and AFI and its sections continue to be the association that steps to the plate.

It’s not always staff or AFI members that discover the problem. The raisin issue was brought to AFI’s attention by a non-member firm – a firm, which I’m happy to say, has since joined the association. It centered around a dramatic increase in failed USDA inspections. AFI was able to arrange a virtual and then an in-person meeting with key USDA personnel and it looks like the problem has been resolved.

The olives issue came to light when a foreign member spoke to a domestic member about a potentially devastating issue. Within days, a letter from AFI was drafted & delivered to a government official in the producing country alerting him to the huge impact the issue would create. While the letter itself didn’t resolve the issue, there’s no doubt an immediate call to action by a group in the exporters’ largest market had an immediate favorable result.

Honey and olive oil are products that have stand-alone associations that are sections of AFI. The National Honey Packers and Dealers Association is dealing with the ongoing hassles related to an antidumping duty petition filed a couple of years ago and the North American Olive Oil Association continues its effort to establish a Research and Promotion Order for olive oil and to have FDA create a standard of identity for olive oil. The chairs of those sections address those and other issues in their reports a little further back in this publication.

I’ve been involved with AFI for many years and have seen it from multiple angles. I’m the first person to have served at one point as the NAOOA chairman and the chairman of AFI. It’s given me a unique perspective because I’ve seen even more than most how the sections within the association benefit from the work of the other sections and how it all comes together under the AFI umbrella. The olive oil and honey sectors, for example, face several common issues. Sometimes olive oil might have encountered the issue first; sometimes it’s honey. Either way, both groups typically benefit from the work and contacts of the other section to get a jump-start on facing that issue. When you add the work and contacts from under the entire AFI umbrella, the jump start can be even greater.

It's also been extremely helpful over the years when the NAOOA or NHPDA has brought an issue to the attention of a government regulator or agency that AFI – because it has other members sharing similar products – strengthens the message by adding its voice and concerns as well.

I’ve seen, too, how members of the AFI Board of Directors – comprised of representatives of member companies from all sections within the organization – collectively work on behalf of the entire food import industry. Part of our mission is to ensure regulators, politicians and all others participating in the food business are fully aware that there’s a vibrant, professional food import sector devoted to ensuring products from around the globe meet established safety and quality standards.

I’m glad I’ve been able to be as involved as I’ve been with the association and its sections. It feels good to be able to give something back to my industry. But it’s also helped me and my company. Being active in the organization all but ensures you’ll be abreast of and have indispensible insight on key issues and be aware of all our association’s valuable offerings. As I’ve always believed, our business is relationship-driven and not merely measured by transactions. Our firm’s AFI involvement has helped create and strengthen relationships with suppliers and customers. More importantly, I’m proudest of the strong personal bonds established with other AFI members, even if we don’t handle the same products or markets.

As I did in my report last year, I’ll encourage those from member companies to get the most from their membership by having as many people as you’d like added to receive the information sent by AFI. And for those from companies that aren’t members, tell us what we’re missing. Tell us what would help you to see the value of AFI membership. In the meantime, I encourage you to visit the AFI website – – and see what AFI has to offer.

2023 U.S. Food Import Industry Annual Report

Chairman's Report - John Sessler

North American Olive Oil Association - Mouna Aissaoui

Processed Foods - Brent Danielson

Nut & Agricultural Products - Richard Rosenblatt

National Honey Packers & Dealers - Andy Sargeantson

Regulatory and Trade Issues

Food Importers Facing New Enforcement Environment

Common FSVP-Related Questions



Association of Food Industries: Serving the U.S. Food Import Trade Since 1906
3301 Route 66, Ste. 205, Bldg. C • Neptune, NJ 07753
(732) 922-3008 • Fax: (732) 922-3590 • •