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Independent specialist magazine for the potato, fruit and vegetable trade • Since 1986

May 2021

Special edition

Greenhouse vegetables

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Table of content

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“Thanks to our partnership model, some of our fruits and vegetables’ in-store revenue is growing by 10%” Ben de Groot

“There will always be a need for someone to guarantee service” Jurgen de Witte Group ADW

De Groot Fresh Group

123 “No matter what, we will continue to focus on exporting sweet potatoes to Europe” Steven Ceccarelli Farm Fresh Produce

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109

“Targeted cultivation measures and digitalization enable careful use of natural resources”

“Everyone in the chain must take responsibility” Luc Vanoirbeek Copa-Cogeca

Rudolph Behr Behr AG

126

152

206

“We’ve finally reached the level we planned for, pre-COVID-19”

“For the first time in 20 years, the market share of readymade salads has declined.”

Jantine Heemskerk and Peter van Duijvenbode

General Manager of Primaflor

Eduardo Córdoba

“Growing under glass will become an increasingly interesting alternative in the near future” Jan Westerkamp Kühling Fruchthandel

Heemskerk

Greenhouse Vegetables 58

“Dutch bell pepper exports to North America bearing the brunt of high airfreight fees” Marcel van der Pluijm, Feeling Fresh

83

„After an eventful year, we‘ve laid an excellent foundation for further growth“ René de Weerdt, Combilo’s Commercial Director

60

“Most Belgian greenhouse vegetables’ seasons started well” BelOrta’s Benny Cuypers, Maarten Verhaegen

86

German supermarkets carrying more organic cocktail tomatoes

62

Coeur de Boeuf increasing winning people over

89

From Dutch pigsty to global sorting and packaging player

67

People perceive tomatoes’ intense red colour as flavour, quality indicator

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74

Is Munich still the main destination for the export of Italian greenhouse-grown vegetables to Germany?

“Reopening eateries will boost the Belgian greenhouse vegetable sector” Sven Jordens, Gemex

95

“Belgian bell pepper season starts unsually well” Bart Van Bael, Coöperatie Hoogstraten

78

Cold spring brings Dutch radish farmers great hope

96

All of Germany is looking to Nuremberg

81

“Most growth expected in Dutch snack vegetable segment” Henri Schockman, Levarht

101

“There’s no such thing as a home office in vegetable farming” Wolfgang and Florian Steiner


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Will there be Spanish and Turkish kiwis on the European market in 2 to 3 years? Jan Vermeiren, Exofi Fresh Market

14

French Kinobé Groupe’s Dutch import office moves Herold Hage, N&K

20

“This optical onion sorting method has proved itself to us” Hans and Arjen Goud, Go-Products

27

“Bananas have become a must have” Thierry Montagne, Fresh Del Monte

30

Global trade in fresh fruit and vegetables doubles every 20 years

36

Grapefruit: Harvest, exports increasing

40

A controversial Italian citrus campaign

43

Steady increase in global hazelnut cultivation

44

Italy is the European queen of pears

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A good season for Prince de Bretagne despite the uncertain global pandemic crisis Prince de Bretagne

112

Are Southern European oranges and tomatoes “People Proof”?

120

‘Meet the Family’ makes it easier for consumers to choose

130

“Both production and demand continue to grow”

134

Frost damage in the north, abundant production in the south

138

“We want to depend less on original import countries” Peter van Teeseling, Bel Impex

141

Grundhöfer Ltd strengthens its position in Frankfurt and Germany in a year of crisis Peter Grundhöfer and Christin Neubauer

144

Asparagus season off to a good start in Belgium and the Netherlands

148

New harvester put to work

149

New asparagus variety characterized by earliness, economic benefits

150

Packing for smaller households

151

New variety saves a lot of money

156

“Spanish citrus has an edge over the growing productions from other Mediterranean origins, but we must react now” Javier Usó, manager of Frutinter

160

New record for the production of organic apples in Italy

164

German wholesale markets are besting the Corona pandemic

170

“Staying power and willingness to perform in the restaurant industry should not be underestimated” Metro AG

174

Greek potato season about to start, while the kiwifruit season has ended

178

Moroccan citrus in the thick of market share competition

182

“We have been working locally as much as possible for years” Jean-Pierre Martin, RodaFruits

186

South African fruit exports increase across the board

191

“We like offering clients products others can’t or won’t make”

195

Trends in the Chinese import fruit market

202

“Spanish avocados are a success story with great market opportunities ahead” Enrique Colilles, CEO of the Trops cooperative

208

Belgian coop restyles its strawberry box

210

“Paper banding contributes to credible marketing of organic products” German Project S&P

212

“Investing in CA storage, SmartFresh extends South African top fruit season” Randolf Aaldijk, Origin Fruit Direct

215

“Continued growth potential in the corrugated cardboard industry after the crisis”

218

Steep rise in corrugated cardboard packaging demand

220

“I’m leaving JASA behind with peace of mind” Piet Pannekeet

224

How crop estimates can help growers and buyer organizations

227

“Van logistics sales company to open knowledge organization” Hans Vanderhallen, Cooperative Hoogstraten

AGF Primeur • 2021

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A G F - e rV i#bs#ui #o i tne n l a n d

Ben de Groot, De Groot Fresh Group:

“Thanks to our partnership model, some of our fruits and vegetables’ in-store revenue is growing by 10%” Things have been unmistakably turbulent at De Groot Fresh Group recently. Nevertheless, they are still trading strongly. This Dutch fruit and vegetable company is heading for a 30% growth in turnover this year. CEO, Ben de Groot, has therefore never once considered throwing in the towel. In a personal discussion, he shares his vision for this family business' activities. Maik de Groot, the family's fourth generation, is already on the company’s board. "I was born in a fruit box," starts Ben. Do you see De Groot as a total supplier or a citrus and banana specialist? Our sales go far beyond bananas and citrus. These are, however, our main groups. That's also because these products make up as much as 20% of supermarkets' fruit and vegetable selection. But our company is much more specialized. We focus on the top-30 item list and, therefore, have a far broader range than just bananas and citrus. We have a unique combination of sales to Dutch clients as well as Europe's largest supermarkets. 4

AGF Primeur • 2021

These include large and small businesses in the wholesale, food service, and cash & carry sectors. Our primary strength lies in the 'in-house concept'. This could be packaging, ripening, or transport. Or quality control with our own laboratory support. Or it could be customs formalities. We arrange it all. That makes for dedicated business deals with our clients, suppliers, and employees. We also monitor everything very closely. This means we can do business just that little bit better than others.

Would you consider further vertical integration? To supply year-round top-quality, competitively-priced goods, we have multiple suppliers for all our products. We must, therefore, be able to switch. These suppliers have relevant production knowledge. They know exactly which region and climate are best suited for which product. We've always focused on quality and flavor. It's up to the grower to determine which varieties he uses. We're also not going to decide for supermarkets which mandarins they should sell. But we will share our expertise. This works well. Thanks to partnerships with supermarkets, some of our product revenue has increased by ten percent. We set many things in motion at several supermarkets with, for example, mandarins. You want to be able to offer the tastiest tangerines all year round. They must, how-


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Vision

ever, be available in large volumes too. We manage this by, for instance, extending the overseas season. You want to offer people these tasty fruits every day of the year; then they'll never be disappointed. You must keep in constant contact with your suppliers. And together determine what is best for the clients. Consumers are critical here. Of course, there is the daily, intensive cooperation between category management and purchasing. And buyers walk a tightrope. But we think it's our job to keep explaining how successful selling the best product is. You are always faced with changes. There was a time when supermarkets wanted to buy as

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AGF Primeur • 2021

much as possible directly from producers. We are currently seeing this trend at various retailers again. Regardless of which cycle you're in, the challenge for us is to ensure that clients are satisfied. And that you do better than anyone else, every day. Logistics chain optimization is essential in all models. Our corporate culture helps us with that. It's not about who the shareholder or director is. It's about client satisfaction and how to future-proof the company together. How is your Don Mario brand doing? Don Mario is a household name, especially overseas. There is a significant increase in demand for Don Mario products. Its prima-

ry focus is value-for-money. We are, therefore, selective in the products we market under the Don Mario label. They have to taste a certain way and have a certain quality. It's, therefore, a reliable, competitively-priced line. How much has COVID-19 affected your business? All of our clients are faring differently. We are showing tremendous growth this year, but there is also a downside. Several foodservice sector client groups are having a terrible time, both in the Netherlands and internationally. Some of our clients are doing considerably less this year. The retail sector has more than compensated for that


revenue loss, though. Internally, of course, we're very committed to our employees' health. We’ve had a few COVID-19 cases so far. We sympathize with the people who are, themselves, affected. Or who have had those around them affected. There hasn't, as yet, been much absenteeism due to the virus. But, it's not over yet, and we are therefore continually adapting our measures.

Are you a trader/importer or purely an importer? We are both. If you don't manage your imports well, you can't provide a service. We haven't forgotten our roots. My grandfather started with one box of produce.

My father was a real trader. I was involved in the development of retail sales. But my father wanted trade to always be included. That's why we divided our company into several groups. We trained the correct people for each. The time of making deals is all but over. Our small-scale clients, however, remain important to us and are always welcome. Now, 80% of our volume goes to retailers and 20% to free traders. That's not much different from ten years ago. Only then, the 80% went indirectly to supermarkets. We're at the source, so we need to work as well as we can with our chain partners. Each link in the chain knows where it stands. The goods we work

with require optimum flexibility in the chain. After all, we’re dealing with a natural product. We critically manage this, cost-effectively. We believe we get the best longterm product for the client.

There's no such thing as the best buyer or seller; there's always something cheaper out there. We put the client first. We're convinced that the "partnership model" works best. In fact, we think this will be the standard within a decade. In short - intensive long-term cooperation with suppliers and buyers. With the aim of getting the best quality product to the consumer as sustainably and economically as possible.

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AGF Primeur • 2021

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Vision

Is this still entirely possible from the Netherlands? Or will you establish more (overseas) branches? We always want to move forward. We had to build new buildings two years ago, due to flooding. We opted to expand our packing center. We now produce between 1.3 and 1.5 million consumer packages per week. And we've already almost reached our limit with that. We can't grow any further at our current location. So, we are exploring the possibilities elsewhere. We are considering options that will benefit European client accessibility. A site elsewhere will mainly have a logistical function. It won't make things easier for clients if sales aren't centralized.

Are there any more takeovers in the pipeline? In 2005, we sold our company to an investment firm, and in 2011, we repurchased it. We learned a lot from that. Not all acquisitions in our sector are equally successful. There are groups of companies emerging that are in fierce competition with each other every day. I don't believe in that. What I do expect, however, is that there

will be another wave of consolidation. If something comes our way, we'll certainly look into it. And we may be working on that more than before. But the starting point is that such a takeover should create a broader company base. It would have to add value for our clients. We are not aiming purely for revenue growth. It has to fit within our strategic plan.

Much is being said about fairtrade. How important is that for you? Our company has considered it important to trade fairly for generations. It's crucial that our employees, suppliers, and clients are doing well. Every link in the chain should be earning a decent living by working as efficiently as possible. A special certificate or label shouldn't be needed if everyone in the chain worked nice and ethically. People are free to do what they want. But, nowadays, market shares are literally being bought. You see weird things, where some traders sell 'one euro' for 99 cents. Then you have many customers but no earning model. I dare say that 99% of the retailers we work with pay their growers or suppliers fair prices.

Everyone has their own business model. Whether it be organic, fair trade, or the recent BeFrank initiative. We welcome all these initiatives because they contribute to consumer awareness. We have all the necessary certificates, but internally we run everything under the motto of Fair Business. That's what we stand for as a whole. We're also closely monitoring the development of blockchains in the chain. This is, however, not an end unto itself. We want to do business as well as we can for our producers and clients. If more transparency is needed, we are happy to provide it. Fruit trading is riddled with drugs being brought in. How can you combat this? It's a huge concern, for sure. The European consumption of hard drugs has grown tremendously. So great efforts are being made to get these products into Europe via the ports. Fruit is an excellent means of transportation for this. As everyone has seen in the media, we've also had to deal with the consequences of this. We can't say anything at the moment, as an investigation is in progress. We are doing everything possible to keep out drug shipments. That includes

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AGF Primeur • 2021

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having the consignments stripped externally. We are constantly trying to guarantee the safety of our staff. Fortunately, GroentenFruit Huis has drawn attention to the issue of drug shipments in our sector. A sector organization could perhaps lobby the government, who can find a solution.

Have you ever thought of selling up, considering all these pitfalls? Not for a second. I started here as a small boy in clogs and an overall. I then worked my way through all the facets of the company. My brother, William, and I were always allowed to strive for as much as we could. In this company, passion, play, and dedication come together for me. It's the greatest job in the world. Leading a team of motivated people gives me a kick every day. I'm 54 and far from finished. If you work solely for money, it would be better to do something else. But we're working on the long-term continuity of the company. I like to give others growth opportunities within the company. Just as we had the opportunity to bring the company into a new phase. (IH) 

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Kiwi

Jan Vermeiren, Exofi Fresh Market, Belgium

Will there be Spanish and Turkish kiwis on the European market in 2 to 3 years? Most of the kiwis on the Northern European market come from New Zealand, Chile, Greece, and Italy. French kiwis can also regularly be found on the wholesale market. Kiwi acreage in other Mediterranean countries, such as Turkey, Portugal, and Spain, has, however, increased significantly in the past decade. These kiwis are mainly intended for those countries' domestic markets, but exports have risen in recent years. Are there opportunities for kiwis from new countries of origin on the Northern European market?

K

iwi farming has increased significantly in the countries mentioned, especially in Turkey. here, kiwi cultivation has shot up by more than 300% in the past ten years. That is considerably more than the 180% global acreage increase. Many Turkish growers in the Black Sea coastal area, in the north of the country, were looking for products with higher returns than kiwis initially offered. The rapidly expanding acreage has made this crop even less profitable. Most kiwis - some 90% - are destined for the domestic market.

Kiwi exports from Spain, Portugal and Turkey (source, FAOSTAT)

Turkish kiwi exports have, however, also increased in recent years. Kiwi farmers have benefited from the Turkish lira's low exchange rate. Worldwide, kiwi prices have risen. This is due to increased consumer demand, among other things. But the Turkish product's prices have remained fairly stable. Turkey, however, sends most of its kiwis to markets in Russia and the Middle East. Jan Vermeiren, of Exofi Fresh Market in Brussels, Belgium, trades mostly in French kiwis. "I prefer these because of their quality," says Jan. "This is because when farmers harvest them, these kiwis always have high Brix levels." French kiwis come from the Dax region in the south of the country, where the climate lends itself to kiwi cultivation. The Spanish regions French kiwifruit from Exofi of Asturias and

Galicia and northern Portugal have a similar climate. Kiwi acreage has increased there in recent years too.

"Five years ago, reasonable volumes of French kiwis went to Spain. But lately, the Spaniards have been planting more and more of their own kiwi vines. And everything you grow for your local market then no longer needs to be imported. Farmers in the northern Spanish region of Asturias began cultivating this fruit. However, in recent years, they've added more acreage in the Valencia region too."

It is not only that Spain, Portugal, and Turkey are growing more of their own kiwis. Jan also sees opportunities for kiwis in the Dutch and Belgian markets. But this is more due to the current developments in France. "The large French kiwi farms don't have much more room to grow. We are also increasingly seeing a switch from the green to the yellow kiwis. That is simply because the market is demanding these. But green kiwi prices are now sky high. I think this could lead to one of two things.” “Either we'll soon only be selling yellow kiwis. More and more people are eating these, compared to green kiwis. That is because more and more of them are being AGF Primeur • 2021

11


Kiwi

Nevertheless, the quantities remain low compared to the dominant markets

grown. Or other countries of origin like Turkey and Spain will get a good chance on the markets in Belgium and the Netherlands. There are a few small batches of Turkish kiwis in Germany, for example. That's mainly due to the large Turkish community in that country. Those people prefer products from their home country."

To save time, French and Italian yellow kiwi farmers have grafted the yellow varieties onto the rootstock of the green Hayward kiwi. These growers cultivate yellow kiwis under license. "As a result, you can harvest the yellow kiwis faster, but the green ones stop growing entirely after grafting,” explains Vermeiren. “If you plant yellow kiwi vines, it takes five years before you have fruit. That wasn't the case, and the European contracted farmers gambled

on yellow kiwis with higher per kg yields. That's in both returns and yield per hectare.”

“But now, because of the grafting, there are tens of thousands of tons fewer Hayward green kiwis. That's why French green Hayward kiwis are currently so expensive. No-one gets an 80,000-ton yield of these kiwis anymore, not even in Italy. From December to April, Italy is a vital kiwi growing and packing destination for the European market," Jan concludes.

Europe. And we also have kiwis from countries that aren't normally strongly represented on the market," says an importer. An important side note - Spanish, Portuguese, and Turkish kiwi yields are still lagging well behind countries like Italy and Greece. In 2019, Turkey harvested 63,800 tons, Spain 24,500 tons, and Portugal 32,350 tons. In Greece, that was over 285,850 tons, and in Italy, it was 524,500 tons. (TD)  info@exofi.be

Dutch importers will have to wait and see what happens. "There will still be sufficient supply from the countries that are traditionally big on the market, like Italy and Greece. But nothing is impossible. South Africa has already tried to export kiwis to

Kiwi production in Spain, Portugal and Turkey

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AGF Primeur • 2021


Exotics

Lorenza Ciccaroni and Herold Hage

Herold Hage (N&K): “We’d rather grown in depth than breadth”

French Kinobé Groupe’s Dutch import office moves Herold Hage and Lorenza Ciccaroni are not only life partners; they are business partners too. In 2018, after years of exotic produce trading, they started the N&K import office in the Netherlands for the French Kinobé Groupe. The group includes the French trading houses Nosibe S.A. and Kissao s.a.s. These firms focus on supplying French retailers. N&K has also increasingly started importing its own products to serve its own customer base. The young company recently moved into a new office. It is at the Freshgard cold storage company at the Barendrecht trading center in the Netherlands.

T

he couple is well-pleased with this new location. "We're right by the fruit, but we don't have to concern ourselves with logistics and can focus on our core business. We started with just the two of us. But our activities and team have gradually expanded quite a bit. That's why we made the strategic choice to focus purely on commerce, finance, and food safety. We outsource the other activities. Freshgard takes care of all logistics, and Europe Retail Packing does the packaging. We also get Fruitify experts to manage most of the quality assurance," says Herold. DIRECT IMPORTS He reflects on N&K's three-year growth 14

AGF Primeur • 2021

with satisfaction. "It's been a success from day one. We literally started from scratch. But we have managed to realize a nice complementary fruit package for our French sister companies and own clients. That is thanks to a lot of effort and the right partners. The French import market is quite conservative. They buy most of their products from the larger importers. The Kinobé Groupe's direct imports, therefore, immediately met a need." N&K’s top products are year-round mangos, avocados, limes, and ginger. These are supplemented with an overseas assortment of grapes, blueberries, citrus, and pomegranates. N&K also offers several

These companies belong to the Kinobé Groupe

smaller exotics like physalis, passion fruit, and papaya. From September through January, N&K imports pomelos from China, a relatively large product in the French market. Furthermore, Lorenza has remained faithful to her specialty - coconuts. By acquiring Joko Impex, those activities will


to transport their goods. But I hope the Dutch government will prioritize solving the scanning delays."

Private label mangoes and avocados

eventually expand. "I kept in touch with Hans van der Kooij about the coconuts. His brother Daan stepped down from Joko's daily activities. When that happened, we asked if we could pick up the coconuts business along with the idea of taking over," she says.

Herold mentions connecting with the right growers as one of the bigger challenges. These farmers must meet supermarket specifications. "The French market's requirements for, for example, MRLs, used to usually lag somewhat behind other European countries like Germany and the Netherlands. But France is catching up fast," he says. N&K doesn't want to expand its range further. "We're looking to deepen rather than widen the assortment. The French market favors flavor; it is a good place for new varieties and ripe fruit. The Kinobe Groupe ripens its fruit in different locations where we can respond quickly and specifically to our clients' needs. France is a big country. If you must deliver from day A to B, your logistics process has to be in perfect order."

PANDEMIC BOOSTED SALES The COVID-19 pandemic boosted N&K revenue. Herold is expecting a structural impact too. "Health has become enor-

mously important. That is reflected in more people exercising, a good work-life balance, and, of course, in healthy nutrition. For example, smaller exotic varieties' sales increased. People like spoiling themselves now that they can eat out less or not at all. They, therefore, spend more money on good food. That also means your customer spread is vital, as the pandemic has proven." NO SATURATION POINT Farmers have planted more crops like blueberries and avocados in recent years. Despite that, the importer does not think the market is saturated yet. "The market has already grown, but these fruits still have enormous potential. Certain varieties like Hass avocados, fibreless mangos, and the new grape varieties are also boosting sales." The Kinobé Group supplies all major French retail chains. The increasing number of branches means consumption is also on the rise.

Herold does not consider the increasing demand for locally-grown products a threat to exotic imports. "After all, in Europe, mangos and avocados can only be grown for, at most, two months. If European consumers want more choice than apples and pears, we'll have to keep shipping in products

from afar." In recent months, sea freight delays have been the order of the day. "But container scanning at the Port of Rotterdam causes the biggest delay. This has to be done. Drug dealers love using fruit imports

Herold is very confident about the future, although he doesn't want to predict how large N&K should be in a few years. "We're gradually expanding and want to lay a stable foundation to ensure our work and products' quality. But we are ambitious. For instance, we want to increase our ripening capacity. And, in the Netherlands, we're also fully engaged in eco-friendly packaging." According to the importer, the new Dutch location is a great advantage in this respect. "There's quite a bit of mutual trade there, which is good. You can quickly anticipate shortages, which undoubtedly helps prevent waste," Herold concludes. (IH)  h.hage@nk-kinobe-groupe.com

LOOKING FOR A NEW CHALLENGE ?

N&K is a fast growing & young company looking for commercial talent ! Interested? Contact Herold Hage (managing director) E: h.hage@nk-kinobe-groupe.com | T: +31 (0)78 303 2440

AGF Primeur • 2021

15


Vision

Achiel and Jurgen De Witte together leave their mark on Group ADW and speak to each other every day

Jurgen de Witte, Group ADW:

“There will always be a need for someone to guarantee service” Group A. De Witte (ADW) is an international wholesale fruit, vegetable, and exotics organization. It has 28 branches across Belgium and the Netherlands. The company does imports, exports, wholesales, food service, logistics, and packaging. About half of the group’s turnover comes from wholesalers aimed at retail, restaurants, and industrial kitchens. The other half comes from supplying supermarkets. Group ADW deliberately doesn’t focus on only one component of the market.

S

upermarkets, wholesalers, and retailers are all equally important. This strategy’s proving successful, once again, during the COVID-19 pandemic. Sales to restaurants and large kitchens fell away. But, these were made up elsewhere in the group. The group, therefore, achieved a healthy business revenue after all. Primeur spoke with CEO Jurgen de Witte about the pande16

AGF Primeur • 2021

mic, the wholesaler/supermarket position, growth, synergy, and new developments.

At this time last year, no one could’ve anticipated that a year later, we’d still be dealing with the coronavirus pandemic. But, that’s, unfortunately, the reality. How has your company been affected? “Indeed, we couldn’t have foreseen that we’d still be in this situation. For us, it’s

actually had a really positive [financial] impact. We had a good year. Socially, it’s difficult. A lot of us are working from home, so we don’t see co-workers anymore. Most customers continue to visit the market in the mornings. There’s still that face-to-face, true trading. So our market vendors can’t work from home.”

“You must be able to see and taste fruit and vegetables; that makes all the difference. There are quality and arrival reports, but that’s not the same as seeing and handling products. That’s crucial for trading. We buy with our senses, taste buds, eyes, and nose—there’s no way around that. Everyone discount supermarket and telephonic sales-related is working from home as are those in the marketing and IT departments. Unfortunately, the virus struck some of our


employees, resulting in hospitalizations. It’s taken a tremendous social and human toll.”

How has the pandemic affected the group as a whole? “Last year was a great one. And current figures, to March 2021, shows very smooth fresh product sales too. Our subsidiaries that deliver to restaurants have had a terrible time. But our company has an advantage - we’re very widely spread. We don’t focus on one part of the market. We supply large supermarkets, wholesalers, and retailers too. Market vendor remains important to us, as do restaurants and industrial-sized kitchens. These are struggling now.”

“But that turnover loss is being absorbed by sales to retailers and discounters. So, our revenues have increased nicely. We produce meal boxes, which has absorbed some of restaurant and company kitchen sales losses. The meal box volumes have tripled, but that doesn’t entirely make up for all the losses. The group as a whole is compensating for that loss. We’re doing well. Many companies are having a tough time during this pandemic. We’ve been in that position too.” The supermarket’s position seems stronger than ever, certainly during this crisis. Shorts chains are also becoming

more of a thing. How do you, as a wholesaler, see the future? “The future is guaranteed. There will always be specialists and public markets. Although fewer in number, the volume per store or market vendor is increasing. They’re flourishing. Focusing only on fruit and vegetables is no longer an option. Small convenience stores are becoming commonplace, like butchers that also sell fruit and vegetables. And greengrocers that sell baked goods or meat too. Or make fresh fruit salads or preservative-free dishes. Businesses that are inventive, retail-wise, can make a difference and have a very bright future.” “The specialists won’t let supermarkets push them aside. Supermarkets wage prices war against each other, while specialty stores can still offer quality products. These may be more expensive, but they have added value. For example, mangos or strawberries from [the] Hoogstraten [cooperative in Belguim] have their price. Smaller stores that focus on these can distinguish themselves from supermarkets. Supermarkets have a price ceiling and don’t sell those more expensive products anymore. Convenience stores can reap those benefits.” What do you think of how supermarkets are increasingly taking delivery into their own hands and setting up fruit and vegetable supply programs?

“This trend from a few years ago has been fading. Our strength lies in the service we offer. We’re available to our customers 24/7. We deliver to stores on Sundays. Stores that are open on Monday morning don’t want goods from Friday or Saturday. They want fresh products, so that’s what they get. We can offer that service, and then clients are inclined to pay that little bit more. Supermarkets increasingly want to source some products directly, but they still need a link that checks out and follows up on everything. Supermarkets don’t approach suppliers directly; they put someone in place to guarantee service. I think there’ll always be a link to ensure service and products’ quality and supply. What’s important for Group ADW when sourcing products - doing it via an auction or rather in-house? “Auctions are vital, and we do everything through them. We buy almost nothing directly from growers. We do have contacts with producers who pack the products under our own brand. But this always goes through the cooperative. We don’t want to compete with the auction houses; they’re our partners. That’s crucial for us to be able to guarantee continuity. Auctions offer a service that we need. It’s the same story as with supermarkets. They can also go directly to the growers, but they want year-round quality and service. So you prefer to have AGF Primeur • 2021

17


Vision

Overview of branches

a link that takes care of everything. That’s what the cooperatives do for us. They make sure we get adequate supplies, in time, packaged correctly.”

Which Group ADW’s activities are increasing, and do you have expansion plans? “Our import, as well as wholesale activities, continue to grow. We’re going to invest in one of our Belgian sites soon. We want to be able to offload and stock our products in optimal conditions, as sustainably as possible. We’re also planning acquisitions to strengthen our position in certain wholesale markets. These remain essential to our strategy to spread our activities as widely as possible.”

www.cibel.be

“We don’t have any immediate plans to invest in sectors other than fruit and vegetables. We incidentally bought a dairy company. It fits nicely into our format of supplying the widest possible range of vegetables, dairy, beverages, and canned goods to restaurants. These customers then don’t have to go to different suppliers. They simply receive one delivery containing everything they need. COVID-19’s made this a little harder. But we look forward to restaurants and company kitchens reopening. Then we can get back to work, offering as extensive a range as possible.” Are the different companies working within the group synergetic? “We do our own imports, much of which is sold before it even reaches the shore.

AGF Primeur • 2021

“We add the margin we need to survive, and all the rest goes to the clients and suppliers. That’s the only way we can work confidently and in the long term. The cooperation with our suppliers is critical to us. We want to unburden them and pay the right prices. We don’t want to squeeze suppliers. They have to live and pay their employees too. That’s our focus: satisfying suppliers, employees, and everyone else in the chain. We have long-term relationships with our suppliers, working with them for decades. I have no interest in starting a relationship that doesn’t last; that adds no value. If you work together for many years, everyone wins - suppliers, customers, and us.” What trends and developments do you see in the fruit and vegetable markets? And how are you playing in on those?

Is looking for a purchase/sales representative in the European import center for fruit and vegetables in Brussels Contact: Helga@groupadw.be

18

That always puts us a step ahead. If there are shortages, our wholesalers can rely on these imports. The wholesalers are sure they’ll be fully supplied and can deliver all their programs. When prices crash and production is under a lot of pressure, we have the advantage of having our own wholesalers. They send products to our branches, who then resell to restaurants or retailers. This allows for smooth sales, and we aren’t forced to sell at dumping prices. We don’t do that. Our wholesalers ensure we get everything sold easily so we can maintain price levels. We don’t have brokers either. What we sell goes directly to our customers.”

www.cebon.be


“There are more and more digital fruit and vegetable sales. We’ve responded to that with webshops at all our wholesalers. Our nut business is already delivering at the consumer level. We’ve now trialed mailing some types of fresh fruit along with the nuts. That’s entirely possible with products like apples, pears, bananas, and clementines. These products can take a bit of a beating if carefully packaged. We’re developing shock-absorbent boxes to get the fruit to people in optimal condition. The results have been promising and, soon, we’re going to focus even more on this kind of delivery service. We have to jump on that bandwagon. We’re one of the few companies in the sector that’s completely ready for that. I’m convinced it’ll be successful.” “We’ve also noticed that consumers are considering products’ flavors more. They no longer want melons that keep for weeks but taste of nothing and are rock-hard. People want to fully experience how fruits taste again. They have to be flavorful, juicy, and crunchy. Will that cost a little more? Yes, but if the product’s tasty, no one’s going to complain about that.”

The Cibel and Cebon labels focus on sponsoring sports. What has that meant for you, and will this strategy continue? “That’s hard to measure. We have a great partnership with Wout Van Aert, a fantastic cyclist. But Wout can still win lots of races if there’s a hurricane somewhere that destroys everything. We, on the other hand, will have less fruit to offer. We have to take what Mother Nature offers. Our sales increased tremendously last year. Partly because of the pandemic, but also perhaps partly because of these sponsorships. We’ll continue to support such activities. We’re considering swimming and athletics too. But we’re also looking at a new concept of offering kids fresh fruit at school. We’re not a multinational company with a massive budget. Our margins don’t offer much room for sponsorships. But we’ll keep doing it to encourage consumers to eat as healthily as much as possible.” Your father, Achiel De Witte, started the company and is well known in the sector. What mark are you leaving on the business? “We’re leaving a mutual mark on Group

BOX& BIGBAG HANDLING

ADW and speak daily. Our personnel is very important to me. We invest a lot in them so that they enjoy coming to work. From order picker to buyer, all our employees are equally important to me, and I always make time for them. I’m at the market in Brussels every morning and try to visit every branch once a month. If there are concerns, my staff can discuss them with me. I want to provide a safe space for them.”

“Our employees are the most important tool in realizing our goal. We never buy out a business unless the staff is on board. A company is only as strong as its workers. We offer quality products at the right price. Anyone who wants to buy cheaper should go elsewhere. Personnel who work on Sundays, for example, must be compensated. But we must get something in return; so we’re not the cheapest. Service and quality at all levels come at a price.” (MW)  info@cibel.be

OOGSTVELD 12 8307 DV ENS THE NETHERLANDS +31 (0)527 225 000 VHM-MACHINERY.NL

AGF Primeur • 2021

19


Onions

Hans and Arjen Goud, Go-Products, the Netherlands:

“This optical onion sorting method has proved itself to us” “That’s not possible,” was Hans Goud of Go Products’ initial reaction when his son, Arjen, suggested sorting onion sets optically. But it is. And by doing so, this Dutch company removed all the staff from their onion sorting line right away. Go Products had already invested in the Eqrader in 2019. This machine optically sorts consumption onions. "It took a while, but the line is now running like clockwork. It used to be busy when there were two trucks on site. Now, things can run smoothly with 20 vehicles.”

G

o Products’ tale began in 1999. Hans relocated after years at an onion processor. He started an onion sets branch. Hans combined it with the then Primofin’s pearl onion production. He managed the onion set trade from a warehouse. It wasn’t until 2006 that Hans buildt his first warehouse with a hall and canteen. Then in 2010, Goud signed a contract to produce and store 3,000 tons of onion sets. The business gained momentum, and a new sorting line was added. Since then, the company’s story has been one of growth. 20

AGF Primeur • 2021

Go Products began with sorting 2,000 tons of onions. Nowadays, the company’s annual capacity is 30,000 tons. “It was getting busier, so I asked Arjen to join the company. He ran the warehouse, I the office. In 2013, we built an extra hall. Because of the [financial] crisis, we were able to do that very cheaply," Hans remembers. But not all that glitters is gold. "The next year, 2014, was a disaster for onion sets. Arjen had become a shareholder in the meantime. He wanted to start growing

consumption onions to try and earn some money back. At first, I didn't want anything to do with that, but I eventually conceded.” BAXMATIC So, the Gouds began sorting organic onions. “The quality was excellent that first year. And consumption onions provided an additional source of income for us. To this day, we only sort onions for third parties. We are independent and do not take a position. That is how we have built a good name for ourselves. If you start passing on stories, you’re done. We do sometimes link parties, but I don’t want to take a margin on that. After all, it is better to work together than against each other. There’s already plenty of that in our sector. This is how our consumption onions’ position grew. We were already doing odd jobs for Waterman [Onions]. In 2015, he suggested we buy a Baxmatic for packing their onions in belt bales. By August, the line was up. We ended up running 500,000 bags with that machine."


age warehouses and divide the business into a storage and packaging hall. He also had a loading bay built. "That was a great move,” admits Hans. “It allowed us to do 25kg packs during the day, which went like clockwork. We could fill up to seven trucks a day.”

That led to Go Products adding more machines over the years. They soon added a second-hand Baxmatic, and there were small and large packaging lines. The cluttered situation was bothering Arjen. He decided to demolish the two onion set stor-

OPTICALLY SORTING ONION SETS Like in 2014, 2018 was a bad year. That, again, was the deciding factor for new developments to gain momentum. "Our sales increased tremendously in 2017/18. But 2018 was another bad onion sets year. We had finished at zero. Then Arjen came up with the idea of optically sorting onion sets. I did not believe it could be done. But we hired a sorter to test it out. The machine arrived in October 2018 and is still here.” “After a few hours of testing, we’d sorted several crates. I couldn’t believe my eyes. The machine immediately sorted out the

small onions. It was still throwing out too many good onions, but that was easy to change. We then added a container that was 80% soil. We put it through the optical sorter twice. It managed to get 250kg of good onions out of it. Onions were very expensive at that time, so I was quickly convinced," laughs Hans. “From then, we could sort onion sets with no staff at the belt. That was revolutionary for us. We used to work with two shifts, so four breaks. Now the line doesn’t stop, and we sort far more onions per hour." Arjen wanted to take it even further and buy an optical consumption onion sorter. At first, that was a step too far for Goud Senior. "We’d have to build a new warehouse for that. So I thought it would cost too much. But I said, 'If that's what you want, write a business plan. We'll see if it gets approved.”

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AGF Primeur • 2021

21


Onions

reorganized. But this didn’t affect Arjen's choice of the Eqrader. "Pieter Kaat of Eqraft has always been open and honest with us. We were very confident that they would deliver a good machine. So much so that we signed the contract on the evening of the takeover in February," says Arjen. However, the machine had not yet arrived at the time. “They started building it in August. But it wasn’t going fast enough for us. That’s why the four of us drove to the factory for weeks on end. We worked on the machine and now we are reaping the rewards. We have a hand in each of its parts.”

Arjen and Hans Gold in front of the Eqrader

EQRADER Arjen persevered and convinced the bank. But, he still needed to convince his father and their employee, Rob. So, they visited a factory where the Eqrader was already running. "The optical machine did its thing and did it well. Rob and my Dad usually have a

lot to say. However, it was very quiet in the car on the way back. That's when I knew I’d convinced them,” laughs Arjen. Eqraft, which builds these machines, had a turbulent time of it after this. Ownership changed hands, and the company was

“In the end, we transported the frame to our warehouse ourselves. We also assembled the machine. By Christmas 2019, we were still a long way from being done. I had been working on it for a week, when one Saturday morning, I did a test run. I got it working, which was a euphoric moment. Slowly but surely, by entering a lot of data, we got the neural network in order. We’re now working on the last details. The technology is truly fantastic. It is incredible that a computer can look inside an onion and detect rot. This year is a true fusarium year, so the machine is really proving its worth.

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AGF Primeur • 2021


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Onions

them. At the same time, we do not want to just solve client’s problems. We are looking for space in, say, the niche organic onions corner. We will leave the bulk batches to the big boys. We are already getting a lot of work, and we expect that this will only accelerate. We think retailers will start demanding machine-sorted onions to improve quality on their shelves."

In the control room

We are not better than others; our machine just delivers onions of consistent quality. You can then deliver customer-specific onions.” “The machine also ensures that we can quickly and flexibly respond to client requests. Finding good staff is becoming increasingly difficult and expensive. We need eight fewer people because of this machine. That is a considerable number out of a total of ten to fifteen. If a custom-

er calls this afternoon wanting a batch of onions sorted today, we will switch on the machine. On top of that, the human eye can make mistakes. You can’t, for example, see if an onion’s rotten on the inside. That often results in inconsistent quality," adds Arjen. ACCELERATING “Improved quality is, however, the biggest advantage. We have batches with about 15% tare. They would otherwise go to the fermenter; now, we find customers for

For this father-son team, it is evident that optically sorting is the way of the future. "The technique already works for citrus, apples, and potatoes. And no matter how it works, optical sorting is a long-term choice. We have always believed in it. You have to if you want a project to succeed. I am surprised that not more onion packers are switching yet. Smaller rather than large companies are currently taking this step. But the sector will eventually make the change. Undoubtedly more machines will come on the market, which is good. But our advantage is that we have been using the Eqrader for two years already. And the technology has proven itself. We would choose it again, no question,” concludes Arjen. (IH)  info@goproducts.eu

Vegetables cultivation Custom made? Call: 0228- 582780 or mail to info@tegrasystems.nl

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AGF Primeur • 2021

Tel: +31-226 700 500 post@boekelwaarland.nl www.boekelwaarland.nl


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Wholesale of fruit and vegetables Tongersesteenweg 3050 - B-3800 Sint-Truiden, België info@cuvelierfruit.be ¬ Yves Cuvelier -  +32 472 20 24 00 www.cuvelierfruit.be

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Banana

Thierry Montagne, Fresh Del Monte:

“Bananas have become a must have” “At Fresh Del Monte we have once again seen a steady growth of demand in bananas in Europe throughout 2020 despite the multiple disruptions in the different channels and consumption habits due to the Covid pandemic,” says Thierry Montagne, Marketing Director Del Monte Europe Africa. “This is a clear confirmation of how this fruit has become a must have in almost all households, especially those with kids, as we reach now over 80% penetration into households throughout the year.” Thierry is hopeful that the steady growth will last. “We expect this demand to remain very solid in 2021 across Europe.”  DYNAMISM  The Marketing Director observes that organic and Fairtrade bananas play a role in the growth of demand for bananas. “Organic bananas and FairTrade categorized bananas are part of the ones growing in our portfolio. We are also immensely proud to have received a major recognition of our Sustainably Grown farming approach in Central America from the SCS-Global Services Stewardship, one of the most demanding certifications in this matter.” Fresh Del Monte sees innovation as an important tool

to keep up consumer demand for bananas. “We have a lot of new stuff coming in terms of sustainability, consumer marketing and format innovation during the rest of the year, as we clearly anticipate this will be the way to maintain the dynamism of the demand.“

ADDED VALUE Thierry observes that quality remains one of the key decision factors for consumers. “We also noticed during the last year that

Thierry Montange

AGF Primeur • 2021

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Banana

added value proposals and premium brands like Del Monte continue to lead the category growth and this is a clear sign that, despite economic difficulties, customers and consumers still make room for the upper quality goods in the banana category.” Although demand has not suffered from Covid, Thierry must conclude that 2020 did not pass without confrontations either. “2020 has also brought a lot of challenges, as the ETA and IOTA hurricanes have impacted so many of the production areas of Guatemala and Honduras, on top of the tremendous human and social impacts of this event in these countries. This will reduce the total volumes available in early 2021.”

a long-term approach to the matter and strategic partnerships with customers that help us navigate through this challenging situation. In general, we strongly believe that each part of the value chain will keep demonstrating a strong commitment to support the efforts made by industry players like us at Fresh Del Monte towards long term farming sustainability, innovation, and Corporate Social Responsibility, which is at the top of our agenda day after day.” 

TMontange@FreshDelmonte.com

LONG TERM APPROACH Another of those challenges is the increasing price pressure on bananas. “It is a fact that the related pressure on costs and prices is difficult to manage in such a popular item,” explains Thierry. Del Monte seeks to find the answer to this situation in a longterm approach and strategic partnerships. “Fortunately, at Fresh Del Monte we have

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World trade

Global trade in fresh fruit and vegetables doubles every 20 years 75 million more mouths to feed every year worldwide TOP 5 products

strongest export growth of fresh fruit and vegetables

772

2019

2499

2019

966 exotics

2019

2014

1689

2019 compared to 2001 - 55% Index growth 2001 - 2019 - 607

2019

682

2014

1411

avocados

420

2019 compared to 2001 - 77% Index growth 2001 - 2019 - 851

2014

339

cherries

2019

760

2014

2019 compared to 2001 - 84% Index growth 2001 - 2019 - 924

331

blueberries

2019

966

2014

2019 compared to 2001 - 101% Index growth 2001 - 2019 - 1119

772

490

sweet potato

2019

2009

2019 compared to 2001 - 129% Index growth 2001 - 2019 - 1427

2019

2499

300

durians

2009

791

2019 compared to 2001 - 97% Index growth 2001 - 2019 - 308

2009

cherries

2019

760

Last 5 years

2019 compared to 2001 - 157% Index growth 2001 - 2019 - 498

212

avocados

2019

682

2009

sweet potato

cherries

772

188

2019 compared to 2001 - 258% Index growth 2001 - 2019 - 817

2019

2009

blueberries

2019

966

219

2019 compared to 2001 - 263% Index growth 2001 - 2019 - 836

2001

180

2019 compared to 2001 - 253% Index growth 2001 - 2019 - 285

2019

2499

2001

durians

320

2019 compared to 2001 - 436% Index growth 2001 - 2019 - 491

2019

682

2001

avocados

sweet potato

2019 compared to 2001 - 800% Index growth 2001 - 2019 - 900

83

2019 compared to 2001 - 680% Index growth 2001 - 2019 - 765

2019

760

2001

blueberries

84

2019 compared to 2001 - 726% Index growth 2001 - 2019 - 817

2001

Last 10 years

2019 compared to 2001 - 216% Index growth 2001 - 2019 - 685

Last 20 years

According to the UN, over the next 20 years, the global population runs as well as it could. Choices, primarily isWorldwide expected to grow by another 1,4 billion people. That is slightly less driven by consumers (financial capacity), are made. These choices may or may not be than the two previous 20-year periods. Seen on its own, it’s the same population development and production of fresh fruit and vegetables influenced by, among other, supermarkets. increase as that of between 1960 and 1980. There are currently about a smooth-running network of Population development - in billion Production fresh vegetables - in million tons Production fresh Over fruit - intime, million tons 7,8 billion people to feed in the world. In 1980, that was still 4,5 billion; trade 2019 streams has developed. It’s not at all 2001 2011 2019 2001 2011 2019 2001 2011 at the turn of the century, 6.1 billion. People do not, of course, depend easy to change these networks. This net2001 2001 2001 2001 2001 1120 2001 2001 2001 6,2 6,8 7,6 760 1000 600 790 880 work2001 proved invaluable during the current entirely their food. There are many different 386on fruit 386 and 386 vegetables for 386 386 386 386 386 386 crisis. kinds of foods, and diets differ greatly. An increasing number of populationare, development exports of fresh fruit and vegetables products however, and needed to fill all these mouths. FRESH FRUIT AND VEGETABLE

Population development - in billion Export fresh vegetables - in million tons Export fresh fruitTRADING - in million tons SECTOR GROWING FASTER, ANNUALLY, 7 MILLION MORE TONS OF VAST DIFFERENCES BUT STILL HAS LESS THAN A 1% 2001 2011 2019 2001 2011 2019 2001 2011 2019 VEGETABLES AND 7.5 MILLION MORE There are vast differences in per capita pro- GLOBAL SHARE 2001 2001 2001 2001duction. 2001 The 2001 2001 2001 2001 the world’s countries exported TONS OF FRUIT In 2019, 6,2 7 NEEDED 7,7 16 29 34most vegetables per person 39 60 75 386 386 386 386 386 386 386 386 386 Currently, growers around the world culti- are grown in East Asia, including China, and goods to the value of €16.7 trillion. Fresh vate an estimated 1.1 billion tons of vege- Central Asia. For fruit, this is Latin America. fruit and vegetables trade amounted to development of production and At export fruit and vegetables tables and 900 million tons of fruit. 540 ofInfresh Africa, excluding the southern countries, €118 billion. That is without a doubt an million tons, vegetable production is particthere is very little vegetableExport cultivation. enormous sum, but itExport concerns 0.71% of the Production fresh vegetables Production fresh fruit - in million tons fresh vegetables - in million tons fresh fruit - in million tons in million tons ularly large in China. Excluding this coun- Interestingly, in Northern Europe - Scan- total trade. This share has, however, grown 2001 2011 2019 2001 2011 2019 2001 2011 2019 2001 2011 2019 try, annually there is 90 kg and 100 kg of dinavia, the Baltic States, and the UK - in in recent years. In 2000, it was 0.58%, and 2001 2001 2001 2001 2001 2001 2001 2001 2001 2001 2001 2001 fruit for35each person in population sizes, there are12also 21ten years 49 55the world. Per day386 30 relation 38 to 386 43 35 ago, still only 0.59%. 30 47 58 386 386 386 386 386 386 386 386 386 386 that amounts to only 250 g of vegetables relatively few fruit and vegetables frown. and more than 270g of fruit. On average, In recent years, particularly vegetable pro- IN THE NETHERLANDS, THIS SHARE IS that is sufficient to provide everyone with duction, but also that of fruit, has climbed ALMOST 2% enough fruit and vegetables, according to faster worldwide than the population. Fresh fruit and vegetables have close to Western standards. This is, of course, purea two percent share in the Dutch export ly theoretical. So, theoretically, annually, 7.5 INTERNATIONAL TRADE IS VITAL assortment. That is quite a bit bigger. The million tons more of both fruit and vegeta- To provide all these people with a good Netherlands exports a total of €644 billion bles must be produced. That is for the 75 package of fruit and vegetables throughout worth of goods, with fresh fruit and vegemillion people added globally per year. the year, international trade is (still) vital. tables making up €12.3 billion of this. A lot Naturally, it is up for debate whether it all of this, however, concerns re-exports. Of

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AGF Primeur • 2021


TOP 5 countries

strongest export growth of fresh fruit and vegetables Last 20 years

Peru

Vietnam

Egypt

Portugal

Thailand

Last 10 years

2001 137

2019 compared to 2001 1272%

2019 1878

Index growth 2001 - 2019 1282

2001 225

2019 compared to 2001 606%

2019 1589

Index growth 2001 - 2019 611

2001 358

2019 compared to 2001 537%

2019 2279

Index growth 2001 - 2019 541

2001 128

2019 compared to 2001 532%

2019 809

Index growth 2001 - 2019 536

2001 386

2019 compared to 2001 437%

2019 2074

Index growth 2001 - 2019 441

Peru

Filippines

Vietnam

Thailand

Portugal

Last 5 years

2009 553

2019 compared to 2009 239%

2019 1878

Index growth 2009 - 2019 709

2009 1989

2019 compared to 2009 152%

2019 5014

Index growth 2009 - 2019 450

2009 2009

2019 compared to 2009 151%

2019 1589

Index growth 2009 - 2019 447

2009 862

2019 compared to 2009 140%

2019 2074

Index growth 2009 - 2019 416

2009 427

2019 compared to 2009 90%

2019 809

Index growth 2009 - 2019 265

Azerbeidzjan

Australia

Thailand

Peru

SouthAfrica

2014 223

2019 compared to 2014 142%

2019 539

Index growth 2014 - 2019 1220

2014 433

2019 compared to 2014 70%

2019 737

Index growth 2014 - 2019 603

2014 1224

2019 compared to 2014 69%

2019 2074

Index growth 2014 - 2019 598

2014 1216

2019 compared to 2014 54%

2019 1878

Index growth 2014 - 2019 469

2014 3052

2019 compared to 2014 45%

2019 4429

Index growth 2014 - 2019 388

Development of world trade: total and fresh fruit and vegetables

16.740

2019 EXPORT Fruit & Vegetables (Bil. €) 118,1

Costa Rica

10

1,9

15,54

16,62

18,52

Ecuador

20

3,1

19,20

12,22

15,56

Guatemala

10

1,3

10,89

8,12

12,85

Morocco

26

2,2

4,66

5,98

8,54

Peru

40

3,2

1,92

2,36

7,98

Egypt

23

1,5

1,90

5,11

6,54

chili

62

4,0

6,03

4,98

6,47

New Zealand

34

2,2

3,76

3,85

6,33

Colombia

36

1,8

3,49

2,01

4,89

Spain

303

13,7

4,85

4,61

4,51

France

496

2,2

6,00

5,64

4,44

Philippines

63

2,1

1,21

0,82

3,34

South Africa

81

2,6

1,94

2,50

3,27

Mexico

422

11,1

1,69

1,96

2,62

The Netherlands

644

12,3

1,47

1,78

1,90

Turkey

418

2,2

1,63

2,03

1,41

Thailand

153

2,8

0,28

0,25

1,25

Italy

484

4,1

1,00

1,07

0,85

United Kingdom

418

0,3

0,40

0,66

0,81

Belgium

404

2,6

1,02

0,86

0,64

Poland

225

1,3

0,48

0,66

0,60

1.470

8,0

0,52

0,60

0,55

Hong Kong

479

2,1

0,14

0,15

0,45

Canada

399

1,7

0,19

0,30

0,44

India

288

1,2

0,37

0,47

0,41

China

2.232

9,0

0,28

0,35

0,40

Germany

1.328

1,2

0,08

0,11

0,09

630

0,2

0,01

0,01

0,04

Source: Comtrade WORLD

United States

Japan

2019 EXPORT (Bil. €)

2001 Share of Fruit & Vegetables In% 0,58

2010 Share of Fruit & Vegetables In% 0,59

2019 Share of Fruit & Vegetables In% 0,71

all the fresh vegetables exported by the Netherlands, 80% are Dutch products. But, with fruit, that’s only ten percent. Of all the Belgian goods exported - valued at €404 billion - fresh fruit and vegetables make up only 0.64%. That’s a mere €2.6 billion, and the percentage keeps dropping.

COSTA RICA AT 20% Spain is one of the world’s most prominent fruit and vegetable exporters. This country’s fresh fruit and vegetable share of its total exports is 4.9%. That’s €13.7 billion of a total of €303 billion. Compare that to Italy’s 0.85% (€4.1 billion of €484 billion) and France’s, 4.4% (€2.2 billion of €496 billion). In some Latin American countries, the share is sometimes much higher. In Costa Rica, it is almost 20%. Fresh fruit and vegetables account for nearly eight percent of Peru’s total for major exporters; in Chile, it is 6.5%. New Zealand follows closely at 6.3%. What’s unusual is the rapid increase in the importance of fruit and vegetables. GLOBAL TRADE IN PROCESSED GOODS WORTH MORE THAN €90 BILLION Only a small amount of the fruit and AGF Primeur • 2021

31


World trade

Development of worldwide fruit and vegetable production (in 1000 tons) Source: FAO

1961

1980

2000

2018

Mut 19801960

Mut 20001980

Mut 20202000

1961

1980

2000

FRUIT WORLD

2018

Mut 19801960

Mut 20001980

Mut 20202000

47%

136%

59%

VEGETABLES

199.852

338.784

576.564

867.775

70%

70%

51%

197.675

290.301

684.734

Africa North africa Central Africa East Africa West africa South Africa

25.847 6.924 3.112 8.371 5.819 1.621

40.834 9.191 5.347 13.775 9.244 3.276

68.108 18.474 5.901 21.518 16.834 5.382

110.611 34.217 17.384 25.074 26.467 7.468

58% 33% 72% 65% 59% 102%

67% 101% 10% 56% 82% 64%

62% 85% 195% 17% 57% 39%

12.139 4.402 794 2.263 3.734 946

21.203 9.355 1.248 3.725 5.204 1.671

44.632 21.201 2.239 6.101 13.019 2.072

81.465 34.013 4.665 13.816 26.220 2.752

75% 113% 57% 65% 39% 77%

111% 127% 79% 64% 150% 24%

83% 60% 108% 126% 101% 33%

Asia South East Asia East asia South asia Central Asia West asia

57.949 10.849 16.703 19.057 11.340

104.443 25.027 25.348 33.559 20.510

279.330 41.886 135.925 67.665 3.663 30.193

498.430 63.491 251.846 134.835 11.015 37.243

80% 131% 52% 76%

167% 67% 436% 102%

142.488 12.177 74.118 41.943 14.250

480.514 26.230 327.213 89.193 5.595 32.283

832.985 45.593 574.442 159.949 17.066 35.935

237% 115% 341% 113%

47%

97.159 7.446 62.758 21.130 5.825

47% 64% 18% 99%

81%

78% 52% 85% 99% 201% 23%

145%

127%

73% 74% 76% 79% 205% 11%

America North America Central America Caribbean South America

49.985 19.449 5.759 3.426 21.351

91.309 31.464 13.990 4.344 41.510

139.204 36.547 23.985 6.503 72.169

163.090 27.084 39.400 9.296 87.311

83% 62% 143% 27% 94%

52% 16% 71% 50% 74%

17% -26% 64% 43% 21%

25.932 18.124 1.245 554 6.009

40.342 24.582 4.058 1.161 10.542

72.113 39.388 9.746 3.304 19.675

80.371 34.037 18.286 3.369 24.679

56% 36% 226% 110% 75%

79% 60% 140% 185% 87%

11% -14% 88% 2% 25%

Europe Northern Europe Western Europe Eastern Europe Southern Europe

63.647 1.107 16.936 13.824 31.780

98.442 1.135 22.400 28.321 46.586

83.732 664 20.132 16.618 46.319

87.574 1.044 14.973 23.130 48.427

55% 3% 32% 105% 47%

-15% -42% -10% -41% -1%

5% 57% -26% 39% 5%

61.396 3.536 14.346 26.616 16.898

84.571 4.878 13.988 39.318 26.387

84.162 4.833 14.818 29.962 34.549

90.612 4.144 16.174 36.241 34.053

38% 38% -2% 48% 56%

0% -1% 6% -24% 31%

8% -14% 9% 21% -1%

2.424

3.757

6.189

8.070

55%

65%

30%

1.050

1.699

3.313

3.406

62%

95%

3%

Oceania

1.088.839

fruit has doubled every 20 years. Countries in Central and Latin America are major exporters. A third of all the internationally traced fresh fruit comes from there. Southern and Western Europe are also significant fruit export regions. Western Europe and North America import a lot of fresh fruit. Together, these regions account for 40% of the total. Fresh fruit import numbers have climbed quite a bit in these areas over the past 20 years. The Asian countries have, however, shown the most significant growth. The trade in fresh vegetables grew slightly faster, but it is proportionally much smaller and occurs far more regionally.

vegetables grown across the globe are sent beyond any given country’s borders. At ten percent, this is a significant amount for fruit. Of all the vegetables grown worldwide, only 3.5% are sold fresh. A lot of processed fruit and vegetables are, of course, also traded globally. In the past year, all the world’s countries, together, exported pro32

AGF Primeur • 2021

cessed fruit and vegetables valued at €45 billion and €47 billion, respectively. That adds up to not much less than the global trade of fresh produce.

GLOBAL TRADE DOUBLES EVERY 20 YEARS In recent history, the global trade in fresh

European countries in particular trade (among themselves) in fresh vegetables. Imports/exports from these countries represent 40% of the world total, but exports from Asian countries are growing rapidly. In fact, they triples every 20 years. North African countries (including Morocco and Egypt) have also started to export more fresh vegetables.


Development of the world population (in millions) Source: FAO / UN World Change every 20 years

1960 3.035

1980 4.458 1.423

2000 6.143 1.685

2020 7.795 1.651

2040R 9.199 1.404

Africa Asia Europe Lat. America & Auto. b. North America Oceania

283 1.671 640 220 205 16

476 2.594 749 361 254 23

811 3.741 726 522 312 31

1.341 4.641 748 654 369 43

2.077 5.189 728 742 410 53

66 85 32 81 19

111 138 53 142 32

178 235 96 251 51

246 402 180 445 68

330 650 307 707 82

South East Asia East asia South asia Central Asia West Asia

214 806 595 56

358 1.198 939 99

525 1.520 1.457 55 185

669 1.678 1.940 74 280

769 1.676 2.297 93 354

North America Caribbean. b. Central America South America

205 21 51 149

254 30 91 241

312 38 135 348

369 44 180 431

410 47 213 482

Northern Europe Western Europe Eastern Europe Southern Europe

76 152 294 118

82 170 358 139

94 182 304 145

106 196 293 152

113 199 273 143

North africa West africa Central Africa East Africa South Africa

1980-1960 47%   68% 55% 17% 64% 24% 45%   68% 62% 64% 76% 67%   67% 49% 58%   76%   24% 43% 78% 62%   9% 12% 22% 18%

2000-1980 38%

2020-2000 27%

2040-2020 18%

70% 44% -3% 44% 23% 35%

65% 24% 3% 25% 18% 36%

55% 12% -3% 14% 11% 24%

60% 70% 82% 77% 59%

39% 71% 87% 77% 31%

34% 62% 71% 59% 22%

47% 27% 55% 86%

27% 10% 33% 34% 52%

15% 0% 18% 24% 27%

23% 29% 49% 45%

18% 14% 33% 24%

11% 8% 19% 12%

15% 7% -15% 5%

13% 8% -4% 5%

6% 1% -7% -6%

2040R: according to the United Nations medium scenario

Population and production of fruit and vegetables by region (figures for 2018) Sources: UN / FAO

Population

Vegetable production

Fruit Production miljoen ton

Production of vegetables per capita kg per jaar

Production of fruit per capita kg per jaar

miljoen

miljoen ton

WORLD

7.631

1.089

868

143

114

China

1.439

548

240

380

166

Rest world

6.192

541

628

87

101

AFRICA

1.276

81

111

64

87

north

237

34

34

143

144

west

381

5

17

12

46

center

169

14

25

82

148

east

423

3

26

7

63

66

26

7

399

114

4.561

833

498

183

109

655

46

63

70

97

east

1.666

574

252

345

151

south

1.896

160

135

84

71

72

17

11

237

153

south ASIA South east

Central west AMERICA

271

36

37

133

137

1.007

80

163

80

162

north

364

34

27

93

74

Central

175

18

39

104

225 215

Caribbean. b.

43

3

9

78

south

424

25

87

58

206

EUROPE

746

91

88

121

117

north

105

4

1

39

10

west

195

16

15

83

77

east

294

36

23

123

79

south

153

34

48

223

317

42

3

8

82

194

OCEANIA

AGF Primeur • 2021

33


World trade

Development of exports of fresh fruits and vegetables per region 1961-2017 (in 1000 tons) 19801961

20201980

20172000

1961

1980

2000

85.216

93%

105%

93%

3.414

7.181

17.325

22.626

41.092

3.767

10.144

2.084

3.012

7.014

39%

45%

133%

387

217

679

947

698

2.271

39%

-26%

225%

370

Central Africa

860

1.022

939

2.560

19%

-8%

173%

East Africa

114

83

148

322

-26%

77%

118%

West africa

165

223

493

808

35%

122%

South Africa

533

982

1.925

4.147

84%

96%

Source: FAO

1961

1980

2000

11.145

21.499

44.125

10.354 1.504

North africa

2017

19801961

20201980

20172000

38.090

110%

141%

120%

20.765

563

2.363

-44%

159%

320%

167

386

1.250

-55%

131%

224%

0

1

9

1

263%

1312%

-85%

6

21

63

241

281%

199%

281%

64%

1

20

76

315

2654%

270%

317%

115%

12

38

112

555

215%

196%

397% 202%

FRUIT WORLD Mutation 20 years

VEGETABLES

Africa

Asia

2017

1.262

4.066

6.577

19.843

222%

62%

202%

421

1.157

3.282

9.895

175%

184%

South East Asia

100

1.222

2.414

6.746

1119%

98%

179%

47

141

371

494

201%

164%

33%

East asia

303

507

1.088

4.500

67%

115%

313%

130

282

876

3.212

117%

211%

267%

66

192

913

3.446

192%

375%

277%

123

207

662

3.441

68%

221%

420%

-

-

286

501

75%

-

-

250

369

793

2.144

1.876

4.651

171%

-13%

148%

121

528

1.122

2.379

336%

113%

112%

4.259

8.611

19.095

32.747

102%

122%

71%

574

1.779

4.930

9.899

210%

177%

101%

770

1.825

3.561

4.117

137%

95%

16%

393

691

1.931

2.876

76%

179%

49%

1.252

3.541

6.185

13.961

183%

75%

126%

142

957

2.582

6.503

576%

170%

152%

South asia Central Asia West Asia

America North America Central America Caribbean South America

430

327

528

363

-24%

61%

-31%

6

44

44

64

634%

0%

47%

1.807

2.918

8.821

14.306

61%

202%

62%

33

87

373

456

165%

328%

22%

Europe

48%

3.906

6.485

14.493

24.334

66%

123%

68%

2.027

3.950

8.014

15.436

95%

103%

93%

Northern Europe

54

96

138

731

77%

43%

431%

12

47

129

380

310%

172%

195%

Western Europe

335

1.500

5.151

8.090

348%

243%

57%

841

2.017

3.863

7.317

140%

92%

89%

Eastern Europe

486

794

664

2.768

63%

-16%

317%

440

441

376

1.713

0%

-15%

355%

3.031

4.095

8.542

12.745

35%

109%

49%

733

1.446

3.646

6.026

97%

152%

65%

35%

7

585%

-7%

Southern Europe

Oceania

213

253

948

1.277

19%

275%

78

537

497

1051%

Development of imports of fresh fruit and vegetables per region 1961-2017 (in 1000 tons) Source: FAO

1980

2000

20.453

41.976 21.523

2017 FRUIT 79.550 37.574

159 87 2 8 23 68

311 97 6 45 61 180

1.326 596 48 208 241 570

Asia South East Asia East asia South asia Central Asia West Asia

3.492 307 1.582 129 1.475

8.302 1.246 4.193 650 82 2.132

21.637 3.342 8.369 2.791 672 6.463

America North America Central America Caribbean South America

4.834 3.980 175 32 648

10.804 8.643 751 61 1.350

16.913 13.793 1.311 87 1.722

Europe Northern Europe Western Europe Eastern Europe Southern Europe

11.890 2.575 7.080 1.531 704

22.395 4.331 11.480 3.586 2.998

39.406 6.510 16.599 10.647 5.651

78

164

268

OVERALL WORLD Mutation 20 years Africa North africa Central Africa East Africa West africa South Africa

Oceania

34

AGF Primeur • 2021

2020-1980

2017-2000

1980

105%   95% 12% 196% 427% 165% 164%   138% 306% 165% 405%   45%   124% 117% 330% 90% 108%   88% 68% 62% 134% 326%   111%

90%   327% 512% 734% 367% 297% 216%   161% 168% 100% 329% 721% 203%   57% 60% 75% 43% 28%   76% 50% 45% 197% 88%   63%

7.659   106 1 7 9 47 42   1.435 283 444 27 680   1.728 1.498 93 45 92   4.355 794 3.193 307 61   36

2000

2017 VEGETABLES 17.687 37.232 10.028 19.545 319 34 28 23 127 106

1.509

4.104 1.094 1.635 298 11 1.065

10.667 2.970 2.474 1.121 367 3.734

4.237 3.322 393 66 455

8.811 7.576 637 121 477

8.978 1.780 5.133 1.308 757

16.162 3.128 7.507 3.723 1.803

50

84

89 872 90

2020-1980

2017-2000

131%   201%   310% 156% 169% 153%   186% 286% 269% 996%   57%   145% 122% 322% 46% 397%   106% 124% 61% 326% 1133%   41%

110%

373% 223% -100% 588% -15% 160% 171% 51% 276% 3128% 251% 108% 128% 62% 83% 5% 80% 76% 46% 185% 138% 66%


Development of the worldwide export of fresh fruits and vegetables 2001-2019 per product (in 1000 tons) Source: Comtrade total

2001

2009

2014

2019

2019 relative to 2001

Index growth 2001-2019

2019 relative to 2009

Index growth 2009-2019

2019 relative to 2014

Index growth 2014-2019

2019 relative to 2018

68.894

98.936

119.298

130.117

89%

100

32%

100

9%

100

-2%

vegetables

21.337

33.259

40.447

42.180

98%

110

27%

85

4%

47

-4%

fruit

47.556

65.677

78.851

87.936

85%

96

34%

108

12%

127

-1%

Bananas

14.667

18.908

22.320

25.772

76%

85

36%

115

15%

171

Onions

4.211

6.668

7.685

8.337

98%

110

25%

79

8%

94

1%

Apples

5.347

8.065

8.833

8.230

54%

61

2%

6

-7%

-75

-2%

Tomatoes

4.411

7.262

8.408

7.228

64%

72

0%

-1

-14%

-155

-13%

Oranges

5.283

6.415

6.910

7.090

34%

39

11%

33

3%

29

0%

Mandarins

2.534

4.265

4.927

5.179

104%

117

21%

68

5%

56

-2%

Grapes

2.555

3.737

4.179

4.585

79%

89

23%

72

10%

107

-6%

Pineapple

1.171

2.407

3.622

3.966

239%

269

65%

206

9%

105

0%

Pepper

1.481

2.564

3.153

3.768

154%

174

47%

149

20%

215

1%

Pears

1.778

2.353

2.821

3.559

100%

113

51%

163

26%

289

29%

Lemons

2.000

2.488

2.729

3.535

77%

86

42%

134

30%

326

-2%

Watermelons

1.533

3.011

4.068

3.449

125%

141

15%

46

-15%

-168

-24%

Carrot

1.206

1.990

2.541

2.877

139%

156

45%

141

13%

145

-7%

Cucumber

1.496

2.309

2.902

2.717

82%

92

18%

56

-6%

-70

-10%

Exotic

6%

851

1.484

1.689

2.618

208%

234

76%

242

55%

607

-7%

1.053

1.387

2.212

2.500

137%

155

80%

255

13%

144

4%

Avocados

320

791

1.411

2.499

680%

765

216%

685

77%

851

0%

Mangoes

715

1.451

1.784

2.300

222%

250

58%

186

29%

318

2%

1.433

2.278

2.473

2.263

58%

65

-1%

-2

-8%

-94

-4%

895

1.914

2.110

2.212

147%

166

16%

49

5%

53

-5%

2.000

2.939

2.200

1.976

-1%

-1

-33%

-104

-10%

-112

-1%

1.231

1.605

2.076

1.972

60%

68

23%

73

-5%

-56

0%

-

-

1.229

1.643

34%

371

-1%

767

1.288

1.237

1.580

106%

119

23%

72

28%

306

-6%

874

983

1.243

1.522

74%

83

55%

174

22%

248

10%

998

1.315

1.131

1.196

20%

22

-9%

-29

6%

64

-6%

435

727

996

994

128%

145

37%

116

0%

-3

-5%

648

856

926

993

53%

60

16%

51

7%

80

-8%

180

490

718

966

436%

491

97%

308

34%

379

12%

-

-

900

904

0%

5

-31%

Strawberries

483

750

901

896

86%

96

20%

62

-1%

-6

0%

Plums

448

549

642

805

80%

90

47%

148

25%

279

5%

Cherries

219

300

420

772

253%

285

157%

498

84%

924

4%

Beetroot Sweet potatoes Blueberries

347

507

744

760

119%

134

50%

158

2%

24

-2%

84

212

331

760

800%

900

258%

817

129%

1.427

1%

83

188

339

682

726%

817

263%

836

101%

1.119

17%

Persimmon

-

-

390

568

46%

504

8%

Beans

288

482

599

555

92%

104

15%

48

-7%

-81

-6%

Mushrooms

364

365

476

479

32%

36

31%

100

1%

6

-4%

Eggplant

251

388

530

456

82%

92

18%

56

-14%

-153

-27%

Asparagus

190

293

313

428

125%

140

46%

146

37%

403

-1%

Cabbage

Melons Garlic Other vegetables Peaches / Nectarine Zucchini Kiwi fruit Cauliflower / Broccoli Grapefruit Different salad Butter lettuce Durians Plantains

SWEET POTATOES AND BLUEBERRIES INCREASED THE MOST The products gaining popularity in the past 20 years are, firstly, avocados, then mangoes, sweet potatoes, berries, and exotics. There are several products of which the global trade increased considerably more than average too, namely pineapples (except for the past five years) bell peppers,

cabbage, cherries, and asparagus.

PERU; FROM ALMOST ZERO TO 2 MILLION TONS Considering countries, Peru is a true outlier in fresh fruit and vegetable exports over the past two decades. At the turn of the century, Peru only exported a little more than 100,000 tons. Now, that is nearly 2 million

tons. Vietnam, Egypt, Portugal, Thailand, and China are other strong growers. 

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AGF Primeur • 2021

35


C i#t#r #u s

Grapefruit: Harvest, exports increasing But challenges in cultivation and drug interaction

Global grapefruit consumption should reach a new record in the 2020/2021 season. A 6.9 million ton harvest is expected. Exports will also hit their highest level in three years. So, things are going well for grapefruit. China is the largest grapefruit grower in the world by far. In 2019, the country produced 4.9 million tons of this citrus fruit. They are expecting a record harvest of 5 million tons in the 2020/21 season. It is anticipated that consumption and exports will keep pace with the higher yields.

W

ith a 2019 harvest of 485,000 tons, the United States comes in a distant second place. They are expecting a six percent increase to 512,000 tons for the current season. Exports will remain at the same level, but grapefruit consumption and processing are set to rise. The Florida Citrus Commission (FCC) reports that Florida’s grapefruit crop has been relatively stable in recent seasons. It continues to recover from both 2017’s Hurricane Irma and citrus greening or HLB. This is a citrus disease. "We should harvest 4.6 million boxes of Florida grapefruit this year,” says an FCC spokesperson. “We’ll export much of it to countries around the world."

GRAPEFRUIT GROWERS South Africa, Mexico, and Turkey are the other major grapefruit players. In 2019, they, respectively, had yields of 387,000, 350,000, and 270,000 tons. Mexico forecasts an eight percent harvest increase. Turkey is expecting a seven percent rise. In both countries, favorable weather conditions, as well as acreage expansion, play roles in this. The EU is the seventh-largest grapefruit producer worldwide. The countries in this region grew 96,000 tons of this fruit in 2019. Cultivation is expected to remain about the same in 2021. But increased grapefruit imports will likely increase consumption. HLB However, grapefruit cultivation and consumption are not without challenges. One of the biggest is Huanglongbing disease 36

AGF Primeur • 2021

(HLB or citrus greening). This is a serious citrus disease that is currently affecting the global citrus industry. It is impacting both the trees’ health and the citrus’ (juice) development, ripening, and quality. HLB was first detected in Florida, USA, in 2005, and it still has far-reaching effects. Fred Gmitter is a breeder and geneticist at the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences at the University of Florida. He told Citrus Industry News that growing grapefruit is a huge struggle. Fred is exploring the possibilities for HLB-resistant grapefruit but says it is exceedingly difficult to develop HLB-tolerant grapefruit. It would be easier to develop a similar crop that is HLB-resistant. That's why Fred thinks Florida growers may have to think outside the box. They should consider growing HLB-tolerant fruit that is similar to grapefruit. "The question is whether the market will accept something that isn’t quite a grapefruit," he says. “I think there are plenty of global examples that say 'yes'."

SUPPLY HLB is also the greatest challenge for grower, Jimmy Johnson, of Premier Citrus in Vero Beach, Florida. "Orchards that were yielding 400 cartons per acre when they were healthy now have half that or less." That, of course, also affects supplies. In the 2020/2021 season, there hasn’t always been enough to keep up with demand. "I'm not sure if it's because of COVID-19 or because the general demand for citrus is rising. But we have definitely seen a spike

The cookie variety

in demand this year," says GT Parris of Seald Sweet in Vero Beach, Florida. "HLB is causing the reduced supply. That could also be why demand seems the way it is, simply because there is less grapefruit. HLB has caused Florida’s yields to decline in recent years."

INNOVATION The grapefruit sector faces another challenge. Eating this fruit and taking medications often don’t mix well. Grapefruit blocks the action of a specific enzyme. This enzyme plays an important role in the breakdown of many drugs. When it malfunctions, the drug accumulates in the body. The risk of side effects therefore increases. That is why research is being done to find new varieties that can circumvent that problem.

"They are not harmful," says Dr Nir Carmi about the new grapefruit varieties he developed. Dr Carmi is a researcher at the Volcani Agricultural Research Organization in Israel. One of the things the Institute does is focus on citrus fruit breeding and tree science. Grapefruit is known to interact with certain drugs. The Aliza and Cookie varieties do not. "We’re developing many varieties, but this is very innovative.” These new varieties’ flavors do not disappoint either. "They taste like sweet grapefruit, but even better. They are not just another grapefruit. People actually prefer these.” STRONG DEMAND Dr Carmi explains that grapefruit originated 200 years ago. It was a natural pomelo/ orange hybrid. He focused on pomelo and


Worldwide grapefruit production (in millions of tons) 7,2 7 6,8 6,6 6,4 6,2 6 5,8 5,6 5,4 5,2

Source: Statista and USDA.gov

tangerine for the new varieties, creating a new combination of these two. "This cross has all the benefits of grapefruit without the restrictions for people on medication. Or those who otherwise wouldn’t be able to eat this fruit." Aliza and Cookie will be freely available for cultivation worldwide. They are expected to be grown in Israel, South America, South Africa, Australia, and California. Dr Nir thinks the new varieties will enter the market quickly. He sees a lot of demand for the product. "Because of the contraindication issue, there’s a lot of demand for a grapefruit like this," he said. HELD BACK This grapefruit/drug interaction is something Fred Gmitter, in Florida, is also busy with. For instance, variety UF 914, which is said to be more ‘drug friendly,’ is gain-

ing attention. The researcher has, however, noticed that growers are more concerned about HLB than about grapefruit’s interaction with medicines. That is why there is less interest in developing this variety. Grower, G.T. Parris, of Seald Sweet in Vero Beach, Florida, says, "Some doctors are overly cautious when making this suggestion." Word-of-mouth among the older population about avoiding grapefruit has affected its consumption too. “Older people are traditionally grapefruit eaters. This group eats most of them. That is why, as an industry, we publicize a lot of education about researching and eating grapefruit."

Fred also sees that growers in Florida are hesitant to have this new UF 914 variety released. They are worried it will take off,

The Aliza variety

decreasing the Florida-grown varieties’ popularity. There is, however, international interest in the variety, mainly from Spain and South Africa. (MW/AB)  nircarmi@agri.gov.il fgmitter@ufl.edu jimmy@premiercitrus.com gtparris@sealdsweet.com

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37


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HillFresh is conquering the world with a unique melon

Two seasons after the launch of the Limelon HillFresh takes over worldwide distribution by signing a unique agreement. The Limelon a surprisingly unique melon with a fresh bite What exactly is the Limelon for a melon? According to Geerten van Luttikhuizen the Limelon has a unique taste that cannot be compared to any other melon he has ever tasted. Geerten responsible for the HillFresh melon program can speak from experience. “The Limelon can best be described as a juicy melon with a fresh and sour taste. This unique is what makes this melon so special to consumers. When people try the product they are surprised by the taste and that is actually exactly what retailers are looking for. Ways to surprise the customer. The fresh and sour taste can be compared with a touch of Lime, hence the name Limelon. ” Unprecedented positive reactions from retail After a promising first testing season, HillFresh involved the first retail customers in this new project in 2019. “This has been a huge success and that is why we invested heavily in expanding the available volumes and establishing an optimal program for 2020.” Reliable cultivation partners With many years of experience in supplying quality melons, HillFresh has teamed up with their best cultivation partners. All this to ensure that the requested volumes of the Limelon are all of excellent quality. “To grow a new product you need a partner who still has love for cultivating melons. Developing 38

AGF Primeur • 2021

a good product with consistent quality goes beyond just planting the seeds. You have to work with enthusiastic partners who keep a close eye on the cultivation process, ”says Geerten. Quality is the key to success “With this approach we managed to optimize our quality last season. Because only melons of consistent quality can convince consumers to keep buying the product. One bad melon and all those years of development can be thrown in the bin. All melons supplied during the last season have been of excellent quality. In short, the Limelon is a delicious melon with unique properties.” Worldwide distribution partner “Supported by our innovative cultivation approach we have made an impression within the retail sector and now requests are coming in from all over the world for the Limelon. Because of this flying start we have chosen to take on the worldwide distribution of the Limelon. A special moment that has made HillFresh a world player in the melon market. For more information about the Limelon: Geerten van Luttikhuizen HillFresh International B.V. Tel: +31 (0) 180-898060 geerten@hillfresh.eu www.hillfresh.eu


 

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39


Citrus

Giovanni Selvaggi, President of the Consorzio di Tutela dell’Arancia Rossa di Sicilia

A controversial Italian citrus campaign The Italian 2020/21 orange campaign was characterized by a drop in consumption estimated at around 20% compared to the previous season. Despite having a high-quality product, the sector has suffered from the closure of the Ho.re.ca. channel, a fundamental important sales channel. For example, on the ski slopes of Italy, France, Switzerland and Austria, Sicilian blood orange juice was a must, but with the closure of the ski resorts, both sales and brand visibility were missing.

"M

any factors have determined the trend of both prices and consumption of this harvest. Lots of good quality produce, a crisis in consumption due to the health emergency, the closure of some important commercial channels and a not-too-rigid winter are all factors that have not played in our favor," said Giovanni Selvaggi, president of the Consorzio di Tutela dell'Arancia Rossa di Sicilia (Red Orange of Sicily Consortium).

"Although the campaign has so far experienced ups and downs, we hope there will be a positive outcome, and a final boost that will also strengthen all the marketing and product positioning strategies," concluded Giovanni Selvaggi.

For a more comprehensive analysis of the citrus season, which is still in progress (as 40

AGF Primeur • 2021

of this writing), we are including a data table below by the CSO, based on the trend of surfaces and productions, as shown from ISTAT data. Investments in the orange, clementine, mandarin, lemon and grapefruit sectors are around almost 145,000 hectares (on an average between 2015 and 2020), with a trend that fluctuates over time, going from over 147,000 hectares in 2015 to nearly 143,000 hectares in 2020. The main species cultivated are oranges, with over 80,000 hectares in 2020, representing 57% of the total during the last year, and clementines and lemons, which represent 52,000 hectares and 37% of the total. The declining area of cultivated land mainly affected oranges, which dropped from about 86,000 hectares cultivated in 2015 to 81,500 hectares in 2020. Clementines, on the other hand, have shown some sta-

bility over time with only a slight decrease during the 2016 and 2019 harvests. The largest investments of the last six seasons were made in 2020 with around 26,200 hectares cultivated. A slight increase was recorded for the lemon sector, with investments of over 26,000 hectares in 2020.

As reflected in the data, the production of citrus fruits shows an increase during the last six years with only a decline recorded during the 2018 season; on average, the production of citrus fruits is over 2,800,000 tons but during the 2020 season even higher volumes were reached with more than 3,200,000 tons. Approximately 80% of the total is represented by the production of oranges and clementines, and for both species the quantities produced in 2020 were the highest to date since 2015. The volumes of oranges went from an average of about 1,600,000 tons in the 2015-2019 period to nearly 1,900,000 tons during the 2020 season, and for clementines it went from an average of 570,000 tons to over 680,000 tons produced in 2020. This data confirms and supports the premises for a better analysis of the last commercial campaign which was marked by a very high production at the beginning and


better than for the bulk product. Expectations are good for the very late product, which has yet to be commercialized, and so is the demand. Organic oranges, despite medium-small sizes, were able to obtain higher prices.

by very small sizes, especially for clementines.

The 2020/2021 citrus campaign was marked not only by an excess of production, but also by an anomalous trend of quotations, especially for the blonde orange Navel variety. The optimistic expectations were followed by few requests and even less consumption. Prices recovered only

after the new year from January-February onwards, with the late varieties.

On the whole, oranges had standard and medium to good calibers, but the real problem occurred during the commercial season with very low prices and low demand that led many growers to divert the product to the industry. Prices for blood oranges and in general for the packaged product were

The clementine commercial season was not optimal either, the product arrived late on the markets due to an unfavorable climatic trend characterized by too much heat at the beginning, followed by temperature changes and a lot of rain which stained the fruit's peel. The average sizes were smaller than the standard with a prevalence of size 5 among the top quality. The surplus of product of this size, which is normally destined for Eastern Europe, led to a sharp drop in prices and to major difficulties in selling the product. The few medium-large gauges had better prices because they were available in limited quantities. The average price was around 0.55-0.60 €/kg for the already processed product, unlike last year when, with the same volumes due to low yields, average prices were around 0.70-0.80 €/kg. Unfortunately, in most cases a lot of product remained unsold or was simply left on the plants. The demand for

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AGF Primeur • 2021

41


Citrus

tines, were 17% higher in the last quarter of 2020 than in the same period of 2019. However, a closer look at the two most shipped products shows that the increase is due to the higher number of shipments of clementines, which went from about 270,000 tons in the last quarter of 2019 to 375,000 tons in the October-December 2020 period, while exports of oranges declined, going instead from 235,000 tons (October-November 2019) to almost 220,000 tons in the same time frame of 2020. Despite all the commercial difficulties, both oranges and clementines kept a very good organoleptic profile. The next move is to focus on very early or very late varieties in order to cover a wider commercialization period for both oranges and clementines. the Comune clementine variety remained low for almost the entire harvest period. Prices were low until December and then recovered by about 10%-20%. After the frosts recorded in January 2021 in Spain, there was a slight acceleration in requests. During this campaign, there was little pressure on the Italian market due to climatic problems in Valencia, in the area of major

citrus production, due to frost and excessive rainfall, and this allowed Italy to enter the German market because of the absence of Spanish product.

The greater availability of product has increased overseas shipments. According to Eurostat data, Italian exports of citrus fruits, particularly oranges and clemen-

As for mandarins, with the harvest concentrated between February and April, the quantities and supply have been satisfactory, as well as the demand, also because of reduced acreage. Investments were not affected by the unfavorable trend of this last season and the main cultivation areas did not record any abatements, keeping the hope to return to a positive trend next year. 

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Steady increase in global hazelnut cultivation

But it is being threatened by brown marmorated stink bugs Brown marmorated stink bugs love eating hazelnuts. That’s bad news for the cultivation. These insects can wreak havoc in hazelnut orchards. For example, farmers in Georgia almost lost three entire harvests after these stink bugs struck an area of about 70 hectares in 2016. Georgia is the seventh-largest hazelnut-growing country in Europe. In 2017 alone, the damage amounted to nearly €20 million.

G

eorgia’s neighbor, Turkey, is the world's largest hazelnut grower. They also had issues with this bug in that year. Between 2017 and 2020, the brown marmorated stink bug had spread to eight Turkish cities. Most of these are in the Black Sea region. That area supplies much of the world’s hazelnuts. Despite this, global hazelnuts production grew by almost 21% between 2010 and 2019.

URGENCY Farmers are considering solutions such as natural predators, like samurai wasps, to combat these insects’ invasion. But this poses a problem. There is an urgency to contain this spread. And using such natural means requires extensive research. This is to ensure they don’t harm the ecosystem. The Georgian government drew up a strategic plan for controlling the brown marmorated stink bug. They did so with the help of the University of Pennsylvania in the United States. Georgia allocated 7.5 million lari (about €2.5 million/$3 million) for this. They received another $8 million (around €6.7 million) in US aid.

BEATING THE BUGS This plan bore fruit. The Georgian government announced that they had defeated these bugs. As a result, that country’s hazelnuts exports increased by 49%. From 1 August 2020 to 31 January 2021, Georgia exported €65.8 million (about $78.6 million) worth of these nuts. That is €22.2 million (roughly $26.5 million) more than in the same period in 2019. Most of these hazelnuts find their way to Germany, Italy, the Czech Republic, Lithuania, and Poland.

TURKEY Most of the world’s hazelnuts are grown in one country - Turkey. This is the undisputed number one of the world’s top five hazelnut-growing countries. It cultivates no less than 69.3% of the global crop. With 8.7%, Italy is, far behind, in second place. Azerbaijan with 4.8% and the United States with 3.6% follow third and fourth. Chile rounds off the top five with 3.1%. Tridge shows that 1,085,100 tons of hazelnuts were harvested worldwide in 2019.

VOLATILE Hazelnut cultivation has taken a remarkably volatile route over the last ten years. This is not only limited to the total worldwide volume. There are also significant differences in annual yields per country of origin. Azerbaijan and China are the exceptions. Both these countries have seen their crops grow steadily over the past decade. Azerbaijan is the world's number three and accounts for 4.8% of global hazelnut production.

That country harvested 29,600 tons of hazelnuts in 2010. In 2019, that had grown to 53,800 tons, an increase of 81.8%. Although less spectacular, China, in sixth position, has shown a growth of 27.4% over the last ten years. They cultivated 23,000 tons of hazelnuts in 2010; in 2019, it was 29,300 tons. That amounted to 2.6% of the world’s production. But impressive as the growth is, it pales compared to Turkey’s 2019 yield of 776,100 tons. (MW)  Sources: The Guardian, FreshPlaza.com, Tridge.com

2010-2019 hazelnut cultivation in tons (x1.000)

Turkey Italy Azerbaijan United States chili China Georgia Iran Spain

2010 600 90,3 29,5 25,4 19,5 19,5 28,8 18,4 15,1

2011 430 128,9 32,9 34,9 5,2 22 31,1 18,8 17,6

2012 660 85,2 29,6 35,5 6,3 23 24,7 19,5 14,1

2013 549 112,7 31,2 40,8 9,5 23 39,7 20,7 15,3

2014 450 75,5 30 32,7 11,5 23,6 33,8 10,1 13,5

2015 646 101,6 32,3 28,1 8,8 25,1 35,3 13,5 11,4

2016 420 120,6 34,3 39,9 14,3 26,3 29,5 16,5 9,5

2017 675 131,3 45,5 29 16,8 27,3 21,4 15,4 10,5

2018 515 132,7 52,1 46,3 20,3 28,3 17 16 8

2019 776,1 98,5 53,8 39,9 35 29,3 24 16,1 12,4

Total

846,5

721,4

897,9

841,9

680,7

902,1

710,9

972,2

835,7

1085,1

Source: Tridge.com

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To p f r u i t

About 30 percent of the product comes from the Italian peninsula, 19 percent from The Netherlands and 17 percent from Belgium

Italy is the European queen of pears

This year (2020/2021 campaign), the Italian supply of pears amounted to around 611,000 tons. However, despite recovering after last year's low (+68% compared to 2019), the overall productions remained at the lowest levels of the last decade, also due to spring frosts and the Asian bug, but above all, brown spots, especially in Emilia Romagna, where the largest volumes are concentrated. "Despite the low production of the last two years, Italy remains the main producer of pears, but its role is obviously decreasing compared to a few years ago, when it accounted for about 35% of the European total production. In the last two years, Italy’s contribution in the European panorama has dropped to 19% in 2019 and 29% in 2020. However, it should be noted that even if we excluded the last two years, the presence of the Italian production is stable at 30%." (Source: analysis by CSO, Centro Servizi Ortofrutticoli). "The first three months of 2021 have seen steady prices. Sales proceeded regularly, even if it is important to note that the quantities available are lower than in a normal year. Some varieties faced challeng44

AGF Primeur • 2021

es because of the shelf life. The ideal storage factors that ensure that the product remains both in good condition for a long time and delicious when taken out of the cellars, are not easy to identify," said Albano Bergami, an important operator in the pear sector.

PRODUCTIONS IN EUROPE In 2020, European productions were over 2.2 million tons, +14% compared to the scarce 2019, but 2% lower than the average production of the 2015-18 period. Among the European countries, the emphasis is on the Benelux product represented almost entirely by the Conference variety. Belgium's productions are progressively growing, reaching 393,000 tons in 2020 (+18% over 2019) and a 17% EU-wide rep-

resentation. The same trend can be seen in the Netherlands, with a production of 400,000 tons (+7% over 2019 and +10% over the 2015-2018 period), representing 19% of the EU total.

France also stands out, reaching volumes in 2020 of around 130,000 tons, a +7% compared to the modest 2019, followed by the fluctuating quantities of Portugal, with 159,000 tons and a decrease of 21% compared to 2019, and an 11% increase compared to the 2015-18 average. Spain completes the list of European competitors with supply in a declining trend compared to the early 2000s and with about 307,000 tons in 2020 (-2% compared to 2019). THE MAIN VARIETIES IN ITALY The largest supply of Italian pears is the Abate Fetel variety (40% in 2020), followed by William B.C. with 25%, Conference 7%. The remaining varieties are less important. The Italian region of Emilia Romagna is highly significant in representing the production of Abate Fetel, that represents 80% of the total production. At the beginning


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To p f r u i t

of the campaign the production situation in the region was very similar to the one described at a national level, with volumes of product higher than the small quantities of the last campaign, but much lower than the previous ones.

Since the beginning of the campaign, the destocking has continued quite regularly for almost all varieties. Abate had a quite contained production, with -30% in the 2018/19 campaign. The end-of-year inventories showed a decrease of -26% compared to the same period of the 2018/19 campaign due to the usual decrease in demand during the Christmas holidays, which was diverted by other products. At the beginning of March, the quantities yet to be placed on the markets showed a decrease of -26%. The Conference variety had a more active destocking of its 2018/19 campaign in the initial phase of the season. The supply,

initially 25% lower, continued at -32% at the beginning of October, a gap that also remained nearly stable in November. The year-end inventories saw an increase of a few percentage points, which was followed by active sales in the months of January and February that widened the gap with the 2018/19 campaign, considering the inventories were -47% at the beginning of March.

On the other hand, the William variety destocking was slow, and the 2018/19 saleable product availability was initially 7%, while inventories continued showing volumes gradually increasing compared to the same period of 2019, up to +36% at the beginning of March. The sales for Kaiser varieties were not overly dynamic either with the 2018/2019 volumes initially 8% lower and the destocking slower at the beginning of March at +48% compared to 2019.

EXPORTS FROM ITALY The share of Italian pears exported abroad is on average 20% per year, although it is still too early to define such a percentage for the current campaign. Almost all exports remained within Europe (92% of the total in recent years), and Germany was the most important destination with around 40% of total exports. The other destinations are represented by France with an average of 17% in the two-year period 2018/19 - 2019/20, followed by Austria, Romania, and the exiting United Kingdom. The remaining destinations are of lesser importance. The main volumes of pears exported are as always represented mainly by the Abate Fetel variety, which has seen a quite regular market positioning since the beginning of the campaign and in line with the available supply. The higher quantities were mainly directed to regular customers, as the availability was far from surplus. In addition to

-

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47


To p f r u i t

scheduled deliveries, sales continued to be selected in order to optimize the modest remaining volumes.

The demand for medium-large sizes, which are often reserved for the domestic market, was favorable. Demand for smaller sizes, on the other hand, was rather non-existent, except at very low prices. The interest in Italian pears, especially the smaller sizes, was limited by the competitive Benelux Conference.

interest of French customers was lower in the initial part of the campaign, mainly due to the availability of local products, but remained low even in the following months, also due to the pandemic, with more discontinued supplies than usual. Depending on the availability of the different gauges available, the German market was favored over the French market.

The William B.C. variety sales to foreign markets continued unabated. This year's good quantities were mainly demanded by The French market wasPrimeur_Agricultural not very receptive, customers, Advertentie vakblad 185x130+3mmforeign EN.pdf 1 9-4-2021 11:29:13 partly due to modest with demand always linked to prices. The requests from the French market. Exports

for Kaiser were disappointing, requests lower than supplies.

During these Covids times and the consequent economic emergency, the various purchasers' search for greater cost savings, which is in some cases reinforced by the uncertainty of consumption, has led to different plans and strategies compared with previous years. For all the reasons mentioned above, it is still too early to assess this atypical harvest. 

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Vegetables

Rudolph Behr (Behr AG) on the start of the German vegetable harvest:

“Targeted cultivation measures and digitalization enable careful use of natural resources” Unusual weather phenomena – like late frost and hail - as well as the ongoing Corona requirements and the resulting renewed restrictions for harvest workers from abroad: the omens for the upcoming German vegetable harvest are not necessarily positive, said Rudolph Behr, CEO of northern German vegetable company Behr AG. "Short-term solutions from last year have now been made permanent." What is the situation at the beginning of this year's outdoor season regarding the current weather and marketing situation? Rudolph Behr: "We estimate that we will be a little late at harvesting. The cold snap in late March/early April will have an impact on the starting time. At the same time, southern Europe will finish rather earlier, so a gap in some crops seems unavoidable. This is particularly true for kohlrabi, but may also be the case for iceberg lettuce. We do not see it happening with the mini romaine. The German season is not there yet. Due to Corona, more has been eaten at home and retail has benefited from this, but this also goes for the farm shops, the regional subscription boxes, and the weekly markets. I do not know whether consumers in the food retail sector have actually 50

AGF Primeur • 2021

purchased more regional products. Nevertheless, more vegetables were generally purchased through retail."

To what extent is the current crisis affecting vegetable production? How are you responding to pandemic-related challenges? Rudolph Behr: "It depends. If you have your outdoor production geared for processing or when gastronomy usually takes a large share of your production, you will not be too happy. Those who have their customers in food retail don't have any issues as such, but everyone has the problem of having to protect their employees, and therefore seasonal employees, from Corona. We only have problems with seasonal workers when they come in. Sometimes we have a Corona case that has to be quarantined.

That's why we advocated for the extended working period of 115 days, in order to minimize new arrivals. We have not had a single case of Corona during this period.

However, in our Hessian operation we have had a transmission of Corona from our office employees to our seasonal workers. It always comes in from the outside. We are highly successful in preventing the spread through a strict group quarantine at work, home, and regarding shopping. So far, we have not seen any issues with the seasonal workers' travel. However, we have to make considerable efforts to ensure work safety and Corona-friendly housing. Shortterm solutions from last year are now being made permanent. Last year we had to invest 1.2 million euros for this and this year the amount will be much higher."

Organic vegetables are one of your company's focal points: how is the organic market developing and how is Behr AG responding to these developments? Rudolph Behr: "We have once again expanded our organic cultivation by around 100


April 2021 Iceberg lettuce under foil

hectares compared to the previous year. We now have over 400 hectares. However, this is still a long way from exhausting the acreage capacities at our organic sites. There is little movement in the crops. We are extending our organic cultivation by adding and pushing new crops. The range of varieties is being broadened.

We are somewhat concerned about the so-called organic sales boom, as we have our doubts about the actual purchasing behavior of the consumer. I think the worst thing that could happen to the sector financially is an actual acreage expansion to the level required by the politicians. It's bizarre. Politically, a production method is being forced upon us without taking into account actual consumer demand. Actual demand will show through in buying behavior, not in press statements. However, if organic produce is no longer more expensive than conventional vegetables, the demand will increase and then it will be impossible to satisfy. At those prices, there will no longer be any more growers or products in the organic sector, because there too, people depend on profits. The banks will remind the growers of this fact." Another focus is the shelf placement of innovative products and product

but you can be 'too early' as well. Being too early will also cost you money but has the advantage that you can still start at the right time. Being too late, is just being too late."

Rudolph Behr

lines (such as KaRuby and Behr's Dampfgenuss): What is the basic idea behind this strategy? Rudolph Behr: "New products and product lines are a matter close to our hearts. Sometimes that takes a lot of time and patience. We can list a whole range of products that are now successful standard goods, that we introduced as pioneers. In the process, we often had to endure long dry spells. Sometimes we took the product out of the program for years and then successfully relaunched it. You can certainly be 'too late',

Behr AG has become Germany's leading vegetable marketer: To what extent is there more growth potential for your company? Rudolph Behr: "Today, the BEHR Group includes five proprietary growing operations, represented at four locations in Germany and one in Spain. Furthermore, as the contract marketer of the Mecklenburg harvest, BEHR AG is responsible for marketing the products of eleven other growers. We will grow with the demand. It is becoming apparent that reliability and a well-rounded annual program are becoming more important for the customer. We want to expand this as a growing operation.

In soil-based outdoor cultivation a scarce resource is really the farm manager, who will work a 7-day week, from dawn till dusk. But they can only successfully manage a farm, if they are assertive and obsessed with details. This also requires sensitive orchestration of elements. Independent companies are also welcome if they fit into the 'orchestra' and want to play along. We AGF Primeur • 2021

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Vegetables

are very precise about this, because dissonance offends the ears and will not do our relationship with the customer any good. We have people who want to join us, and we will check to see if it's a good fit." Another factor at pandemic times is the elimination of trade shows: how do you see this development and is there a reasonable alternative, in your view? Rudolph Behr: "Trade shows and events have the advantage that you have extremely focused interaction with customers in a short time, discussing things in advance. More in-depth discussions will then take place later. Neither of these options are possible at the moment, so there is little movement on either side. Regarding new products in particular, face-to-face discussions and demonstrations are indispens-

able. That is really lacking at the moment. Online events are only a stopgap solution there, but they are better than nothing."

Finally, how do you see the future of German vegetable production? Where do you see opportunities or challenges in the next 10-20 years? Rudolph Behr: "Soil-based outdoor cultivation, whether in organic or conventional, will have to integrate with natural processes, and that is possible. In the future, we will be able to achieve both goals: more than enough healthy vegetables as well as sustainable cultivation and taking care of nature. I am convinced of that. This will be made possible by technology and automation. Targeted cultivation measures and digitization will make it possible for us to make careful use of natural resources.

However, these are special elements that are only worthwhile for certain crops and when used in sufficient quantities. For this reason, crop rotation does not act as an impediment, nor does field division that is aimed at conserving nature and the environment. However, things will have to be done in a grand scale, not just regionally. This will then revolutionize the sector, both organic and conventional. The two farming systems, organic and conventional, will become more and more similar, and in the distant future, science-based environmental protection will play a role in both systems, with clearly measurable results." 

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Kartoffeln

A good season for Prince de Bretagne despite the uncertain global pandemic crisis Prince de Bretagne With about 1,700 producers and a range of no less than 141 vegetables mostly harvested by hand and packed directly on the farms, Prince de Bretagne is the European leader in the production of fresh vegetables. It is the brand of three cooperatives from Brittany, grouped under the Cerafel association, which celebrated its 50th anniversary last year.

P

ierre Gelebart, product manager early potatoes, and Dorian Charlou, product manager mini-vegetables, discuss the current season.

“IF WARE POTATOES DON'T SELL, THEY RISK COMPETING WITH EARLY POTATOES" The early potato season starts in February each year, with a crop cycle of 90 days. “We have a small production grown under cover which lasts until the end of April, followed by early potatoes harvested by hand in the fields which start at the end of April/beginning of May. From then on, the production increases because the surface areas are larger than for the greenhouse production,”

explains Pierre. Prince de Bretagne produces an average of 12,000 to 13,000 tons of early potatoes per year.

In terms of varieties, Prince de Bretagne offers the Starlette and the Lady Christel (grown both under cover and in open field). From the month of May, the supply includes the Charlotte, Colomba (for fries especially) and Nicola. “There are many varieties because we have quite a lot of tripartite contracts which means that it is the client who chooses the varieties.” No storage for the early potato which is marketed as a fresh vegetable. “We sell what we harvest.”

If most of the early potato volumes are contracted, uncertainty lingers for the remaining volumes. “We are a little worried about the fact that restaurants are not reopening. It is not a big market for us but if ware potatoes don’t sell, they risk staying on the market too long and competing with the early potatoes.” Prince de Bretagne has two other potato productions. One of them is on the Isle of Baltz. “It is a very well-known production locally; sold entirely in Brittany between May and mid-July.” The other is a sand

potato production with varieties like Charlotte and Ruby which are sold on wholesale markets, in Rungis, Lille and Lyon for example. “These potatoes are found mostly on specialized retail circuits rather than in supermarkets.” “Complicated situation at the moment for the mini-vegetables which are mostly intended for the catering sector”

The mini-vegetable season runs from January until December, with some evolutions throughout the year. “Not all products are available all year round. At the moment, we have mini-cauliflowers, mini-carrots, mini-beetroots, and mini-leeks,” explains Doriane Charlou, product manager mini-vegetables. The offer gets broader for the Christmas holidays with yellow and Chioggia beetroots, mini red cabbage, mini white cabbage, mini Romanesco cabbage and finally, mini green curled kale. The range includes about 15 varieties, with a production of 200 tons per year.

As a high-end product, the mini-vegetable is mostly intended for a professional clientele. “The context remains uncertain and complicated due to the Corona crisis, because most mini-vegetable sales go to the catering sector, so we have to wait and see what will happen.” Mini-vegetables are also a festive product, so they enjoy two high points within the year, Easter and Christmas, especially in terms of supermarket sales. “We offer mini-vegetables all year round, but they are especially popular in supermarkets around the Christmas holidays.” Their fragility requires exclusively manual AGF Primeur • 2021

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Kartoffeln

production and packing, the latter being carried out directly on site by the producers. And in order to guarantee maximum freshness and optimal quality, the vegetables are only harvested once the order has been placed. “We only harvest the mini-vegetables on demand. The products are grown in the field and remain in the ground until the very last moment to preserve all their intrinsic qualities.” The vegetables are also interesting in terms of taste. “The mini-carrots, for example, have a stronger flavor than regular carrots because they are harvested at an early stage with a specific production method and varietal selection, adapted to the crop,” explains Doriane Charlou. “THERE WILL BE SOME CHANGES THIS YEAR” The upcoming Agec law (against waste, for a circular economy) imposes the creation of new packaging. “We are currently working on two independent tracks,” explains Pierre Gélébart. “Like everyone else, we must adapt to the new Agec law and the ban on plastic. We are working on paper packaging, but we are monitoring the evolutions. Will biopolymers be allowed, for example?” For now, the early potatoes (750g-1kg bag) are keeping their freshness

in packaging with anti-greening action. For the larger packaging (2.5kg), “for the first time, we will separate according to culinary use. Until now, we were using a single packaging of the Primabreizh brand. We will now have packaging for the potatoes to be steamed/sauteed and another one for the potatoes for fries.”

EXPORT TO GERMANY Most of the products exported to the German market are also the main vegetables of the Prince de Bretagne range - cauliflower, tomatoes, and shallots -, but all the vegetables can potentially be exported. According to Doriane Charlou, “we can now say that all our vegetables are sold on the German market, depending on the season. For the cauliflower for example, France and Germany do not produce it at the same time, so we supply them when they have a shortage of product.” The squash, old varieties, strawberries, and early potatoes are also exported to Germany.  For more information: Prince de Bretagne www.princedebretagne.com Doriane Charlou (product manager minivegetables) doriane.charlou@princedebretagne.com Pierre Gelebart (product manager early potatoes) pierre.gelebart@princedebretagne.com

As for the mini-vegetables, they are packed in plastic trays of 200g or in trays for 2 to 4 cauliflower heads. The 400g format and wooden mini-packaging are intended for the catering industry. “We are working on developing zero-plastic packaging, as we are for the entire range of Prince de Bretagne.”

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Greenhouse vegetables

Marcel van der Pluijm, Feeling Fresh:

“Dutch bell pepper exports to North America bearing the brunt of high airfreight fees” An unfavorable dollar exchange, increased local production, or an overbearing president. Marcel van der Pluijm anticipated many scenarios when he founded Feeling Fresh in October 2019. A global pandemic was not one of them. As a result, airfreight has increased by a massive 100 to 200%. That is causing the necessary challenges. "We're currently taking a beating, but things are sure to improve," begins the Dutch trader defiantly. He exports to America.

T

he Dutch greenhouse vegetable season is slowly getting started at Feeling Fresh. "We were still in between two seasons [at the beginning of April]. The Spanish season ended earlier than usual. That was partly due to the weather conditions in January. The cold front caused quality issues for many companies in Almeria. So, we stopped earlier than usual." Marcel buys his product from various grower cooperatives and individual growers. Dutch bell peppers - by far, Feeling Fresh's top export product - are expensive. These high prices aren't making it easy to export to distant destinations at the moment. "Before Easter, a box of Dutch bell peppers cost between €22 and €27. With the current air freight rates, you are talking

around $45 for our American customers. While the Mexican growers deliver them across the border for $10. The past year's dollar exchange rate has been quite erratic too. It started at around $1.08 and rose to $1.23. That made us even more expensive for American importers. The dollar is now getting stronger again. Our competitive position is, therefore, improving," explains Marcel. LEARNING MOMENTS "So, we're currently waiting until Dutch bell peppers become cheaper. We've been dealing with sky-high air freight tariffs for 13 months now. That is why, last year, the Netherlands 'only' exported eight million kgs of bell peppers to the United States. The year before, it was double that. I don't

foresee much improvement for this season either. But we are trying to get through the situation as best we can. We will keep on fighting, and above all, it is vital to keep on enjoying the profession. These are learning moments that every businessperson goes through. The trick is to come out of it stronger."

"I'm an opportunist who finds opportunities in everything. These unpredictable circumstances are, however, sometimes disappointing. May to June are generally good months for Dutch sweet pepper exports. But it seems that this is still too soon. Other products are in the same predicament. Of course, we still export products like aubergines, bell peppers, and chicory to the North American market. But we shipped hardly any vegetables such as leeks, Brussels sprouts, and rhubarb last year. We simply couldn't compete with local producers. That was due to the high air freight rates," Marcel continues. FILLING THE GAP Nevertheless, he remains optimistic about his long-term prospects. "More than 20 years ago, the Netherlands was still in a

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AGF Primeur • Gewächshausgemüse • 2020


unique position, supplying bell peppers to the North American market. With the rise of domestic cultivation, that has become more of a gap-filling function. Canadian cultivation companies have sprung up all over the country. These are not small five to ten-hectare projects either. That was with the help of Dutch greenhouse builders and suppliers."

"Also, Mexico is active on the market almost all year round. We may not regain the position we had 20 years ago. But I do think the Netherlands’ role will come back into focus. In a normal year, the Netherlands exports between 12 and 22 million kgs of bell peppers to North America. I would not have started my own company otherwise. Besides, COVID-19 has brought a lot of attention to healthy food. That also applies to America. And this country still has some catching up to do in that area," says Van der Pluijm. For Marcel, this is reason enough to orientate himself and to broaden his scope. "That is easier said than done. I have specialized in North America since the mid-90s. Therefore, I have never really had a backup in another market. But if the situation contin-

ues like this for a long time, I might have to consider that. However, I'm convinced that the tide will turn. I'm holding on to that. There is not much point in despairing. Other businesses are affected and have been hit much harder. Just think of the hospitali-

Eco Veg

ty, events, and travel industries. When hard times come your way, you have to grin and bear it," he concludes. (IH)  marcel@feelingfresh.nl

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Special

Greenhouse vegetables

BelOrta’s Benny Cuypers, Maarten Verhaegen:

“Most Belgian greenhouse vegetables’ seasons started well” Cucumbers, tomatoes, and aubergines - Belgium's largest cooperative has all locally grown greenhouse vegetables available again. More than a thousand growers ensure a daily supply of fruit and vegetables to BelOrta. Those include a considerable number of greenhouse vegetables. The greenhouse vegetable season usually starts at the end of January/beginning of February and runs until autumn. However, by using lighting, some farmers have locally grown products, like tomatoes and cucumbers, available year-round.

A

t the end of January, 2021's first Crunchy Kings mini cucumbers kicked off BelOrta's vegetable greenhouse season. "We're already several weeks further in, and all greenhouse vegetables are now in production," says Benny Cuypers and Maarten Verhaegen of BelOrta. "Each product's season started differently. It is, of course, also an unusual year. The hospitality industry is still closed in many countries. That means some products have lost a vital sales channel. However, this has not affected all greenhouse vegetables. Some sell well via the retail sector." "Bell peppers got off to a fantastic start. The red and yellow variants have done especially well. That is largely due to the production 60

AGF Primeur • Gewächshausgemüse • 2020

collapse in southern Spain. The tomato season also got off to a good start. There was tremendous demand, so prices were good. This positive situation, too, is due to the limited Spanish supply. Despite the good start, we expect a slight price decrease soon. That's as production increases." The season has started positively for cucumbers too. "We've begun selling our mini cucumbers called Crunchy Kings this year. Besides this variety, we also offer classic and snack cucumbers. Although the season started well, early April prices were moderate. That is due to a great supply in recent weeks. These volumes are pushing down prices," Maarten and Benny explain. "Aubergine, however, has had a rockier

start with rather low prices. Just like the leafy crops. The hospitality sector closure has greatly affected demand."

"Greenhouse vegetable acreage fluctuates annually. There has been a significant expansion in aubergine acreage this year. That of bell peppers has also increased. Especially in the yellow, red, and sweet pointed varieties. The acreage of tomatoes remains fairly stable, but there's a shift from loose and vine tomatoes to specialties." "Easter may be over, but we didn't have true Easter sales. This holiday doesn't affect sales much anymore. This year, like last year, we had to deal with COVID-19 regulations. So, restaurants are still closed. Maybe that's why it's no longer so busy over Easter. The European market's total greenhouse vegetable supply plays a much bigger role than this holiday," Maarten and Benny conclude. (SR)  maarten.verhaegen@belorta.be benny.cuypers@belorta.be


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Sonderausgabe

Gewächshausgemüse

John Vermeiren, his son Mitch and daughter, Lynn farm together in the family business. Here they show off the Coeur de Boeuf.

Coeur de Boeuf increasing winning people over It’s an unusually large, ribbed, not too-red tomato - the Coeur de Boeuf. Several Belgian and Dutch growers have this variety, originally grown in southern Europe, in their greenhouses. They distinguish themselves nicely with it. And this product is slowly gaining recognition, even in these two countries.

‘D

esperately seeking Coeur de Boeuf’. A quick google search reveals this unusual cry for help from a consumer looking for these unique tomatoes. In 2015, when that call went out over the internet, the variety could already be found in Belgian greenhouses. Wim Vertommen of Den Overkant has been growing these tomatoes as far back as 2009.

And he wasn’t the first. A fellow grower was even earlier, albeit on a small scale. “I saw the tomato for the first time in his greenhouse,” Wim remembers well. “It gradually piqued my interest, especially after a trip from a Sicilian plant breeder. This tomato is very well known there. It’s a true household name.” 62

AGF Primeur • Gewächshausgemüse • 2020

BECOMING MORE OF A STANDARD SPECIALTY In the beginning, it was indeed something new for growers in Belgium. “It really was something. There was and is a tremendous amount of labor involved.” Especially in the beginning, these plants grew very quickly. “Over the years, we’ve learned to deal with that with a good pruning program. We converted it into a more extended, continuous crop. In Sicily, the season is much shorter.” Wim brought his first harvest of the year to market in early March. From March to December, he supplies the specialty tomato - which it genuinely is - via the Belgian cooperative, BelOrta. “We grow traditionally and don’t work with lights. Our different

planting dates mean we can remain on the market for longer.”

That’s important. It gives consumers as long as possible to get to know this tomato variety that’s still relatively unknown (certainly in Belgium and the Netherlands).” Coeur de Boeuf is gradually gaining popularity. You can find it in supermarkets. Not as a fixed item, but increasingly as a standard specialty.” It’s also exported to countries like Italy. “We can deliver a reliable product there.”

“That’s because of the consistent greenhouse quality and very precise sorting. That’s something with which the traditional open field Italian farmers battle.” There’s slight growth in the market. For example, in Germany, says Wim. “There’s more and more interest there. Coeur de Boeuf is already somewhat better known in the organic sector. But it’s only growing with a few pallets a year. I think we owe that partly to lit cultivation.”


Den Overkant’s Wim Vertommen has had Coeur de Boeuf in his greenhouse since 2009

HARVESTING BY COLOR Fellow Belgian grower John Vermeiren of VW Maxburg is affiliated with the Tomeco growers collective. He’s also a member of Coöperatie Hoogstraten. He can supply this variety year-round. That’s thanks, in part, to his colleagues, Guy and Dennis Van Rompaey’s unlit covered crop at Varom. John, himself, grows these tomatoes under

BelOrta’s new Coeur de Boeuf packaging will be called BelOCoeur

growlights. These growers ‘discovered’ the tomato after demand from the market. “We then started looking to fill that demand,” says John. Tomeco’s growers cultivate several, mostly more southern European, tomato varieties. “So, Coeur de Boeuf fits in well with us and our product package.” Over the years, John’s gotten better and better at growing this tomato.

“The key is to harvest throughout the greenhouse as often as possible and then get the product to market quickly.” That’s because the tomato colors from the inside out. “At the slightest hint of color, you have to harvest. But harvesting green isn’t an option either. So it’s quite tricky.” Customers from more northern countries often want their Coeur de Boeuf a little redder

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Special

Greenhouse vegetables

than their southern neighbors. In the south, people are already more familiar with the fruit’s lighter color. “There, people often eat Coeur de Boeuf in cold dishes. Once the tomato reddens, it’s perfect for hot dishes.”

Over the years, more growers have tried cultivating Coeur de Boeuf. Certainly, when it was first introduced in Belgium, Coeur de Boeuf at times yielded high peak prices. That aroused interest. However, it’s not always an easy thing to grow, so some farmers stopped. The Coeur de Boeuf market is now more stable. “Coeur de Boeuf prices now fluctuate with those of regular beef tomatoes,” John notes. Wim agrees. “It’s become a nice tomato that doesn’t cost very much more but is still really special.” When the weather starts warming up, demand noticeably rises. John planted in between his lit greenhouse crop in late March. That’s to ensure product certainty and stable quality in the summer. “We do everything we can with lighting and misting to keep the crop constant,” he says. The increased March and April are already going well, adds John. “That’s a good thing.

Especially after what wasn’t the best year for this specialty. That’s because of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

CLIENT CONTACT Both these growers love what they do. “I also enjoy the contact with customers,” says Wim. “That’s a bonus when you have a specialty. For example, we pack small and, where possible, as client-specific as possible.” The same goes for John. Traders have specific packaging and size demands. “That’s very diverse - for specific sortings, but even more so for the packaging itself.” Tomeco offers three gradings (large, medium, and small) in two colors. “And that, in turn, can be, for instance, packed in two by twos, 3kg crates, or any packaging our buyers want.”

Den Overkant currently offers Coeur de Boeuf in 3 and 6kg crates and 500g flow packs. These use recycled plastic trays. “The coronavirus is keeping flow pack very topical at the moment. The plastic discussion has died down a little. Plastic makes for a good, hygienic product. We’re therefore now, pending further developments, stick-

ing with tried, tested, familiar packaging,” says Wim. Still, something’s changing this year, he then remembers. “Coeur de Boeuf will join BelOrta’s line of specialty packaging. New 3kg boxes have just arrived. They’ll be called BelOCoeur.”

These developments should entice shoppers to buy the product more often. But, it’s in the kitchen where this tomato shines. “I like it in salads, thinly sliced, like carpaccio. With the right herbs and oil, it creates a true Italian feeling.” Wim also calls it a ‘generally accepted top cooking item’. But he sees it being used in hamburgers or stir-fries too. “These tomatoes have a high dry matter content, so they slice well. Their structure remains well preserved in hot dishes too. They have a mild flavor. I, therefore, like to eat these tomatoes in both hot and cold dishes. And I hope more and more people will learn to do that,” Wim concludes. (TT) 

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Advertorial

Tomato Vision looks back on a successful and educational growing period In May 2020, Tomato Vision opened. R&D and marketing under one roof; developing, testing and showcasing new varieties. How does the Tomato Vision team look back on the first year in the new greenhouse? “I am proud to say that it has gone very well,” says Arthur van Marrewijk, product development specialist at Syngenta. A new greenhouse, a new team to work with in the greenhouse, ToBRFV and the Coronavirus: plenty of challenges!

State of the art

A completely new greenhouse was built in six months, incorporating all the modern techniques used by top growers from Belgium and the Netherlands. This meant that the conditions would mimic those in practice. Cultivation-wise, Arthur clearly sees larger production and a higher fruit weight. “That’s mainly because we have a much more modern, more light-permeable greenhouse.”

Virtual peek into the greenhouse

The Coronavirus threw the plans for the opening into disarray. Welcoming customers and business partners can only be done on a limited scale. But through the use of livestreams, photos and videos, many customers and business partners still got

to know Tomato Vision. When customers want to take a look inside the greenhouse, they do so in a virtual way. “We get positive reactions to that. The growers and chain partners like the idea of being involved in new developments this way,” says Arthur.

noticed more and more interest in the origin of the products, by retailers. To increase this connection, we are going to create a ‘retail environment’. This way we can realistically demonstrate what the products look like when they are in the supermarket.”

Tomato Vision in Maasland Sample box

Improve Inspire Connect

Tomato tasting through digital means is not yet possible. Via these boxes, Syngenta sends different varieties to the customer: from cherry tomatoes to larger beef tomatoes, in many colors and shapes. “Our cherry tomatoes - the Sweetelle, for example - are well known, but we offer varieties in all segments. This year we are introducing, among others, cocktail variety Primona, which we have tested extensively in exposed and unexposed cultivation. An excellent taste, top presentation and great quality after storage make this tomato interesting for the whole chain,” says Marie Legendre, who recently became Product Development Specialist, alongside Arthur.

Retail environment

The second floor of Tomato Vision offers lots of opportunities. Value Chain Manager Lotfi Bani has a new plan for this space. “ I’ve

The entire tomato team hopes that it will soon be possible to again welcome its business relations. “Tomato Vision is a place where colleagues, growers, retailers, etc. can both learn from and inspire each other. By sharing knowledge, we can influence developments in the tomato sector, encouraging cooperation between all parties,” Marie concludes.

Would you like to come visit? Please contact Lotfi Bani at +31 682103278, or lotfi.bani@syngenta.com


Santiana RZ Reddery RZ

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A complete range of truss tomatoes, from large to small

Different yet dependable

You’re keen to choose your varieties wisely. You want something a little different on the one hand, but dependable on the other. In other words, a great product with unique characteristics that will be a sure-fire commercial success. Rijk Zwaan makes your decision easier by offering a complete family of truss tomatoes, from large to small. Each member of the family has its own unique characteristics, but they all meet Rijk Zwaan’s high standards of quality. Strong and generative varieties for use with or without artificial light. So choose wisely: combine different with dependable. For more information, go to www.rijkzwaan.nl/trostomaten

Sharing a healthy future

Santiana RZ large truss Very high production with an extra-strong finish Gerdicia RZ medium truss Tasty medium truss tomato with a high production potential Sweeterno RZ small truss Premium truss tomato with high brix values Reddery RZ cherry truss An attractive red cherry truss tomato with a unique crunchy bite


Special

Greenhouse vegetables

The Flavorax tomatoes from Axia Seeds are characterized by their taste

People perceive tomatoes’ intense red colour as flavour, quality indicator How tomatoes taste is becoming increasingly important. Supermarkets are considering their tomato assortments very deliberately. The range is very extensive, so the focus is no longer on expansion. Now it is on deepening the tomato assortment and encouraging repeat purchases. On the one hand, the emphasis is on the basic products, where the price is essential. On the other, it is on the flavour experience. And consumers are finding that increasingly important. Colour is something that contributes to the perception of quality and taste. Primeur spoke to several tomato breeders about their tomato lines. In these, colour internal and external - plays a vital role. FLAVOUR EXPERIENCE “Tomatoes are distinguished by flavour. That is a crucial characteristic that is in high demand,” says William van der Riet about Axia's Flavorax tomato line. William is a business initiator at Axia Vegetable Seeds. This company focuses on breeding tomatoes, among other things. Flavour is an increasingly important aspect. "I think people are more critical of the flavour

aspects of tomatoes.” That’s why Axia has developed a whole line of tomatoes, from 35 to 180g. These are from breeding lines that lend themselves to this. An aspect where taste experience is central. "Every retailer wants to differentiate themselves. That is especially true with premium tomatoes like cherry tomatoes and the snack segment.

These are very distinctive in terms of use and taste. Not many people translate this into the larger tomato varieties - cocktail, and medium and larger vine tomatoes yet. That’s exactly what we’re doing now - returning the flavour experience to the entire range.”

FLAVORAX This broad assortment is completed by a collection of eight kinds of tomatoes under the name Flavorax. All these varieties have the same characteristics. For instance, the tomatoes have a deep red fruit colour with dark red flesh. The inside is a typical green gel, and the tomatoes have a flat round shape. "The gel’s green hue and the deep red colour of the flesh create a distinctive taste experience." William explains that smaller tomatoes are generally a little sweeter than larger ones. “But even the medium-sized Flavorax tomato bunches have a significantly higher Brix level than traditional varieties." Currently, commerAGF Primeur • Gewächshausgemüse • 2020

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The Fullred line from de Ruiter Seeds offers tomatoes a recognizable concept of color, taste and aroma

cial possibilities are being explored. A market introduction will follow. The aim is to bring 10 to 15 hectares of Flavorax tomatoes into production in the next season.

DEEPENING William says Dutch and Belgian supermarkets are particularly interested in these tomatoes, as are exporting trading companies. The focus is on the premium range. "Retailers have said there’s a need for flavour there. This is especially true in the top and bottom of both the cherry and the medium-sized tomatoes segments.” The Flavorax tomatoes are not considered an expansion of the range but a deepening of it. “Supermarkets have about an average of 18 SKU (stock-keeping units) in the tomato shelf.” “The larger retailers are more likely to reduce, rather than increase, the number of SKUs. They are looking to improve their assortment. And Flavorax is a perfect match for them. Expanding with totally

new products, shapes or colours is not our primary objective. This is not an expansion but a deepening of the premium segment. Flavour is the leading factor in the varieties we breed. We’re trying to replace slightly unusual tomatoes with ones with added value.” DELICATE Several aspects contribute to a tomato’s flavour experience. One is the skin thickness. This benefits the product’s shelf life, but it can be somewhat detrimental to its taste. "The Flavorax tomatoes are a little more delicate, with thinner fruit skins. That makes them easier to eat. Often, breeding is done based on production. That is absolutely necessary. Growers' returns are always under pressure. Precise calculations are made to see whether a tomato is attractive to grow. But ultimately, the flavour profile is something of which we mustn’t lose sight. And if you can use the right breeding lines, you must. These must create not only a high-quality product. It must have a great

flavour experience. But production must not be compromised too much,” William concludes.

FLAVOUR “We see that the consumer is gaining more and more choice in what they buy and obviously retailers and growers are looking at that. We are looking at the whole value chain spectrum for the decision-making process. This is one of the reasons why we decided to make it really clear that when we say Fullred, that for the consumer it is obvious that this is a red tomato inside and out and the flavour is good, so that they want to buy it,” says Svetlana Tokunova, Customer Marketing Manager Benelux with Bayer Vegetable Seeds, De Ruiter, about Fullred, a line of tomato varieties that offers the consumer a recognisable concept of colour, flavour and taste experience. Ben van den Bosch, responsible for Global Glasshouse Breeding at Bayer Vegetable Seeds, De Ruiter explains that the focus on the intense colouring – both internally and

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AGF Primeur • Gewächshausgemüse • 2020


Created with Passion

flavor

The Axia flavour range

The Axia Flavour range FlavorAx is a group of tomatoes with similar characteristics and an authentic taste experience. There are various choices in fruit weight from 35 to 180 grams. This makes the FlavorAx range unique and distinctive from other lines in the market.

FlavorAx characteristics

Rijk Zwaan’s internal red tomatoes are suitable for salads, but give Tomato soups and sauces also a distinctly reddish color

externally – is added because flavour is an aspect that is hard to recognise for the consumer. “It’s a combination of colour and flavour. Whenever you see the colour you already know that it represents good flavour. We have crossed flavour into the tomato, but you cannot sell flavour.”

EXPERIENCE Brenda van Diejen, Account Manager Benelux Glasshouse tomato and cucumber with Bayer Vegetable Seeds, De Ruiter, observes that it is important for the consumer to have a good experience in order to create repeat purchases. “If, for instance, I don’t like a mandarin, I will try another one before getting rid of the whole net if I don’t like them. If I buy another net a week later I will toss the net after the first one that did not meet my expectations and the third week, I will not be buying mandarins anymore because I have had a negative experience. It’s the same with tomatoes; the consumer needs to have a positive experience.” That is even more important because the consumer can choose from so many types of tomatoes in the

supermarket that is easy to get lost in all that choice. ”There is a very big selection in the supermarket, and you want the consumer to recognise what he needs to buy.” Ultimately this good experience leads to repeat purchases, not only from the consumer but from the retailer and the grower as well. Especially important during the International Year of Fruit and Vegetables, Svetlana notes.

ICON The Fullred range comprises of multiple varieties. “We tried to deploy the Fullred characteristics in different segments,” explains Ben. “Not only in the smaller segment but also in the bigger sizes.” It started with varieties Licorosso and Flavance and has now grown into a wide assortment of varieties including beef tomatoes (Inpired), large truss (Marinice) and medium truss (Damaress). To help uniform the range, an icon for all different varieties in the line will be introduced shortly, Svetlana mentions. It will communicate the three pillars of the range to the consumer: colour, flavour, and taste experience.

• Deep red fruit color with dark red flesh. • The inside consists of a typical green gel. • The tomatoes have a traditional flat-round shape, strong green calyxes, and a thin skin. • There is a nice balance between sweet and sour with an herby aftertaste.

Do you want to know more? Please visite our website www.axiaseeds.com

Burgemeester Elsenweg 53 2671 DP Naaldwijk The Netherlands T +31 (0)174 255255 info@axiaseeds.com www.axiaseeds.com

AGF Primeur • Gewächshausgemüse • 2020

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Internal red tomatoes from Rijk Zwaan with the characteristic deep red core

GROWER INTERACTION It is not only for the consumer that De Ruiter strives for recognisability. That is an important part for the grower as well, explains Svetlana. “Full Red is also recognisable for the grower. If they are growing a variety like this, the grower knows it will be a success at the retailer level.“ A lot of interaction with the grower and trials are needed since there are so many factors that need to click in place, Brenda notes. For instance, the size of the glasshouse and the operating systems may vary and require different varieties. “We always try to have a nice red and flavourful tomato out of our breeding line.”

VALUE Although colour, flavour and taste are the focal points of the tomato breeding process, yield also needs to be addressed. “We need to find a balance. It is easy to breed for varieties that are remarkably high yielding but have no flavour. But again, having a product that offers the consumer a good experience, has extra value for the retailer because the frequency of repeat purchases will increase. In the end, the retailer benefits and it would be nice if the grower could benefit as well. Some tomatoes do have extra value, but for the bigger commodities, it is difficult. But my mission is, also for commodities, to have the best possible

Our website has been renewed!

Business address Langebroekstraat 42 4944 XJ Raamsdonk janneke@klootwijkagf.nl Mailing address Rijksstraatweg 340 2988 BR Ridderkerk

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flavour combined with the best possible yield. So that there is a benefit, not only for the grower but also for the retailer and first and foremost, for the consumer,” says Ben.  william@axiaseeds.com https://www.deruiterseeds.com/nl-nl/contact/ ons_team/ontmoet_ons_team.html m.van.der.leeden@rijkzwaan.nl

www.klootwijkagf.nl

• Cultivation of various edible flowers, herbs, Chinese vegetables, cucumbers such as: white cucumbers, yellow cucumbers, pepquino, olive cucumbers, but also beans such as: purple long beans, yellow string beans, Berner Landfrauen, various kinds of squashes, Pattypan squash, chard (various colors), mustard cabbage, forage kale, yellow Savoy cabbage and leafy crops • Cultivation in the soil improves taste, quality and shelf life • Planet Proof, sustainable • Global gap certified


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The integrated "eSEAL system" is environmentally friendly, uses little air and is cost effective. "Hotrod", the efficient heating system in the molds, ensures a higher output through reduced sealing time. The increasingly stringent environmental requirements are forcing us to also look at alternatives to plastic and as a result, we are now also able to produce packaging made from alternative materials. These include cardboard, pulp, sugar cane and recyclable plastic. In the course of an ever greater demand for topseal packaging, we have already supplied machinery to the following customers, to their full satisfaction: Fruitmasters, ASF Holland, Beekers Berries, The Grape Company Europe, ABB Trading and The Greenery are some examples of satisfied customers who now own several modern tray sealers from Proseal. We intend to maintain and further develop our relationships with all of our customers. This compels us to be flexible and innovative and, when necessary, to collaborate intensively with our customers in trying to optimize their processes.

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Growing together for an optimal result ! Screening - Greenhouse contruction - Turnkey Projects - Renovation

Luiten Greenhouses and Saarlucon Gewächshausbau together have more than 45 years of experience in the design, development and installation of complete horticultural projects, production greenhouses, garden centers, screen installations and horticultural supplies. In addition to the above activities in the Netherlands, both companies are very active on the international market. Due to the many completed projects in Europe, North, Central and South America, Asia, Oceania and North Africa, both companies have become a strong player in their field. Thanks to the daily contact with our foreign customers, Luiten Greenhouses and Saarlucon Gewächshausbau have access to an extensive knowledge of international cultures and regulations.

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Advertorial

INTRAHORTI PRÄSENTIERT INTRA ECO SHIELD

Safe logistics for fragile products

Intrahor� (ein Intracare-Unternehmen) erzielt Fortschri�e im Gartenbau. Als Ergänzung zu Hydro-pure, Good air circulation through das Erzeuger zur Reinigung und Desinfek�on nutzen können, verfolgt das Unternehmen nun einen perforated walls and specially breiteren Ansatz, zum Beispiel dadurch, dass Nährstoffe in das eigene Produktsor�ment aufgenommen designed base wurden. Eines dieser neuen Produkte auf Basis von Kieselsäure wurde unter dem Namen Intra Eco Shield auf den Markt gebracht. Natürliche Barriere den Anbau einfacher bis zum Ende der Saison 50%um saving Das Produkt bietet eine natürliche Barriere die fortzusetzen. transport äußeren Zellschichten der Pflanze, in erläutert Claudia and Beim Rosenanbau weist das Produkt ebenfalls warehouse space Weick, Produktmanagerin bei Intracare. „Wir Vorteile auf. Erzeuger in Russland nutzen es durch bezeichnen es als „Vitamin“ für die Pflanze. Das die Anwendung nach der Ernte zur Steigerung Possibility RFID Produkt sorgt fürof eine widerstandsfähigere Pflanze der Farbintensität und der Vasenhaltbarkeit bei und verbessert zudem die Nährstoffaufnahme.“ Die ihren Rosen. „Außerdem sehen sie den posi�ven integration

wie Claudia betont – tatsächlich ist diese Abteilung sogar größer als der Vertrieb. Das Unternehmen ist immer bereit dazu, bei Fragen vom Feld behilflich zu sein. „Wir sind mehr als eine Vertriebsorganisa�on. Viel mehr sind wir

Anwendung kann bei der Düngung erfolgen oder Nebeneffekt durch weniger schädliche Insekten.“ aber durch Besprühen der Blä�for er. identification and 2 colours

Innovatoren, die Unterstützung bieten möchten.“ Weitere Informa�onen: www.intrahor�.com

Es wird bereits bei verschieden Kulturenhandling von simplified Gurken und Lilien bis hin zu Auberginen und Kohl eingesetzt. „Bei all diesen Kulturen sehen wir, dass das Produkt der Pflanze durch stressige Zeiten hil�.“ Tomatenerzeuger in Tschechien wenden das Produkt zum Beispiel an, um die Pflanzen

Anbau der Zukun� Tradi�onell hat Intracare Nährstoffe für die Tierhaltung geliefert. Dahinter steht der Gedanke, möglichst wenige An�bio�ka einzusetzen - für eine „Landwirtscha� der Zukun�“. Ziel ist es, dieselben Prinzipien im Gartenbau anzuwenden. Das Mo�o dabei lautet „Anbau der Zukun�“: weniger

Nestable crates for fruit and vegetables

widerstandsfähiger zu machen und Fruch�äule chemischer Pflanzenschutz durch den Einsatz von zu vermeiden. Ein weiterer Vorteil: Es werden mehr Zusätzen. Please contact us for more information! auch weniger schädliche Insekten festgestellt. Kurt Van Rooy Von Gurkenerzeugern wird das Produkt dank der Als innova�ves Unternehmen betreibt Intracare

+32 488 99 47 16 • info@didak.be

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INTRAHORTI INTRODUCES INTRA ECO SHIELD Intrahor� (a Intracare-company) is making headway in hor�culture. In addi�on to Hydro-pure, which growers can use for cleaning and disinfec�on, the company is taking a broader approach, for instance by adding nutrients to its product range. One of those new products, based on silicic acid, has hit the market under the name Intra Eco Shield. Natural Shield The product creates a natural shield around the outer cell layers of the plant, explains Claudia Weick, Product Manager at Intracare. “We call it

Growers in Russia are using it to boost the color intensity and vase life of their roses by applying it post-harvest. “And they also see the posi�ve side effect of fewer harmful insects.”

a ‘vitamin’ for the plant. The product makes for a more resistant plant, and it also improves nutrient

Cul�va�on of the future

uptake.” The product can be administered along with the fer�lizers, or sprayed on the leaves. It’s already being used in a range of crops, from cucumbers and lilies to eggplants and cabbage. “In all those crops, we see that the product helps the plant get through moments of stress.” Tomato growers in Czechia, for instance, are using

Intracare has tradi�onally supplied nutrients for livestock farming. The idea is to use as few an�bio�cs as possible – the ‘farming of the future’. They intend to apply the same principle in hor�culture, calling it the ‘cul�va�on of the future’: less chemical crop protec�on, by using more supplements.

the product to make plants more resistant and to prevent fruit rot. Another advantage: they’re also

Being an innova�ve company, Claudia emphasizes, Intracare does a lot of R&D work – in fact, that

seeing fewer harmful insects. Cucumber growers use the product to con�nue cul�va�on more easily un�l the end of the season, thanks to the improved nutrient uptake. In rose cul�va�on, the product also has its benefits.

department is bigger than the sales department. The company is always willing to help out with ques�ons from the field. “We’re not so much a sales organiza�on as innovators who want to offer support.” Learn more: www.intrahor�.com

AGF Primeur • Gewächshausgemüse • 2020

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Massimo Pavan, European agribusiness expert

Is Munich still the main destination for the export of Italian greenhouse-grown vegetables to Germany? "Until 30 years ago, the trade and distribution of fruit and vegetables in German markets was mainly managed by Italian immigrants, which allowed for a greater affinity in business contacts with Italian producers. Gradually, and for over twenty years now, the market stalls in Germany have been acquired by traders of Turkish origin who have progressively shifted part of their supply towards their country of origin," said Massimo Pavan, an expert in European agribusiness, current president of the Consorzio di Tutela della Carota Novella di Ispica (Consortium Novella Carrot of Ispica), coordinator of the Comitato O.I. Pomodoro da Mensa (Interprofessional organization of the industrial tomato), member of the Board of Directors of the Consorzio di Tutela del Pomodoro di Pachino IGP (Consortium for the PGI pachino tomato).

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AGF Primeur • Gewächshausgemüse • 2020

"N

evertheless, Germany continues to be the first market outlet for our greenhouse vegetables, partly thanks to the geographical proximity that allows us to deliver our goods to Monaco or Bavaria in three days, despite the difficult road conditions. In this way, we are able to maintain the freshness during the entire complex logistics process, guaranteeing the added value of an Italian product."

To date, the main German destination for Sicilian greenhouse vegetables (which constitute most of the Italian production) is not Munich, but rather the various large-scale retail trade channels, located throughout the Federal Republic, including, of course, the large market of the Bavarian city. Over


time, as the sales volumes in the German fruit and vegetable markets decreased, the empty spaces were progressively occupied by the large-scale retail trade, which is now physically present in the major German markets. "Most of the production that arrives in Germany is certified. It is not possible to operate in this market without the main certifications such as GlobalGAP, GRASP, IFS. Italian products destined for Germany are very guaranteed, despite the fact that they have to face strong EU and non-EU competition. In the latter case, the comparison is particularly heated in terms of production and ethical standards, which also leads to a price gap, regardless of the geographical origin and the production processes.”

The EU has not yet proved its effectiveness in regulating a price policy that can harmonize the inevitable gap between the production areas bordering the Mediterranean Sea.

"In the Euro-Moroccan agreements, the customs duties applied are insufficient to protect Italian products, particularly tomatoes, given their higher intrinsic value. The

THE PÖPPELMANN EFFECT:

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it costs 0.40 €/kg, the duty, to equalize, must be 0.30 €/kg. If the customs rate on tomatoes remains always the same, regardless of the type, it is clear that for cherry tomatoes the same customs rate is not fair because their production cost is 1.00 €/kg. It is imperative that Brussels balances the market through a differentiated rate based on the various costs. We are not demanding changes to the agreements, but at the very least they should be reviewed".

duty rates currently applied may be fine for round smooth tomatoes, but not for small cherry tomatoes, which have a higher cost of production. It was necessary to align or rather diversify the duty based on the production costs, according to the type of tomato.”

"If the cost of production of a round tomato in Europe is 0.70 €/kg, and in Morocco

Let us take a closer look at all the main greenhouse vegetable products exported from Italy to Germany. According to CSO Italy, the export of Italian vegetables (and legumes) to Germany annually amounts to about 330,000 tons (average of the last five years) but with a downward trend if we consider the period from 2016 to 2020.

The 2016 campaign marks the peak of the last five years with almost 370,000 tons, while the following years have been equal or below 321,000 tons. The period of greatest export is concentrated between January and May and again in the two-month period November-December and covers on average about 88% of total volumes of the years taken into account. Specifically,

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AGF Primeur • Gewächshausgemüse • 2020

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exports of courgettes, eggplants, peppers, and tomatoes represent about 28% of the total vegetables that reach Germany every year.

At a national level, courgettes show a growing trend, both in investments and productions, if we consider the last five years. Moreover, the year 2020 has seen more than 19,000 hectares of cultivated courgettes, including both open fields and greenhouses, with a harvest close to 590,000 tons per year, the highest seen since 2016. Courgettes are by far the crops most exported to German markets with an average of almost 55,000 tons per year (the reference period is always from 2016 to 2020). Until 2019 the trend was downwards, with an upturn during the past year. The highest export peak occurred in 2016, with more than 76,000 tons exported. In 2020 Italy has shipped more than 45,000 tons of cour-

gettes to German markets, up about 30% more than 2019 and with quantities closer to those shipped in 2018.

Italian peppers occupy 10,500 hectares of land on average, which amounts to an average production of almost 180,000 tons per year (2016-2020 period). Both investments and harvests show a slight decrease over time. Peppers exported to Germany amount to a little more than 10,000 average tons per year. Since 2017, the trend has been declining, with exports reaching their highest value of approximately 17,800 tons over the last five years. In contrast, the year 2020 marked the lowest volumes since 2016 with slightly less than 7,000 tons (-21% compared to the quantities shipped in 2019). During 2020, the largest volumes were shipped between June and August and accounted for 36% of the total, while 29%

of the total was shipped between February and April. In all the years taken as reference, the autumn and early winter months showed a more limited export.

Another product that Italy exports in low quantities to Germany, are eggplants. At a national level, the surfaces dedicated to this product amount to a little less than 10,000 hectares, and also in this case there is a slightly decreasing trend with a production around a little more than 300,000 tons per year (average 2016-2020) and characterized by only minor fluctuations. Among the years considered, 2020 had the highest annual export, with a little more than 12,000 tons. During the last commercial season, the most significant exportations occurred in the period between May and September, with almost 2,000 tons of eggplants in August, by far the highest quantity over the last five seasons.

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The annual production of tomatoes cultivated in Italy, including both greenhouse and open field crops, is on average more than 1,000,000 tons, the result of almost 25,000 hectares cultivated from 2016 to 2020. Among the seasons taken into account, the only ones that showed a drop in investments and production were 2017 and 2018, while the remaining years were in line with the average data. Over 18,000 tons of industrial tomatoes were exported to Germany (average between 2016-2020), but with a swinging trend over time. The

most favorable year was 2016 with almost 27,000 tons exported, which was the highest level of volumes of the period observed, followed by a drop the following year and a slight recovery in 2018, closing the campaign with about 18,000 total tons. In 2019, tomato exports marked the lowest result with slightly less than 15,000 tons, only to rise again in 2020 with volumes in line with 2018. The data show that exports are mainly concentrated in the winter period, thanks to

greenhouse cultivations located in southern Italy, where tomatoes are the most cultivated crop. During the last two campaigns, shipments have increased in the month of December compared to previous years (with a share between 25% and 30% of the annual total) while those in April have decreased (from 12% in 2016 to 2% of the last season). Shipments between January and March have remained constant, on average making up no less than 30% of the total exported to German markets. 

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Cold spring brings Dutch radish farmers great hope At the beginning of April, it snowed and hailed in the Netherlands. That is when German growers usually come onto the Dutch market with locally-grown radishes. This year is different. Because of the cold, the outdoor crops began later. Dutch greenhouse radishes were, therefore (extra) hard to get around Easter. Growers are, at the beginning of April, optimistic about the coming period too. Although that might be because there is sometimes less supply than usual in this specialty segment.

D

utch radish growers are always busy in March. This year, however, it was perhaps even busier. Demand increased considerably, especially halfway through the month. The growers were able to deliver in abundance. Some even had to turn orders down. "Stocks have or are currently running out," says Ad Coolbergen of Ortolanda Oude-Tonge. They supply Europe with radishes from the Netherlands and Italy. Fellow grower John Grootscholten of Daily Fresh Radish agrees that it was busier than usual. "Especially at the end of March and beginning of April. There was more demand than supply." 'THE GERMANS ARE COMING' Both growers point to the delayed German 78

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open field cultivation as the reason for that. And the traditionally higher demand at that time of year. "Easter sales were good," says Ad. That was the case in March already. Grower Erik de Jong of Jongfresh agrees. "Easter was early, and the weather had been frigid in the outdoor crops. That creates movement," he says. For growers, this year's market situation appears to be remaining favorable for an unusually long time. "It seems we can continue with our German supermarkets' winter programs for longer this year." John calls it a pretty unique market situation. "You often fall into a bit of a hole in April, and the market dips. Production usually picks up significantly when the

weather gets warmer. And demand often decreases. By the end of March, you hear in the market that 'the Germans are coming'. That hasn't happened yet." The unusual situation led to Dutch growers experiencing shortages when April began. "I should probably have sowed a bit more," laughs John. That is characteristic of the radish market in the Netherlands. Its acreage is fairly stable. But the weather greatly affects the market situation. After a relatively long cold spell, it is now a matter of waiting for warmer weather later in the season.

"Although there's often less demand from Germany then, it does ensure that consumption picks up in other countries," he says, speaking from experience. "That's good for us. You don't want it to be too warm in the spring either, though." Would John prefer it to be cold enough to go ice-skating every year? And then have a good change of weather? "Yes, that would be perfect." SWITCHING That perfect picture certainly does not include COVID-19. Nevertheless, the grow-


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Greenhouse vegetables

John Grootscholten

Ad Coolbergen

Erik de Jong grows special varieties

ers have had to deal with it, both last year and this year. The pandemic has not significantly affected red radish sales to supermarkets. If there is anything to be said about that market, it's that demand for radish bushels, prepacked in flow packs, increased slightly, John notes. In Germany, most people prefer this, so it's the most popular variant there. "Also, the demand for loose radishes was moderate in March. But that also started to improve by the end of that month, going into April. That was thanks to increasing demand," says John.

Erik has had a slightly different experience. He grows specialties, so he focuses on sales to the hospitality channel. Events like restaurant closures have led to lower demand. However, the Easter rush caused movement in the niche market too. "So, things are currently going well." The grower has two new product lines planned for this year and will continue on his set course. "The pandemic will end at some point. And we have a long-term strategy." The biggest challenge is to be there as soon as the market truly switches over. "We hope

it’ll be this summer. Our production cycle is also short - four weeks. You can, therefore, adjust fairly quickly," Erik concludes. (TT)  ad@ortolanda.com info@dailyfreshradish.nl erik@jongfresh.nl

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Hoge Geest 25 2671 LK Naaldwijk, The Netherlands Tel. John: 0031 (0)6 51 59 28 38 Tel. Dennis: 0031 (0)6 54 24 44 14 info@dailyfreshradish.nl Sales: Tel: Rik Hofland 0031 (0)6 41 62 42 11 orders@dailyfreshradish.nl

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Henri Schockman, Levarht:

“Most growth expected in Dutch snack vegetable segment” In the Netherlands, the current greenhouse vegetable season has gotten off to a good start. "The supply from Spain and Morocco ended earlier or was delayed. That was for various reasons and created a gap between the seasons. There were, for example, many Spanish bell peppers in production in the first phase of the cultivation. But they then had many cold nights in the second part, at the beginning of the year. That resulted in a low supply. That, in turn, made people in Northwest Europe want to switch to the Dutch product sooner. But the Netherlands still had insufficient supply. So that then led to high demand and higher prices. That was in the week before Easter," says Levarht's Global Sourcing Manager, Henri Schockman.

"T

he Dutch supply is now normalizing, and the market's relaxing more. The vegetables' settings, however, remain rather irregular. So, there will still be peaks and troughs in the coming weeks, although not as extreme as before Easter. Acreage-wise, somewhat fewer green peppers, and slightly more orange peppers have been planted. But the latter area was also drastically reduced last year. The season should generally be similar from a cultivation perspective."

GOOD POSITION IN MEXICO "The COVID-19 pandemic has also led to several variables affecting this market. Airfreight availability has still not recovered, which is affecting our exports to North America, in particular. There is still a lot

Henri Schockman

of product being transported on passenger flights. Also, specifically for the United States, we have to deal with a substantial expansion of the Canadian crop. Our advantage is that we have a good position in Mexican cultivation. As soon as there is more demand in the US, we quickly get that information here, in the Netherlands. We can, therefore, respond and adjust," continues Henri.

"The problem with exports to the Middle East doesn't lie with air freight, as such. It is much more that market's expatriates we are missing because of the lockdown. I, however, think if the world recovers quickly from this virus, it will positively affect the demand for our healthy products. The United Nations, for good reason, has made fruit and vegetables a focal point this year. I truly hope that consumers' mindsets will change for the better. It would be great if the Dutch government were to put its money where its mouth is, though. It should reduce the VAT on fruit and vegetables."

TREND TOWARD SNACK VEGETABLES On a production level, Henri foresees growth in, particularly, the snack vegetable assortment. "Because of the increasing demand for healthy food, but also because of consumer trends. The younger generation eats very differently. Their purchases are much more focused on convenience and speed. There is a parallel shift within the tomato segment. This year some loose

tomato growers switched to a different product. They had missed out on sales to the foodservice sector. That move reinforces this shift. I do expect, however, that there will continue to be sufficient demand for loose tomatoes in certain markets. Especially once the foodservice sector opens up again."

"Levarht made its name mainly as an overseas exporter. But in recent years, our North-Western and Central European retail sector sales have increased sharply. The nice thing is that we specialize in greenhouse vegetables as well as grapes and melons. Those strengthen each other. Our greenhouse vegetable customers also buy fruit from us and vice versa." According to Henri, Brexit's impact has remained manageable. "Last year, this was regarded with the necessary suspicion. It has not become any easier, but the situation has not become as scary as it seemed at first. That's partly because inspection regulation changes have been pushed back." SUSTAINABILITY AND INNOVATION The company's organic range remains limited. "We mostly supply this if our clients want organic products along with the conventional range. Spain grows most of its produce in full soil, so that country is supplying more organic vegetables. In the Netherlands, too, I think this sustainability discussion still needs to be held. We sell produce in America as organic,” explains Schockman. “But we're not allowed to market it as such in the Netherlands. Organic is an excelAGF Primeur • Gewächshausgemüse • 2020

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Greenhouse vegetables customers' demands. We have a sustainability manager for this and other things," says Henri.

BIG DATA "Clients are also increasingly looking at the supply chain's reliability. That question is much broader than just what products you have to offer. I'm interested to see how the sales models of the future will look. For now, traditional retail still accounts for most sales. But the coronavirus pandemic made online sales skyrocket. We won't easily get a B2C platform because we'd then be competing with our own retail customers.”

The Levarht building in Aalsmeer

lent solution for certain crops. But people should pay more attention to how innovative and sustainable conventional Dutch greenhouse farming is. Now, the focus is on nature and the environment. We are global pioneers. It’s not for nothing that the entire Dutch horticultural supply chain is active worldwide."

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Levarht keeps a close eye on consumer packaging trends too. "Pre-COVID-19, plastic reduction was given a lot of attention. The pandemic year taught us that plastic has user-friendly and hygiene advantages. We aren't anti-plastic reduction, only if it's detrimental to hygiene and user-friendliness. Here, too, we carefully consider our

“But at the B2B level, an e-commerce platform could well meet a need when there are surplusses. Data, too, is becoming increasingly important. We already have a model that links information to weather data. It gives us a better idea of expected orders. The more data you add, the more accurate it becomes. The next step is to link this to production data. Then you can seamlessly coordinate supply and demand," Henri concludes. (IH)  HSchockman@levarht.nl


René de Weerdt, Combilo’s Commercial Director:

„After an eventful year, we‘ve laid an excellent foundation for further growth“ In November 2020, large-scale reconstruction began at Combilo's office in the Netherlands. This will be complete by the end of April. "We've replaced our old office with an inspiring office garden, supplemented with informal meeting and training rooms. The entire office is fitted out with ergonomic workstations, including adjustable desks. After all, when our people feel comfortable at the office, it contributes to job satisfaction and productivity. The result is truly fantastic, and we're very proud of it," says René de Weerdt.

R

ené was appointed as commercial director at Combilo on 1 May last year. His first year has indeed been memorable. "It was quite a year to start; it doesn't get much crazier. The COVID-19 pandemic affected our customers and us considerably. Of course, it was particularly frustrating for some of our customer channels. They've been locked down. So we couldn't deliver some of our contracted products."

"However, sales to the retail sector compensated for that. This is a growing sales channel at Combilo. Retailers wanted full shelves and experienced unprecedented demand in their shops. Fortunately for our growers and us, we could conclude a highly eventful year on a positive note. It was hard

work, but looking back, the past year's been a great experience for the team."

"As a team, we were able to adapt well to the COVID-19 measures. We've been creative in our approach. We worked on a 50/50 staffing base for a long time. But with our technical resources, we coped very well. Working from home was considered impossible in the fruit and vegetable trade. Now it's turned out to be perfectly feasible. Another side effect of the pandemic is that healthy living and eating are more important than ever. Retailers are increasingly positioning the fresh food department as the shop's drawcard. That while meat's importance is declining," says René.

"We can respond well to vegetables being meat substitutes. That creates great opportunities for this channel. The whole landscape is changing, and customer demands are increasing. This does make it more complex. Flexibility, maneuverability, sustainability, shelf, and thinking like a shopper - it takes daily dedication for a company to complete the puzzle. At the same time, it also offers fantastic chances. It all comes down to how flexible you are and remain. We're, for example, researching whether we can roll out e-commerce concepts in due course." PRODUCT SPECIALIZATION IS A MAJOR ADVANTAGE Combilo has always specialized in exporting Dutch greenhouse vegetables. "Our customers have already received the first cucumbers, tomatoes, bell peppers, and aubergines." According to the commercial director, this product specialism is a big advantage. "When it comes to greenhouse vegetables, we know all the ins and outs. That's from the intrinsic product properties to shelf presentation. The Dutch greenhouse vegetable season runs to the end of November. In winter, we're increasingly shifting our focus to lit cultivation. So, yearAGF Primeur • Gewächshausgemüse • 2020

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Trailer with a new slogan

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round production. We also prepare for the season during winter. That includes cultivation, client, and shelf plans. Although there's less trade, there's no less effort," continues De Weerdt.

"Germany, England, and Scandinavia have long been important markets for us. But Southern Europe and France are also promising. In recent years we've seen strong growth in, particularly, the Polish market too. Poland's economy is picking up, and that's also consumers' diets. People are more willing to spend money on healthy food. We've been able to capitalize on that, despite production also increasing there. There's great potential for further client growth across the board. We're still hardly active in the Dutch retail market, for example." VERY ADAPTABLE This year, Brexit is making trading with the United Kingdom extra challenging. "Our project team prepared well to be able to respond to all possible scenarios. That was both logistically and commercially. Based on that, we drew up a script. Fortunately,

they struck a deal at the end of the year. Otherwise, we'd have been faced with skyhigh levies. In the meantime, our transport department, with its own fleet, has been able to respond well to the situation. We draw up all export documents in-house. The processes run smoothly, and the time between the customer's order and the product's delivery has shortened. We've proven to be generally very adaptable," René explains.

es and showed our adaptability. We also changed our corporate identity and made investments. With that, we've laid an excellent foundation for further growth," concludes René. (IH) 

www.combilo.nl

'CREATING REFRESHING WAYS TOGETHER' "We have also refreshed our house style, giving it a cool twist. We wanted to emphasize our role's energy more. That's led to our new motto, 'Creating refreshing ways together'. Our new trucks will take to the roads soon. Everyone's becoming more transparent, so it's crucial that we work with our growers and customers in that way as much as possible. After all, you create added value together. "In general, it's been an eventful year. But I'm extremely proud of what we've achieved as a team. We overcame challeng-

Versatile range Oxin Growers is the leading growers’ cooperative in the Netherlands and takes care of the sale of (outdoor cultivation) fruit and vegetables for its members. It arranges contracts, invoicing, payment and payment security. All the tasty and fresh produce from Oxin Growers is grown with care and attention by skilled growers. Our versatile range is produced at nurseries and production sites in the Netherlands and Belgium.

Food safety certificates Our affiliated fruit and vegetable growers produce their crops with careful attention to water and nutrient use. All Oxin Growers member companies are GlobalGap certified and have additional certification depending on the markets and customers served by the specific growers. This includes BRC or On the way to PlanetProof. A number of our growers use organic methods and hold Skal certification.

Packaging Creating and maintaining visibility is essential for producers and sellers of fresh produce. Oxin Growers is happy to contribute to visibility. Our growers process and pack fruit and vegetables exactly as you wish. In packaging with your own label, according to the retailer’s specifications or number of items. If required, we can also develop customised packaging or concepts. Members of Oxin Growers can supply the produce retail ready. This reduces the time between harvesting and arrival at the point of sale, for optimal freshness.

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German supermarkets carrying more organic cocktail tomatoes After April's first week of turbulent weather, the Dutch organic greenhouse vegetable season is now fully underway. Tomatoes and bell peppers followed cucumbers and aubergines. December and January's cold weather cut Spain's season short. So there was a short gap in the bell pepper and particularly vine tomato market. "We might not have been able to deliver earlier, but our products were much in demand," says Coert Lamers of Nautilus Organic. COCKTAIL TOMATOES "The domestic retail demand for organic greenhouse vegetables has, fortunately, increased again. German supermarkets are stocking more and more cocktail tomatoes. It used to be almost solely TOVs, but the current trend is toward slightly smaller flavorful tomatoes." Looking at the UK trade, Brexit does not seem to have affected this organic grower cooperative this season. "It's been stressful for two years, but it doesn't seem to be too bad now. The phytosanitary certification requirements have been postponed from April 1, 2021, to January 1, 2022."

"There is more work on the customs side. However, the exporter we work with takes care of that. Also, the pallets must be heat treated before they may cross the border. It generally makes trade with the United Kingdom less flexible. We have signed the same contracts as in previous years. So, we are waiting to see how things develop. 86

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I don't expect too many problems," continues Coert.

ACREAGE There is slightly less organic greenhouse vegetable acreage in the Netherlands this season. "Wouters Green used to grow two and a half hectares each of tomatoes and bell peppers. Those have fallen away. Originally a plant nursery, the Dutch grower decided to convert that area to bedding plants as well. This change was fairly well accommodated. That is because another farmer, Maatschap Van Luijk, had just started cultivating organic greenhouse vegetables." "This company grows sweet potato, bell peppers, and vine and Sweetelle cherry tomatoes," explains Coert. Another Dutch company, Frank de Koning, is meanwhile trying something new in its greenhouse. This biodynamic farm is cultivating a few red-yellow striped Enjoya bell peppers.

They are also trying out various small cherry tomatoes.

PLASTIC PACKAGING Meanwhile, the issue of whether or not to package organic greenhouse vegetables persists. "The general trend is that we consumers, retailers, as well as organic farming associations - want to get rid of plastic packaging. More sugarcane trays, for example, will be used for TOVs. With cucumbers, there is a demand for banding, although this product lasts longer in plastic. The plastic-free trend has been going on for several years. The COVID-19 pandemic has, however, seemed to put a slight damper on it," Coert concludes. (JH)  clamers@nautilusorganic.nl


Cucumber plants in Gert van Brakel’s greenhouse

The breeder Frank de Koning is trying the Enjoya pepper on a small scale this season

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How does it work? At the heart of the case packer is a robotic arm with a product-specific tool. The robot is fed by two supply lines – one for the products, such as main-meal salads, and the other for crates and boxes. In both programming the robot and designing the gripper, Lan Handling takes the sensitivity of products into account. In order to achieve as fast a pace as possible with minimal movement, in many cases the products are placed in formation before the robot arm picks them up. This is beneficial because it ensures the contents of the trays retain the desired presentation. In addition, the top seal is subject to a reduced load and therefore remains better intact. Extremely precise The 6-axis robot with flex-grippers allows the product orientation to be adjusted during robot flight, enabling complex movements and precise placement in customer-specific boxes.

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Three products, five patterns, one solution The extreme flexibility of the Lan Handling Technologies case packer is demonstrated in a project for Heemskerk fresh & easy, a large fruit and vegetable processor in the Netherlands. They use just one robot cell to undertake the packing of an oval, square and hexagonal salad container in both crates and boxes, with five different product patterns. Just one simple operation is required to switch between the three vacuum grippers. After selecting a different programme, the entire system can switched to a different product, pattern or product carrier within minutes. If you would like to know more or are interested in an online demo, please contact us via the website or by sending an e-mail to info.halfweg@lanhandling.com.


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Greenhouse vegetables

Tomato sorting line - Rollerstar

From Dutch pigsty to global sorting and packaging player Aweta has been around for 55 years. It was started when the founder decided to help Dutch vegetable farmers. They wanted their tomatoes and cucumbers sorted more accurately. This business has now grown into an international one that provides total sorting and packaging solutions.

I

t may surprise you, but Aweta has offices in the Netherlands, Italy, and the United States. It also has a global dealer and service organization network. The company developed and built its first sorting machine in a former pigsty in the Dutch town of Nootdorp. "Adrianus Wilhelmus Tas (Aad) founder and namer of Aweta,” begins Norman van der Gaag, Aweta’s Sales Director. "He comes from a farming family. He wanted to help growers by making mechanical sorting of greenhouse vegetables possible. He started Aweta in 1966. His first mechanical sorting machine was the beginning of Aweta's success." Aad Tas Sr. predicted possibilities in simplifying production processes. In the years that followed, Aweta developed all kinds of sorting machines. They sorted greenhouse

vegetables like tomatoes, cucumbers, and bell peppers by weight. The company has developed tremendously over the past 55 years. "Camera techniques were introduced in the 70s. That made it possible to also sort by color and size. This resulted in an even more uniform product. Aweta expanded its production over time. It added machines for things like feeding, packing, and palletizing products. We went from just sorting to total fruit and vegetable sorting and packaging solutions. That includes software," Norman continues. THE WORLD LOOKS TO THE NETHERLANDS Aweta is active all over the world and has a broad network of partners. It has branches in Italy and the United States too. The com-

Cucumbers in an Aweta Qpack

pany offers total solutions for a wide range of fruit and vegetables. According to Norman, greenhouse vegetables still account for most of the business' revenues. “That's partly due to its head office’s location in the Westland, the Netherlands. Many leading greenhouse vegetable businesses are based here. There are constantAGF Primeur • Gewächshausgemüse • 2020

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Bell pepper cup sorting line with accuveyor buffer system

Aweta’s factory in the Netherlands

deviation, and yield per hectare. This is vital information for optimizing cultivation. It can ultimately even determine which products of which grower are best suited for end-customer requirements. INTERNAL QUALITY SELECTION "Greenhouse vegetables are already quite uniform in size and shape. Not so products that grow outdoors. These have to deal with all kinds of influences, like the weather. Consumers are becoming increasingly picky, and so are retailers' demands. Camera systems that can ensure uniformity are, therefore, needed more than ever.”

Flowmaster software system for a bell pepper sorting line

ly innovative projects being realized here. The whole world is watching the Westland. The Netherlands is truly progressive in the field of greenhouse vegetables."

Company upscaling is a major factor in these new solutions' development. Players are increasingly growing in size but don't want costs to rise proportionally. "Clients wanting to expand must be competitive and minimize their expenses. We can be important here. We supply machines that help deliver the highest possible quality while reducing operational costs. Sorting and packaging automation is a significant step towards reducing labor costs. There are all kinds of solutions for this nowadays, and new techniques are constantly being developed." "Today, bell pepper and cucumber sorting, for example, is almost entirely automated. Robots are one of this processes' latest introductions. A robot now automatically fills cucumber boxes. The Netherlands is 90

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leading the way in this respect. Overseas markets like Canada, the United States, and Japan are now using this technology too. It means fewer hands on the belt, but certainly, also fewer hands touching the product. That is greatly beneficial, especially now, during this global pandemic," adds Van der Gaag. MORE INSIGHT Aspects that improve production efficiency also play a role. "When you select the optimal combination, a sorting machine can make a big difference here. It allows you to fill the packaging as precisely as possible. That process has been greatly optimized in recent years. It now requires hardly any manual labor to control." Norman mentions other great product data developments throughout the chain.

These include harvest registration and track & trace. With harvest registration, the machine provides insight into what has been harvested. That is includes color, size,

“We can now not only sort by external but also by internal quality,” adds the Sales Director. “These methods can, for instance, detect fungal development inside bell peppers. That is a huge step forward, especially for supermarkets. They can distinguish themselves with their fruit and vegetables, in terms of price, quality, and packaging."

USER-FRIENDLINESS, FIRST-ANDFOREMOST The installations may be growing in size and complexity, but the Aweta software used to control everything is as user-friendly as it can be. "It's crucial for us that anyone can operate these machines. So, we make as much of the process as possible visual, with product pictures and real-time images."

Looking towards the future, there is still plenty of room for expansion and improvement, Norman concludes. Camera technology and software, for example, are constantly evolving. And the need for particular automatic packaging still offers many possibilities. (CH)  nvdgaag@aweta.nl


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Sven Jordens, Gemex:

“Reopening eateries will boost the Belgian greenhouse vegetable sector” Gemex has been exporting Belgian fruit and vegetables to Germany for many years. The greenhouse vegetable season has started in Belgium. This is usually a busy period for the company. However, the corona crisis and its accompanying regulations are affecting the greenhouse vegetable market.

"T

he Belgian greenhouse vegetable season has begun again. Our clients are now switching from typical winter vegetables to spring products. These include tomatoes, cucumbers, and bell peppers," begins the company's Sven Jordens.

"Tomatoes started well, with high prices and lots of demand towards Easter. However, prices dropped a little in the week after Easter. "But that's nothing unusual for the time of year. The tomato market isn’t bad, but we as traders and, of course, our customers, are waiting for [the COVID-19 rules to be] eased. If the hospitality industry can open its doors again, the market will be greatly boosted. A lot of people are yearning for [a return to a] 'normal' life. For now, it is, however, still unclear when some of the measures will be lifted." 92

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CUCUMBERS AND BELL PEPPERS A product that has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic is cucumbers. This is a true hospitality product, so its sales have declined dramatically. "We expected a lot for cucumbers in the week before Easter, and demand wasn't terrible. But prices are now down again. The cold weather in the second week of April didn't do the market any good either. Cucumber is a weather-dependent product. Consumption picks up when it’s warm and drops during colder weather. Bell peppers started the season with extremely high prices. Red and yellow peppers were selling for around €5. These prices dropped a little when April began. And they are now at a normal level. They are also weather-sensitive. So, the colder days should influence prices," continues Sven.

"FOLDING CRATES ARE A NICE DEVELOPMENT" "The courgette season always begins a bit later and is now slowly getting underway. Aubergines are plentiful, but this product hasn't gotten off to a great start. Prices were moderate to begin with. Now, weeks later, little has changed, unfortunately. I nevertheless expect the market to recover. It might take a while, but eateries can’t stay close forever. The sector switched from rigid to folding crates this year. That is a good move forward. There are no more high crates, and the medium-height ones will be replaced too. In terms of sustainability, this is a fantastic development. The folding crates take up much less space so transport can be arranged much more efficiently."

MARKET EVOLUTION Gemex has been supplying the German businesses with Belgian products for many years. "We've built a good reputation, and our Belgian goods are known for their good quality,” says Sven. “Tomabel vine tomatoes have found a decent place on that market. Just like Elite beef tomatoes and Scarlet Red beef tomatoes. The latter only


Visit our stand at: Fruitlogistica in Berlin - Horticontact in Gorinchem Visit our stand at: Fruitlogistica in Berlin - Horticontact in Gorinchem

recently entered the market but are already immensely popular. They are also packaged in a lovely box. Compared to years ago, a lot has changed. Products that used to be exceptional are now common products, like mini cucumbers and Turkish aubergines. These are great products that are doing well. But specialty tomatoes are faring especially well; they're in huge demand."

NEW BUILD The company is going to begin expanding its current building this summer. "We're just waiting for permits and approvals to start construction. We currently have right loading bays, which are quite busy in the spring. We are going to add fridges and seven of the docks. We are enlarging the logistics area significantly. We are adding

4,000 m2 in total. We have grown so much in recent years due to our ideal location. We are right on the German border so, we can reach much further into Germany," concludes Sven. (SR)  gemex@gemex.be

Ihr Partner für das gesamte Frische-Sortiment aus Belgien! Kaarbaan 3, B-3600 Genk, Belgium Telefon: 0032 (13) 55 05 10 / 0032 (13) 55 33 26 • Fax: 0032 (13) 55 23 36 Mail: gemex@gemex.be • www.gemex.be

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"Together shaping a sustainable future in fresh fruit and vegetables through craftsmanship and high-quality services"

Home of Quality Growing only top-quality products, Hoogstraten has become a marked presence in Belgium and abroad. Over the years our growers developed a specific know-how in growing fruit and vegetables. Hoogstraten products are famous for their excellent taste and superior quality. Our strawberries are the pick of the crop but over the years the cooperative has also built a reputation in greenhouse vegetables and berries. Curious to find out more? Please contact sales@hoogstraten.eu

Coöperatie Hoogstraten cv - info@hoogstraten.eu - www.hoogstraten.eu


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Greenhouse vegetables

Bart Van Bael, Coöperatie Hoogstraten

“Belgian bell pepper season starts unsually well” in Belgium, Hoogstraten is the place to go for strawberries. But this cooperative’s product range doesn’t consist solely of strawberries and other soft fruits. Greenhouse vegetables, particularly tomatoes and bell peppers, make up an important part of the assortment. Tomatoes are the most frequently supplied product. And bell peppers’ share has grown rapidly in recent years too. TOMATOES “The greenhouse vegetable season has begun. But, for tomatoes, there’s no real start to the season anymore. Lit cultivation means Belgian tomatoes are grown all year round,” says Bart Van Bael of Coöperatie Hoogstraten. “Tomatoes had a good spring. There were some shortages in cherry truss tomatoes, but supply and demand were generally well balanced. However, after Easter, the market became a bit unbalanced. That was partly due to the changeable, cold weather. So, current prices aren’t great. The weather has put a damper on consumption which is reflected in the prices.” BELL PEPPERS Bell peppers season does have a true start. “In winter, these come from southern Europe, especially Spain. You can grow bell peppers under lights, but it’s costly. That’s

why it’s not done. It’s cheaper and easier to grow them in Southern Europe. The Belgian bell pepper season began exceptionally well. The weather caused supply shortages from Spain and what was available was of poor quality. As a result, Belgian bell pepper prices were good, especially for the red and yellow ones.”

CHALLENGE “The COVID-19 pandemic poses one of this year’s biggest challenges. On the one hand, people are eating more fruits and vegetables. The virus makes them worry more about their health. This benefits fruit and vegetable sales,” says Bart. “On the other hand, the government’s measures have shut down a vital sales channel - the hospitality industry. Many of the products we sell end up in supermarkets. But, we have specialties grown especially for the hospi-

tality industry too. Eateries in many countries are currently still closed. We all hope these will be allowed to reopen soon and that the sale of these specialties can get going again.”

Coöperatie Hoogstraten’s tomato and bell pepper acreages have remained virtually unchanged. “There have been a few small expansions, but nothing substantial. The most important thing this year is to keep the supply and demand well balanced. And to realize a good price for our products. We’re fully committed to this, but the corona crisis makes it more difficult to gauge the market. This virus isn’t only causing problems in the sales market but also in cultivation. Also, disease pressure is a major factor, and we know it will continue to be in the future. In short, there are plenty of challenges, but also opportunities,” concludes Bart. (SR)  bart.vanbael@hoogstraten.eu

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Tanja Dworschak: “ Our next goal is herbs on five levels”

Knoblauchsland at the center of German greenhouse innovations

“All of Germany is looking to Nuremberg” In the triangle of cities between Nuremberg, Fürth and Erlangen lies the Knoblauchsland, probably one of the most innovative vegetablegrowing regions in Germany. Although many places in the region began specialized vegetable cultivation as early as the 1960s, a whole new dynamic emerged in Knoblauchsland with the arrival of the third generation of producer families.

A

t the heart of the Franconian drive for innovation sits Florian Wolz, managing director of Franken-Gemüse Knoblauchsland since 2004; a marketing organization that supplies the produce of more than 50 farms to regional and national wholesalers and retailers.

INNOVATION AND THE KNOBLAUCHSLAND "Knoblauchsland is characterized by the many family farms, whose cultivation sometimes had to supply up to three generations. Around the turn of the millennium, there was a far-reaching change from outdoor cultivation on large areas to intensive cultivation in greenhouses," Wolz recalls. "The first ten farms started growing tomatoes and cucumbers in greenhouses in the 96

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early years of the millennium - a trend that has continued to evolve to this day."

Due to the spatial confinement between the three cities, the value added had to be increased more and more over the last 20 years, as acreage expansion was impossible. "The growers inside the region have shown a lot of courage; we've seen growers become entrepreneurs." FROM HYDROPONIC CULTIVATION TO SALAD MACHINES, TO GROWING EXOTICS Of course, growing tomatoes and cucumbers in the noughties was not enough. In 2012, Fritz Boss was the first one to grow strawberries in substrate troughs in Bavaria. Germany's first fully automated, hydro-

ponic lettuce cultivation was created in 2015 by Frankengemüse grower Jochen Haubner. We find Germany's first double-story greenhouse at Nuremberg herb producer Tanja Dworschak’s. The innovations will continue in 2021: More growers want to harvest their first hydroponic lettuce at the end of the year, more and more vending machines with fresh lettuce are located in the Nuremberg city area, fresh ginger from Knoblauchsland is in its second season and there is an increase in modern production technology and other future-oriented developments in the triangle. Thanks are due to the young farm managers, says Wolz: "The teamwork and cohesion among the young farmers in the region is something very special. People inspire and motivate each other - the result is a special dynamic and a great drive for innovation." In his 17 years at the helm of the marketing organization, Wolz has watched Knoblauchsland and the producers inside the region prove themselves in the modern fruit and vegetable market: "We want to


Christian Hofmann: “We focus on value creation instead of mass production”

remain innovative, thus securing the future. It's great to see how the region is developing together."

In many respects, the Netherlands are greenhouse cultivation pioneers, although German hesitancy is often cited as the reason for this. Large projects tend to be planned over a period of years. "We will jump in with both feet when the demand is there - this quick response is what sets the region apart," says Christian Hofmann of Gemüsebau HOFMANN in Fürth. The company is one of four with greenhouse space for the hydroponic cultivation of lettuce in Knoblauchsland - in the future, however, they would like to specialize even more, closing any further gaps in the German market in cooperation with Franken-Gemüse Knoblauchsland. Hofmann believes that the strength of the region also lies in the cooperation and coordination of the farms: "We have many young, motivated growers in our ranks, and

we work together. Four hydroponic growers in such a small space can only function through steady coordination, which is the only way to hold your own in the trade. Here we focus on value creation instead of mass production. This is also reflected in the cooperative's business results, which defy the comparatively small acreages." "Knoblauchsland; always a topic of conversation among German vegetable growers"

"We want to get the most out of our small area, and we've been doing that since the '60s," Hofmann says. "We can't excel in large areas, so we do it through innovation. That way, we avoid competition with large-scale outdoor production, and Knoblauchsland always stays in the conversation in German vegetable production." And the concept is working: "The sector is developing very well. Greenhouse cultivation has advantages in terms of sustainability, which is increasingly becoming the focus of public discourse. For example, we are seeing greenhouses sprouting up all over Germany, and have been able to push Dutch fruit vegetables into price entry. The next step will be lettuce now, which will surely be followed by more."

In Tanja Dworschak’s greenhouse

Tanja Dworschak - the self-proclaimed herb witch from Nuremberg - has been running her herb business since 1996. She is the owner of Germany's first double-decker greenhouse.

However, this is not the whole story; this entrepreneur wants to reach even higher (literally) in the future. The origins of Bioland KräuterGut Dworschak-Fleischmann lie with today's managing director’s great-grandmother. She had lost her husband, father and son during the war and ran the business with her sister-in-law and daughter. Female empowerment runs in the company's blood, so to speak. Her father and grandfather built the region's first greenhouse together, and Dworschak herself has been an integral part of the region's grower community since she was 16. "In the beginning, I worked with tomatoes and peppers, but I've always had a penchant for herbs. Then, I made a start with a hectare of organic potted herbs," Dworschak recalls. The region's scarcity of land also made things hard for her: "You need compensatory land, industry, commerce, housing, forestry, airports and highways; everyone is fighting for their place in the region. So we've always had to manage our land effectively." In 2010, she began experimenting with growing on two levels, then in 2015 she built her greenhouse with a total of 13,000m² of growing space.

Tanja Dworschak is constantly looking for ways to develop her farm further, both in terms of productivity and with regard to environmental and social standards. In 1996, she began producing her herbs organically. "The association's motto at the time was 'For the benefit of people and nature,' and I took that very much to heart. That's why, for example, I also employ people with severe disabilities and people who AGF Primeur • Gewächshausgemüse • 2020

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Greenhouse vegetables Stefan Scherzer: “You don’t have to go all the way to Holland to see innovative greenhouses”

for organic and vegan fertilization. There are many factors that must be met to keep tightly grown plants healthy without conventional pesticides. So, it remains exciting - I look forward to the next challenge!"

Tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and eggplants - the Scherzer family is an established name in traditional greenhouse cultivation, both in Franconia and beyond. Their new project will now also bring in a new mainstay for managing director Stefan Scherzer: in November, the company aims to launch the first hydroponically cultivated lettuce. This will make the company one of four in the region to work with this highly modern cultivation method. Hydroponic growing comes with many advantages: a lesser water requirement, fewer nutrients that need to be added, fewer pesticides and less labor involved. All factors that will become increasingly important in the future, according to Stefan Scherzer. "In my opinion, hydroponic farming is the way forward and offers added value for growers and consumers alike."

are difficult to place. My switch to organic vegan farming then rounded it all off."

Today, there are 240 different herb varieties available from Dworschak - from rosemary to lavender to the classics in the assortment such as parsley, mint, or chervil. "Particularly with the main varieties, the demand from food retailers is particularly high right now. A trendy product is definitely coriander. This herb, which is often used in Asian cuisine, is what basil was in the '80s and '90s."

"PRODUCING ORGANICALLY ON MULTIPLE LEVELS IS EXCITING" As a pioneer in double-story greenhouses in Germany, the next step is of course equally ambitious: "In the future, we would like to grow on even more levels, and we are already conducting tests with five levels for this. That would be the next record," Dworschak laughs. The tension here lies in conformity with organic standards: "The crux of this undertaking centers around the requirements

Building it, he says, is a big investment and they didn't take the decision lightly, "You sit down and think about whether it's the right way and the right time. Both in the company, with my brother and father, and in the Knoblauchsland community."

TRENDING AT THE RIGHT TIME? Hydroponic cultivation enables Scherzer to supply German food retailers with fresh root lettuce all year round. "This way, we want to make ourselves less dependent on Dutch and Belgian imports - with regionality behind us, we believe it will be a success." Regionality is not the only trend, however; sustainability issues are a big plus for greenhouse cultivation, along with the push for space. "We see a growing interest

“As a regionally cultivated exotic, our Franconian ginger fits the trend”

Ex

otic cultivars are becoming increasingly popular for cultivation in Germany and Europe. Consumers are becoming more and more interested in international cuisine and this is reflected in the demand from food retailers. At the same time, climate change favors the cultivation of varieties that enjoy the milder climate. At Höfler Gemüse from Knoblauchsland, they are now growing ginger. “The master school for the specialty of vegetable cultivation has been doing practical trials with ginger for some time, and we maintain a contact with the institution.

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So, it occurred to us that ginger would also be something for us,” Peter Höfler reports. There was a suitable area already available: “We have 3,000m² of older greenhouses from the 1960s and 1980s. That’s where we grow arugula in the winter months. From March onwards, the area lends itself to ginger cultivation.”

While dried ginger already has a certain position on the market, fresh ginger is still a niche within a niche, Höfler knows: “Now it is a matter of finding a good sales channel for our ginger, and that’s not easy. We are seeing a certain increase in sales at

the weekly markets, but in general there is still a need to educate consumers. Ginger is a top product, fresh, aromatic and healthy - that’s what we want to convey.” As a natural antibiotic and exotic product from regional cultivation, Franconian ginger is fully in line with the trend, he said. “tisches Produkt aus regionalem Anbau liege der fränkische Ingwer voll im Trend.

peter.hoefler@hoeflergemuese.de


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Special

Greenhouse vegetables "WHEN ONE IS INNOVATIVE, THE OTHER DOESN'T WANT TO TRAIL BEHIND” There is no competition among the Knoblauchsländer producers, Stefan Scherzer finds: "It's a friendly competition that sets an interesting dynamic rolling among the young farm managers. You exchange ideas, you look at what your neighbor is doing. And when one grower is innovative, the other naturally doesn't want to trail behind."

Florian Wolz

in CO2 neutrality in vegetable production. Our two farm sites in Nuremberg and Dinkelsbühl are heated via district heating and wood chips." This means that the company is well prepared for the next few years. Scherzer Gemüse Ltd completely left openair cultivation behind back in 2013. "In the years since the fall of communism,

more and more open field products have dropped out, but through our specialization in greenhouse cultivation, our open field colleagues have been able to include these products, such as radishes, carrots, or rhubarb, in their assortment. So, the balance in the region remained, even if the focus was different from company to company."

However, it is not about proving oneself among each other, but about constructive exchanges: "Vegetable growing is a tough business. We all care about our farms and want to make them future proof. That requires a close eye on the market, technological developments and sometimes a bit of creativity. You don't always have to go all the way to Holland to see innovative greenhouses: The common drive for innovation ensures that we all motivate each other, making the region a leader in innovation." 

“Even long-established companies can start up”

I

n 2015, Jochen Haubner put Germany’s first professional hydroponics facility into operation at his farm. Since then, lettuce varieties have been sprouting and growing on almost two hectares at the Nuremberg site - fully automatically. Six years later, he has a new project. Innovation sometimes comes unexpectedly, and small ideas can develop into more than was originally expected. Jochen Haubner discovered this as well when he turned a “salad machine” from just an idea into reality in 2019. Together with an acquaintance who himself manufactures special machines, the vending machine was developed, and it can now be found at various locations in and around Nuremberg.

“The irrigated lettuce cabinets are designed to keep our hydroponic lettuce with root blocks fresh for longer. The cabinets are to be stocked as needed - this is how we want to counteract food waste,” Haubner explains. While the 100

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lettuce could also be grown in these cabinets, he thinks that makes less sense: “You need trained staff to grow it at the point of sale, and customers can’t help themselves, which makes the barrier to purchase greater.” With the Salajoe® to go lettuce cabinet, consumers can choose a lettuce, which is then ‘harvested’ by a gripper arm.

“By stocking the cabinets ourselves, we ensure that there is always just the right amount available. This way, there will be no overproduction and wilted lettuce in the displays can be avoided.” haubner.info@gmx.de

De kas van Jochen Haubner


Florian Steiner

Wolfgang and Florian Steiner:

“There’s no such thing as a home office in vegetable farming” In Kirchweidach, a small village some 100 kilometers east of Munich and just a stone's throw from the Austrian border, lie the farms of brothers Wolfgang and Florian Steiner. They grow conventional and organic fruit vegetables, in cooperation with REWE Group. The year 2020 went very well for the brothers, despite all the upheaval. That, they say, is partly thanks to the strict rules that were in place from the start, and their consistent implementation: "There's no such thing as a home office in vegetable farming"

D

espite isolated waves of hoarding, the annual planning was easy to implement: "At the beginning of the crisis, we barely kept up, but since then everything has returned to normal. We do not feel the changes in the market as much, thanks to our direct cooperation with REWE, and they haven't had a structural impact on our

operations." Both Wolfgang's conventional and Florian's organic farms have seen a steady increase in demand. FINETUNING IN THE NEW GREENHOUSE IN EMMERTING Last year, Wolfgang Steiner put his new greenhouse in Emmerting into operation,

where tomatoes can be harvested even in winter, due to modern LED lighting. So far, he says, he is very pleased with his investment: "We are still learning to operate the new LED and dehumidification system. We're working on fine-tuning the greenhouse to optimize our yields even more. But the flavor is already right - that's still most important for us."

Steiner had already been working with lighting on 2.2 hectares at the old site in Kirchweidach, which allowed him to determine that there was still a demand in the market. "However, we had still been working with older lamps in Kirchweidach, so we opted for more efficient LEDs for Emmerting." These fit well into the well-rounded energy and sustainability concept of his business and his customer REWE, accordAGF Primeur • Gewächshausgemüse • 2020

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View of the new greenhouse in Emmerting

ing to the entrepreneur: "In Emmerting, we get the energy from a neighboring power plant. Add to that the LEDs, which save 35% energy compared to conventional lamps."

The question of whether it is at all necessary and justifiable to grow tomatoes in winter was of course asked as well, but "… we want to see the 'big picture' and include all factors. The selection of local vegetables in winter is small, in the cold season the demand for tomatoes is high as well and if they are not available regionally, they will simply be imported. Then, for example, transport emissions or water issues in the country of origin will come into play. We can now close this gap in the market with regional produce." To match the new greenhouse, a new highbay warehouse was built and a new quality control system was introduced: "We have further standardized our processes, so on the one hand we can give our growers quick

The new packaging

positive feedback on their work, and on the other hand we can quickly intervene and adjust our processes if something doesn't quite fit. In our new high-bay warehouse, the focus is on automation and digitalization. We can directly access data from the greenhouse and climate data to optimize control in the warehouse," says Wolfgang Steiner.

Florian Steiner. At the BIOhof, the vegetables have been packaged completely plastic-free since last year. "We have completely switched to cardboard packaging for our products, both at REWE Markt Ltd and at other chains that belong to the REWE Group," says Florian Steiner.

"COMPLETELY PLASTIC-FREE SINCE LAST YEAR" The packaging discussion took a bit of a back seat last year due to the pandemic, but it was still on the table for Wolfgang and

PLANNING SECURITY THANKS TO CONTRACT FARMING When the Steiner family started their cooperation with REWE Group a few years ago, they naturally had to weigh up whether

Florian Steiner had officially opened his greenhouse in 2019 and is taking things a bit more leisurely. "We have a wide range of organically cultivated products: five varieties of tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers. There is still more than enough to do, even without new buildings and new technology," he laughs.

"For our conventional products, we have developed a snack cup ourselves together with a packaging manufacturer. This will be launched on the market in the summer, when it will be tested. If the packaging is well received by the customer, many more of our products in plastic-free packaging will follow. Plastic-free tray packaging is still a big issue in the fruit vegetable sector," says Wolfgang Steiner.

Biovibe BVBA Wholesaler organic vegetables and fruits Kempenarestraat 44a 2860 Sint-Katelijne-Waver T (0032)-(0)15-316281 | (0032)-(0)15-320742 E info@biovibe.be www.biovibe.be

Biovibe, once known... indispensable!

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Wolfgang Steiner

they wanted to become dependent on a single buyer. Now, the brothers fully agree: they do not regret the partnership at all.

"As growers, we benefit from the regulated seasonal planning, in which we can coordinate in advance exactly in which period which quantities are needed. If there is a need for more produce - after all, vegetables are still a natural product and depend on external circumstances - REWE can regulate the volume pressure with advertisements. We are not left alone in such situations, and not every producer can make that claim."

At the same time, he said, they motivate and inspire each other to start new projects. "Of course, we have to meet certain requirements of the food retail trade, but in return we also get support in implementing new, innovative ideas - such as our new plastic-free packaging. The developments can be implemented together quickly, close to the market and in line with consumer needs."

For the Steiners, contract farming also comes up trumps in terms of sustainability: "The quantities we produce are efficiently controlled. This means that there are fewer losses along the chain. Also, storage time

Bell peppers in the Steiner greenhouse

can be reduced, which ultimately means that the product lasts longer in the store and with the consumer. This means food waste can be avoided at the retailer and at the consumer’s home." Wolfgang and Florian conclude by saying: "The planning security we achieve thanks to the contract farming for REWE Group allows us to implement innovative projects, produce more sustainably and make our operations fit for the future." (LH)  W.Steiner@gemuesebau-steiner.de f.steiner@biohof-kirchweidach.de

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Pepper market busy catching up Horticulture under glass

Number of companies | Glass vegetables sorted by province

GRONINGEN

Total 2000: 2 2010: 2 2020: 2

FRIESLAND 2000 2010 2020

1 -

2000 2010 2020

4 3

2000 2010 2020

-

2000 2010 2020

4 3

2000 2010 2020

2 1

2000 2010 2020

6 5

2000 2010 2020

2

2000 2010 2020

3 4

DRENTHE

Total 2000: 10 2010: 4 2020: 3

2000: 4 2010: 4 2020: 6 Source: CBS

2000: 6 2010: 9 2020: 7

OVERIJSSEL 2000 2010 2020

1 2

2000 2010 2020

1 2

2000 2010 2020

2

2000 2010 2020

4 1

2000 2010 2020

4 1

2000 2010 2020

4 3

2000 2010 2020

3 1

2000 2010 2020

3

2000 2010 2020

2

2000 2010 2020

1 5

2000 2010 2020

2 1

2000 2010 2020

4 6

2000 2010 2020

1 4

2000 2010 12 2020 11

2000 2010 2020

2 4

FLEVOLAND

Total

Total

Total 2000: 12 2010: 9 2020: 7

GELDERLAND

Total 2000: 29 2010: 18 2020: 12

2000 2010 2020

3 8


The figures, in this case Statistics Netherlands figures, show a trend. A growth, at least in recent years. These figures are sometimes questioned in the sector. For example, do statisticians have as good a view on switches and stoppers as on new construction? Yes, it is getting better, according to inquiries with the

UTRECHT

Total 2000: 12 2010: 10 2020: 9

NOORD-HOLLAND 2000 2010 2020

2 7

2000 2010 2020

3 4

2000 2010 2020

2 1

2000 2010 2020

4 3

2000 2010 2020

4 4

2000 2010 2020

4 9

2000 2010 2020

3 4

2000 2010 2020

2 6

2000 2010 45 2020 30

2000 2010 2020

3 3

2000 2010 26 2020 11

2000 2010 2020

3 2

2000 2010 92 2020 60

2000 2010 2020

5 7

2000 2010 2020

2 3

2000 2010 12 2020 7

2000 2010 2020

2 5

2000 2010 2020

13 6

2000 2010 15 2020 4

2000 2010 32 2020 20

2000 2010 16 2020 12

ZUID-HOLLAND

Total 2000: 451 2010: 171 2020: 115

2000: 103 2010: 49 2020: 39

Total 2000: 10 2010: 10 2020: 17

ZEELAND

2000 2010 29 2020 47

NOORD-BRABANT

Total

statisticians. In recent years, people have even been able to find new companies from increasingly complete figures. The growth in bell pepper is mainly in block pepper, as is also learned from inquiries at pepper breeding companies. The ratio of green-red-yelloworange does not shift that much. >>

Total 2000: 5 2010: 6 2020: 9

LIMBURG

2000 2010 2020

1 11

Total 2000: 72 2010: 32 2020: 25

2000 2010 2020

8 9


Special

Greenhouse vegetables

Bell peppers are excellently suited to export to far-off destinations. The United States, for example, is an important market. But Dutch bell pepper traders also know how to find a closer market across the Channel. Brexit has, however, made this suspenseful. At the beginning of January, things were looking good. Dutch bell peppers seemed to be doing well. That is also due to relatively limited import duties compared to other products. However, it remains to be seen whether this will continue to be the case

P

eppers greenhouses are springing up all over the Dutch polders. Social media platforms are littered with photos of brilliant white groundsheets, neat new cultivation gutters, and the newly planted vegetables. Bell pepper growers are not sitting around; that much is clear. These market developments were discussed during the early start of the 2021 season with several people ‘from the field’. Because images and acreage figures alone do not tell the whole story.

If there were ever a time to invest, it is now. That's what many bell pepper growers seem to have realized in recent years. The year 2020 turned out to be a good bell pepper year. Some growers even managed to build up a financial buffer in the two prior seasons as well. Innovation and expansion have been relatively stagnant in the segment for years. Now there is some catching up to do. "I estimate acreage will grow by some 40 to 50 hectares," reckons Ton van Dalen, commercial director at the growers' association, Oxin Growers. "That seems like a big step, and it is. But it is a controlled step, 106

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and not everyone is expanding their plots. There are always growers who stop. The current catch-up is, however, a good thing; it's keeping this sector going."

The current construction activity in the market means you must distinguish between expansion construction and greenhouse renovation. Many growers have been doing the latter lately. That is according to Marco Bergman, who organises bell pepper sales for Harvest House. "A lot of older greenhouses have been renovated. From that perspective, quite a few bell pepper growers are having construction done. After all, the market sentiment is currently generally good. But everyone knows that things don't stay good. Times always get tougher, so now is a good time to invest." INVESTMENT Investing - Wilbert van den Bosch of Peppers Unlimited is doing just that at present. Wilbert is a Harvest House-affiliated bell pepper grower. Several years ago, he purchased an additional 14-hectare plot of land. Now, Wilbert is building a six-hectare greenhouse on it. "That plan was certainly not laid thanks to one good year," he says.

"In recent years, we hadn't done much in the way of renewal and expansion. So, we bought this land with the future in mind. We'll soon be able to link the greenhouse nicely to our existing business."

The grower moved to his current location in 2005 because there was more room to grow. He sees people snapping up plots around him. It is all about increasing your scale. With a larger business, growers can achieve economies of scale and compete better internationally, including on cost price. "A larger greenhouse does mean that you have to find more workers. That is and will remain a challenge," says Wilbert. Fellow grower Arnaud van Dijk of VD Holland agrees. In recent years, his company has made the necessary expansions. At the end of 2020, he added another 12-hectare plot. Including the still-to-be-built greenhouse, Arnaud will be growing on 45 hectares. He sells his product under the Paprico brand through the Growers United growers' association. "By working with fixed contracts, you have more financial security on which to base investment plans."


Last year was a good one for orange bell peppers. This colour is slowly taking green bell peppers’ spot in mixes

CLIMATE Growers United's Dylan van Raaij markets growers' products, including those of Van Dijk. He sees that growers who have had good years are now ploughing that money back into their greenhouses. This is mostly being done with greenhouses in the Netherlands. But bell peppers, like many greenhouse vegetables, are exported. "It's true," says Dylan. "These growers aren't going abroad to cultivate these crops. That is already happening with tomatoes. There are certainly long-term opportunities for that, including in bell peppers. But it's not that clear cut at the moment."

When Arnaud and Wilbert are asked if they have considered growing elsewhere, they both answer; "Not really." Arnaud says, "I think things will go that way one day, as do consultancy firms and banks. At our company, we like being in control too much and want to keep everything close at hand. That's tougher to do abroad unless you establish yourself there. So, you basically have to start from scratch." Wilbert, too, hasn't seriously considered the step. "We've looked at starting cultivation in Germany, for example. Then we could sell our product more easily there. But the idea has never really materialised. The Netherlands is a very favourable coun-

try for growing bell peppers. Its climate is better for growing them than in the warmer south or colder east. Even compared to Belgium and Germany, Dutch weather is sometimes more moderate."

IMAGE Talking about the climate; both the weather and COVID-19 were challenging in 2020. The summer was particularly hot. "During the extremely hot weeks, even the quality of our bell peppers growing in our more modern greenhouses declined. Things were even harder abroad. The availability of water in the Netherlands is a big plus. The country still has quite a bit of it," says Arnaud. Geothermal heat is also becoming more readily available. Various bell pepper growers are taking advantage of this, and their cultivation is, therefore, even 'greener'. "It contributes to our product's increasingly positive image.” Wilbert, and traders Ton and Marco, point out bell peppers' positive image too. Here, health is an important factor, especially in the past corona year. "Last year, sales increased significantly," says Marco. "Especially for retailers. Home chefs seem to know what to do with bell peppers, more so than with other greenhouse vegetables. Demand from the retail sector was consistently good in 2020.”

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Special

Greenhouse vegetables "Every year, the Spanish and Dutch seasons overlap a little on each end. They do clash," says Marco. This sizeable overseas supply is one reason why lit bell pepper cultivation hasn't yet taken off in the Netherlands. Wilbert does use lights, but not full-time. He doesn't grow bell peppers in January like it's June. "The moderate winter prices are an issue. It simply isn't profitable to go into fully lit cultivation production in the Netherlands. Moreover, unlike with tomatoes, for example, lighting does not drastically improve production. It's currently primarily a control method which might bring cultivation forward a little."

For Peppers Unlimited, that means harvesting started around week 5 while Dylan was working towards week 8. He doesn’t dare to make predictions in early season. "I've learned that something has to happen for the season to be good. That was the case last year. Unfortunately, that's how it is." However, he thought 2020 would be a good year for orange bell peppers. "With the decline in acreage, that was bound to happen." For 2021, Ton sees "a slight shift in the colours", including between yellow and red. That is sometimes also because growers are looking for more virus-resistant varieties.

There are more and more of these kinds of photos of construction in bell pepper country. This kind of activity is usually more noticeable than a grower who stops or switches. It means pictures and even the figures do not convey the whole message

“There was always a good promotion or sale somewhere that helped boost sales. In other years, the demand sometimes seemed to be completely flat." So, volumes were flowing well, even to the United States. This is an important distant export destination. "Soon after the first wave, air freight to the United States continued to a certain degree. We always left a deliberate gap." There was extra demand from other countries too. This included Germany, France, Norway, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. "I understand that exports grew by about five percent last year," says Ton. "So, new markets haven't opened up; consumption has increased, including in the Netherlands. 108

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It also helps that, from where we are, we can always deliver within one day after harvesting. That is in a roughly 800km radius. That means even though our Dutch product has farther to travel, it often reaches its destination before that of a grower with a greenhouse in Germany."

DEVELOPMENT January is the month when bell pepper growers prepare for the new season. For traders, it's the import season. Dutch importers receive a lot of bell peppers from Spain. In this country, the product's acreage has been increasing, at the expense of tomatoes, for some time. That expansion is being closely monitored in the Netherlands.

And green bell peppers? Hans Derks is Harvest House's commercial director. He and salesman Marco know this colour’s acreage is gradually declining. "There is less green acreage every year. Other colours, like orange, are replacing it. There are more and more orange bell peppers in the mixed packages. We now use half green and half orange in these mixes. It's all for the consumer,” Hans says. People are not directly concerned with an increase in cultivated area or the construction of a new greenhouse. But they do want to eat delicious, healthy bell peppers. "Vegetables in general and bell peppers in particular are attracting a lot of attention at the moment. That benefits us all. And with the current catching up on the construction front, things are looking good for the future too," Ton concludes. (TT)  ton@oxin-growers.nl m.bergman@harvesthouse.nl h.derks@harvesthouse.nl d.vanraaij@growersunited.nl info@vdholland.nl info@peppersunlimited.nl


Vision

Luc Vanoirbeek, Copa-Cogeca:

“Everyone in the chain must take responsibility” Luc Vanoirbeek is chairman of the European Fruit and Vegetables Working Party at Copa-Cogeca. This organization represents the EU's growers and agricultural cooperatives. As chairman, Luc leads a working group that is currently facing some major challenges in their sector. He is also general secretary of the Belgian Horticultural Cooperatives Federation. In this interview, Luc sheds light on the state of the European fruit and vegetable sector. He discusses the European Union's Farm to Fork strategy's goals. And he also talks about sustainability and trade. How is the European fruit and vegetable sector doing? "The fruit and vegetable sector in Europe is surviving in these COVID-19 times. What we've managed to do is remarkable. Let's be honest; prices were higher. They were especially good around March. So, the sector has had a higher turnover. European fruit and vegetable sales rose by nine to ten percent. Fruit has benefited more from the increases than vegetables. But fruit has had to contend with dismal figures in recent years. So, last year's high fruit prices are more of a correction than anything else. On the other hand, there were additional expenses due to the COVID-19 measures

including social distancing. Spanish and Italian growers incurred extra costs to get enough staff."

"It's remarkable how quickly we get back to normal. Currently, there's concern throughout Europe about the hospitality and foodservice sectors. More people have also been eating fruit and vegetables at home. But once the current COVID-19 measures are no longer in place, we will quickly get back to normal. Some things will remain, but I don't expect a change in fruit and vegetable consumption. Everyone is only talking about COVID-19. We must, however, not forget that the horticultural sector's core

business is reliant on the climate. Adverse weather and pests like the brown marmorated stink bug in Italy, for example, also played a role in 2020." What's the fruit and vegetable sector's opinion of the Farm to Fork strategy? The European Commission (EC) presented this as a cornerstone of the Green Deal and sustainability is central to it. "Farm to Fork is an ambitious program. And rightly so. We in the fruit and vegetable sector think it is fantastic that a program is being laid down; the focus on healthy food will give us a boost. We do have a very clear 'but' - it must be affordable, fair, and realistic. Producer organizations have always taken the lead when it comes to sustainability. They have been working on reusable packaging for decades. Belgian, German, and Dutch auction houses took the initiative with Euro Pool System years ago. We already have a sustainability mindset. Producer organizations invest in research. Then, if there is a material that seems like a viable option, we get test sites involved. Innovation is already part of our approach, and we're going to keep building on that." AGF Primeur • 2021

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"When it comes to sustainability, we must guard against ecological leakage. I'm not advocating a wall around Europe. But we shouldn't be naive either. There are developments around fruit-vegetables mainly taking place outside Europe in countries like Morocco. In Belarus, for example, they grow fruit unchecked. Sustainability - yes, but we must be careful that the standards are the same everywhere. Farm to Fork is very ambitious, and that's a good thing.”

“Otherwise, nothing will happen. But it must be fair. It has to be affordable, realistic, and, above all, fair. We, as the primary sector, want to play our part. Horticulture is part of the solution, not the problem. We must also ensure that in Europe, the focus is on both Farm and Fork. The entire chain must take responsibility. The grower mustn't have to bear the entire burden. The rest of the chain can't say, 'You must ensure it's all ok, but we're not going to pay for it'." Where does Copa-Cogeca stand regarding the talks about primary producer remuneration, which is often seen as inadequate? "We, and society as a whole, have seen that sustainability efforts aren't rewarded. Every European country has initiatives. France has zero-residue, Belgium has Responsibly Fresh Goodness By Nature, and there's PlanetProof in the Netherlands. Spain and Italy's fruit and vegetable sectors are working on becoming more sustainable 110

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too. If all that is to be translated into better remuneration, the market plays a role. The Farm to Fork strategy makes all that a bit clearer for consumers. I think that's vital.”

“In every survey, people say they're concerned about sustainability and fair prices. But once they get into the store, that mindset changes completely. Then it's all about the price. Copa-Cogeca addresses this, but it's essentially a market fact. As we keep seeing - you can't beat the market. Consumers play a crucial role. Only if they're prepared to actually help by paying more for sustainable products can we speak of effectively making the agri-food chain more sustainable. So, consumers' mindsets need to change to achieve this. After all, purchasing behavior is up to both supermarkets and consumers." "Yet, it's short-sighted to blame supermarkets; their margins are small too. The general public must be willing to pay for certain aspects concerning sustainability. That's a long-term goal, and I think Farm to Fork is the right approach. With it, we're saying, 'we must give consumers insight into what they're buying. Where do the products come from, what's the quality, how was it produced?' That won't pay off right away, but it might in 2025 or 2030. We need things to turn around, and you can't achieve that by focusing solely on the Farm. That alone isn't going to solve anything."

"Neither do I believe subsidies and different national taxes is the solution. At some point, the Netherlands might introduce a 'fat tax'. And it might not happen in, say, Belgium or Germany. That would be like reverting to the days of Louis XIV. Each region had its own approach, timetable, and standards. Surely, that's not what anyone wants; it's madness. When we say in Europe, 'we're going to have a European approach', everyone agrees. But every country also wants specific exceptions to be taken into account. We'll have to convince the European Member States to cede some power to other countries in Europe. Although it's not yet at that point, we will have to move in that direction."

In the past, you voiced your concern about the social pressure regarding pesticides. What problems does the sector face here? "The Farm to Fork strategy states that pesticide use must be cut by 50%. In that case, you must be aware that by allowing fewer products, pests can build resistance. Our climate, the world, and disease pressures are all changing. New diseases and plagues are emerging. If you reduce the size of your armory, you have to be careful not to lose the war. That's what the sector in Italy is facing. They can no longer control the brown marmorated stink bug using existing resources. That's a side effect of reducing crop protection products."


"You must remember that farmers always try to use their best judgment when using pesticides. These substances are expensive, so it's not wise to use too much. They have to consider their own health too. You can focus 100% on reducing crop protection agent usage; but the effect matters. I agree. I think there is still much potential in that area using precision farming, but it's a very slow process. People regard reducing impact as a goal in itself, which isn't true. Reducing the impact is fine, but you can also achieve this by intervening in the breeding process to breed more resistant varieties."

"This is a great topic that everyone is currently avoiding. Even cisgenic techniques are being shunned, while these can improve plants' resistance and speed up breeding. So, it can only be advantageous. The vaccines that are currently being developed use the same technology. But when it comes to the primary sector, we hide behind public opinion. But there's an opportunity there. Also, pesticide producers are counting on biocides and other types of products. That's fantastic, but people must be aware that those products won't cost less. I refuse to believe it's all doom and gloom - we're going to achieve many things. But people have to remain fair and give us the chance to do so." The EC has a singular goal when encouraging agriculture in the EU - organic farming on 25% of all agricultural land by 2030. What do you think of that? "I have trouble with this creating the impression that organic is the only kind of sustainable farming. It isn't - integrated cultivation can also be quite sustainable. Can it be better? Yes, but even organic has its limitations. We shouldn't call them better or worse; they're different. Organic farming is a different way of cultivation with certain advantages and disadvantages, just like integrated cultivation. Farm to Fork sets different goals, making it seem we're not doing a good job if we don't achieve them.” “I don't agree with that. It's great to say the organic share must grow, and that has economic potential. But if we are to move further towards the Farm to Fork target, I fear the market will collapse. Its economic model will also be called into question. It has economic limitations. I'd also like to talk about what organic means. I'm not convinced that undercover, open field cultivation is more sustainable than cultivation on recycled coconut mats. That makes me wonder how the environment benefits from full soil farming."

What do you consider to be the most important aspects in striving for sustainable cultivation in Europe? "Copa-Cogeca want to emphasize a circular economy. If everyone started using reusable packaging, we could make significant progress. We should think about how to refocus on reuse. Europe could play a role in this. Producer organizations receive money as part of the Common Market Organization. They could support the use of reusable packaging. That would be a concrete step forward. But promotion and education explaining to people what food is - is crucial too. People don't understand the concept of 'seasonal' anymore. We have enough of everything all the time. Education is vital, and we need resources for that. We don't have the same opportunities as Coca Cola or Unilever. So, we need European support, which is available. That's what we have to focus on." What is currently the biggest challenge facing the fruit and vegetable trading sector? "In the short term, regarding COVID-19 outbreaks, it's essential that the single market remain open. Europe did well during the first wave in keeping markets open and guaranteeing the free movement of people. But do not take that for granted; it is not a given. It is imperative to maintain the free movement of seasonal workers. Brexit is the trade sector's greatest challenge. No-one knows how things will turn out, and the devil is always in the details when it comes to such transitions. There's always a hitch in things like packaging or customs formalities." "The 2014 closure of the Russian market had a massive influence on European fruit trade too. I fear this is slowly becoming an unresolved issue that will plague us for decades to come. That's not good, of course. Russia is becoming increasingly self-sufficient. Things are changing in such a manner there as to make it difficult for us. Belgium and the Netherlands have very active fruit and vegetable export policies.” “The trade sectors in these countries are so intensive; they have to export a lot. They manage to do so to Mexico, China, Brazil, Thailand, Indonesia, and Vietnam. That is fantastic, but it concerns only small quantities. It is nice to have, but it's not crucial and doesn't compensate for the loss of Russia. The two countries used to send 30% of their fruit and vegetables to Russia, after all."

between the EU and third countries. There's always a lot of talk about trade agreements. Of what value are these for the sector? "You need trade agreements. What annoys me is how selective public opinion is. At one point, people were rioting about the CETA trade agreement with Canada. Wallonia [a region in southern Belgium] wanted to take a stand against it. Like some little village in [the] Astrix [comics]. We've never understood that. A trade agreement offers rules on how countries will trade in the future. Is it always balanced? I don't think it will ever be; that's simply impossible. For example, Mercosur is very detrimental to the European animal sector, but it benefits the automotive and pharmaceutical sectors. They're always package deals, and so, there will always be arguments about them." "What we try to do as well as we can is to work with countries to determine what they want, and how they want to get that. Then we try to fill in the blanks. The agreement with Canada seemed like a good opportunity, and we've now been allowed in there. But then the dream clashed with reality. We have access, but Canada is a gigantic country with 36 million inhabitants spread across it. Exporters must drum up business there. I've put the United States on ice, so to speak. I want to see what they do, but I'm not optimistic. Although I'm happy with the new president, we mustn't forget that it wasn't easy to export apples to the US even in Obama's time.” “Despite pretending to greatly promote a free global market, the US is very protectionist. Talks are underway, but we don't expect much from them. Vietnam is now starting to move. China still imports five million kg of European pears per year. So, it remains a constant challenge. Nevertheless, I don't consider trade agreements as something negative. You have to make them, but they must, of course, remain fair. We cannot have trade agreements that unilaterally allow products to enter our market and then distort it or get to comply with different rules. Then trade stops." (MW)  luc.vanoirbeek@vbt.eu

You mentioned that mutual trade relations in the EU are a challenge. That includes doing away with trade barriers

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Various

Illegal workers are fined heavily in Spain, Photo Coexphal

Are Southern European oranges and tomatoes “People Proof ”? A popular Dutch TV program, ‘Keuringsdients van Waarde’ - KvW (the Value Inspectorate), recently highlighted several issues in the world of orange and tomato pickers. Not in the so-called high-risk countries; in Southern Europe. That created the necessary fuss. People have now realized that certification, collective labor agreements, and legislation still do not sufficiently guarantee that abuse will be eradicated. Are Southern European oranges and tomatoes People Proof? And what is the situation in the Netherlands?

D

uring the KvW broadcast, Spanish journalist, Joanna Morena, interviews several laborers in the Spanish region of Almería. These are mostly illegal African migrants. One of the workers says he earns about €35 for an eight-hour working day. According to Moreno, the minimum legal hourly wage in the region is €7,28. Laborers also complain of discrimination. “They treat us like animals, slaves,” says one woman. Morena claims she interviewed

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people at companies that have the necessary certification allowing them to supply supermarkets. When confronted with the journalist’s findings, businesses say that it does not happen at their companies. They refer to the pressure on prices are a reason for the way these workers are treated. At MG Fruit in the Netherlands, various people have had experience with fruit and vegetable exports from Almeria since the 80s.

They still have daily contact with Spanish businesses and know the region that came under investigation well. Maaike González, MG Fruit’s Operations Manager, cannot fathom migrant workers being mistreated there. “I have never heard anything about it. If there were inhumane conditions, it would certainly have made the Spanish media.” “Instead, companies in Almeria have the overwhelming sense that even though they do everything legally and transparently, the Central and Northern European media still reports negatively about them.” As far as Maaike knows, supermarkets, other than Tesco, do no additional checks, other than audits. “Tesco has created its own certification with far-reaching rules and demands. For example, they visit farms a few times a year to checks everything - from working conditions to where cleaning supplies are stored in the warehouse. They are extreme-


Many employees are also needed in packaging companies, photo Coexphal

ly strict. Suppliers who are Tesco-certified are very proud of it.”

CALL ON SUPERMARKETS Oxfam believes supermarkets have the power and responsibility to, along with their suppliers, account for and tackle abuses in the supply chain. Oxfam’s 2018 “Ripe for Change” report indicates that supermarkets have become enormously influential in the past 15 to 20 years. In the Netherlands, five supermarket groups - Albert Heijn, Aldi, Jumbo, Lidl, and PLUS - hold more than three-quarters of the market. “Our Dutch and international ranking (see image) shows what supermarkets are doing, on paper and in practice, to prevent exploitation,” says Charlotte Vollaard of Oxfam Novib. “Last year, Albert Heijn and Jumbo adopted new human

rights policies. That was in response to our Behind the Barcodes campaign. And recently, Lidi also committed to respecting human rights in their chains. Supermarket policies and commitments are a good first step. But, as the ranking proves, most supermarkets are still not doing enough. We have noticed that the supermarket sector is paying more attention to respecting human rights in their supply chains. Supermarkets seem to be taking responsibility for this too. However, there is still a lot of work to be done. Aldi and PLUS can no longer lag.”

Internationally, with a 38% overall score, Tesco is the front runner in the 2019 international supermarket ranking, according to Oxfam. “Tesco is most open to finding ways to tackle low wages in its supply chain. They

Oxfam’s 2019 international supermarket ranking considers four themes. They look at transparency and responsibility, and what supermarkets are doing, concretely, to protect the laborers, small-scale farmers, and women behind our food.

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Coexphal growers provide legal jobs for over 40,000 immigrants and over 70,000 Spaniards. Photo Coexphal

Coexphal growers do it legally “In 2018, the Coexphal growers’ association published an extensive statement regarding the use of migrant labor. Coexphal has more than 83 affiliated companies from Almeria and represents 70% of the fruit and vegetable exports and 65% of their production. The region is experiencing unprecedented emigration pressure with undesirable effects that are difficult to prevent. However, that is not caused by vegetable farmers in southeastern Spain. They have been able to offer more than 40,000 immigrants and more than 70,000 Spaniards legal employment.” are one of the few supermarkets that have promised to put a stop to unfair business practices. But they can do more in, for instance, the area of small-scale farmers.” In last year’s Dutch ranking, Albert Heijn (17%) and Jumbo (16%) topped the list. That was due to the new human rights policies and commitments they made the year before. Lidl’s recent commitments were not yet included. JUMBO, ALBERT HEIJN, RESPECTIVELY, DO THREE AND SIX ANNUAL IMPACT ASSESSMENTS According to Oxfam, Albert Heijn admitted in 2019 that it relies too heavily on social audits and certification and that these are not sufficient in protecting human rights. They added that they would commit to doing a minimum of six impact assessments per year in the supply chains where human rights are under pressure. They also want to involve local employers, unions, farmers, community representatives including women - and NGOs. When asked about Southern Europe’s Due Diligence policy, Albert Heijn spokeswoman, Pauline

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“The vegetable sector has expanded thanks to them and the work of immigrants from more than 120 countries. Growers are aware of this and are thankful for their assistance, which is why they want these laborers to feel at ease and work under the best conditions. It is also important to note that, in Almeria, contracting illegal immigrants is punishable by law. Spanish legislation is stringent regarding this. People can be fined up to €100.000 and receive prison sentences of up to five years.”

van den Brandhof, says creating a due diligence approach is a continual process that must improve every day.

Jumbo also publicized its human rights policy in 2019. A Jumbo spokesperson admitted that ‘price agreements in the chain must not be used as an excuse for labor violations.” This was in response to the question of whether there is an investigation into CBL, their branch association in Southern Europe. Oxfam says, in 2019, Jumbo undertook to conduct human rights impact assessment three times a year and to publicize their findings. Both Jumbo and Albert Heijn will set up a complaints structure according to UN guidelines. Farmers and workers can have their complaints about working conditions and wages investigated, and solutions can be sought. LIDL TO INVESTIGATE SPANISH BERRIES This year, Lidl published its new human rights policy. According to Oxfam, Lidl will proceed on two levels. They have promised to release the entire policy. Albert Heijn

and Jumbo only committed to publishing the investigations but did not indicate how they would do them. Lidl has also said they would develop a policy about gender equality, something many other supermarkets do not yet pay enough attention to, says Oxfam. When asked about its due diligence policy in Southern Europe, Lidl’s representative, Chantal Goenee, indicated that its recently published Code of Conduct applies to all supplier agreements, regardless of in which country the supplier is active.

“We also do risk analysis as part of our due diligence. Based on the products and various risk indicators, we consider how high the risk of human rights abuses is in specific products from certain countries. This risk analysis is not limited to products from ‘developing countries’. All products and countries of origin are analyzed. That means we also look at products from, for instance, Italy or Spain, where, indeed, human rights abuses also, unfortunately, occur. That is why, in the coming year, we will do a Human Rights Impact Assessment on Spanish berries.” ORGANIC TOO? Organic farming legislation does not have any additional demands on good working conditions. That is why, at the Dutch organic supermarket chain, Ekoplaza, working conditions are an important focal point. This supermarket reacted to the KvW program’s reporting. They, therefore, opt not to buy from trading houses and spot markets. Instead, they form direct partnerships with growers and producers that mostly do organic trade from a pioneering spirit. Some control via local expertise plays a role here. For example, in Italy, EkoPlaza has been working with the Barchitta family for many years. This has led to a longstanding


In the case of Dutch mushrooms, social grievances have practically been eliminated, says Fair Produce

partnership with a range of suppliers, who are frontrunners in all areas. EkoPlaza recognizes the issues in Spain that are now in the spotlight. “Here too, it is sadly, well-known that there are still many cultivation companies that do not work with contracts, and so, abuse the situation. What is going on in Almeria will also gain attention elsewhere in Spain. That is why we often use our cooperation with Solid Organic Link,” explains an EkoPlaza spokesperson.

“This organization has been specially set up to improve farming, monitoring, controls, logistics, and communication in Spain. Here too, we want a good chain partnership - just as in Italy - that allows us to receive good products for a good price.” This organic supermarket is trying to find this in the Netherlands too. “Here too, we know some seasonal laborers are not always treated fairly. We have had this topic on our fruit and vegetable department’s agenda for some time now.” THOMASOL GESTIÓN, S.L. ALICANTE – ESPAÑA WWW.THOMASOL.EU T: +34 965 060 305 M: +34 669 636 873

NO MORE HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS IN THE DUTCH MUSHROOM SECTOR In its program, KvW focused on Southern Europe, but not even a decade ago, there were abuses in the Dutch mushroom sector. As a result, Fair Produce Nederland was founded in 2011. This is a chain mark of quality that guarantees products meet demands created by employees who have been treated fairly - they get a fair wage, according to Dutch rules and regulations, have access to suitable housing, and work under good conditions. Now, 95% of companies in the mushroom sector are Fair Produce NL certified, and social abuses have been just about stamped out, says the organization’s chairperson, Uli Schnier. Fair Produce is specifically focused on the Dutch mushroom sector, but could, with adjustments, be suitable for other sectors and countries too. “The internationally better-known GlobalGAP has a social component - GRASP - but this is mainly aimed at problems outside Europe, such as the ban on child labor.

It does not focus on, say, underpayment like that highlighted in the KvW broadcast. There are plans to expand GRASP with Fair Produce modules, but these are still under discussion. Every sector and country required a tailormade approach when it comes to eliminating violations. That complicates things. Fair Produce was a success because all the stakeholders backed it. Rules and regulations can only prevent abuses if they are enforced thoroughly enough. Because the risks of abuse and exploitation of labor migrants crop up easily. Internationally, this has not yet been arranged very decisively,” concludes Uli. (ML)  maaike@mgfruit.nl charlotte.vollaard@oxfamnovib.nl pauline.van.den.brandhof@ah.nl corporatecommunicatie@jumbo.com csr@lidl.nl www.ekoplaza.nl info@fairproduce.nl

Your personal contact, locally situated in Spain for more than 15 years, offers a fully transparent sourcing of all kind of Spanish fruit & vegetables.

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<<< This i s Jac

As th e 3rd gener 100-ye ation ar-ol of an d f over a mily the c reato busin r of J ess, h Potat e is ac va oes a n den O s we k o rd now i t tod a y. His p assio n for his c potat rafts oes, m a n ship, const h ant q is uest lates f o r t pot the ato innov ation s, and his c also harac t erist persi ic, stent appro are “ ach, baked ” into DNA o the f Jac van d Oord en Potat oes. And i n the tradi same tion, Potat Jac v oes h an de as co n Oor somet me up d hing with new y et ag ain. A con tinua tion of th e pas t . A fa revol milia ution l, ary l ook. Jac = LO VIN G PO TAT OES!


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Hip and happening!

Over the years we have started to eat potatoes in a different way. The diversity has increased, preparations became more extensive and the portion size per meal has changed. That is why we are going to help you choose in a new, thoughtful way!

Visit for inspiration and recipes

MORE INFO? ARE YOU INTERESTED AND WOULD YOU LIKE TO KNOW MORE? ASK YOUR DUTCH FRUIT AND VEGETABLE EXPORTER ABOUT JAC VAN DEN OORD’S POTATOES. MORE INFO AT WWW.JACVANDENOORD.NL OR CALL +31 (0) 73 599 9191.

o m o r p our t! h c t a W deo firs vi Scan the QR code or go to:


This is how we traditionally choose potatoes, based on their texture when cooked. As the main ingredient for a delicious stew, or for pan-fried potatoes.

When the cooking method and type of dish determine the choice of potato, such as jacket potatoes, French fries, or baby potatoes to go with asparagus.


We can also help if you want something special in terms of colour and taste. For example, a lovely purple Vitelotte or a really tasty La Ratte potato. Or perhaps you’d prefer new potatoes from Malta?

When the size of the potatoes is an important consideration, choose one of our special size products. Like our “golden babies” if you want a really small potato.


Potato

New potato packaging range combines old Dutch traditions and new habits

‘Meet the Family’ makes it easier for consumers to choose What do you think of when you think of family? Contentment and togetherness, sibling rivalry, or your grandparents' warmth. Perhaps a favorite distant aunt you don't see very often. We're all different, and everyone has their needs and customs. Yet we form a whole - it is all in the family. In the Netherlands, Jac van den Oord Potatoes has played in on this. That is with its new packaging concept, 'Meet The Family'.

T

hese are exciting times for Jac van den Oord Potatoes. This potato wholesa-

ler is introducing a new packaging range. And that during a global pandemic. Is that really a good idea? "Of course, we discussed whether we were doing the right thing. It is a virtual introduction. We can't receive customers in person. All while we're so keen to show them what we've worked so hard on," says Leon van den Oord. "But postponing wasn't an option. 'Meet The Family' is ready for the market. Also, we're very proud of the result and want everyone else to enjoy it too." With this new assortment, the wholesaler is responding to the changing potato consumption. A change that has been happening for some time. Leon remembers a moment in 2008 well. He and his father, Jac, were sitting on a restaurant terrace, discussing the subject. They both decided things had to change. "Back then, the shift in consumption behavior called for innovation. In the following years, we introduced all kinds of new products. Those were

Leon: “We want to make it easier for our customers to sell potatoes. The new assortment’s layout is based on a purchasing decision tree and helps with that decision. Basic - the name says it all - are potatoes as they have been known for years. People can use these for basic preparations, like stews or traditional meat-and-potato meals. With Special Purpose potatoes, the preparation method and use matter. These include grilling, roasting, potatoes

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for fresh chips, or the potatoes that accompany asparagus. For consumers who want something special in terms of color or flavor, there are the Taste & Colour potatoes. These are, among others, purple Vitelotte, La Ratte, and a mixed color packaging. Finally, there are the Special Size potatoes, like the smallest potatoes, our Baby Gold potatoes. That’s for when size is decisive in making a choice.”

complete with our own packaging, label, appearance, everything. We had to keep switching gears to keep up with the times. We eventually had seven different labels and managed to surprise the market time and again. But there was no consistency. Until now."

'MEET THE FAMILY' Two years ago, the company began developing a new packaging concept. After an extensive preliminary study with various customer groups, they drew up the first plans. "We took these to several went to marketing agencies. It was suggested that


Jac be the face of 'Meet The Family', which was quite a shock. He had passed away in 2017, so the loss was still raw. I dare say we needed some time to get used to the idea," explains Leon.

"That was until we realized there could be no better way to tell our honest, real story. Our father, Jac, is the company's namesake. He had such passion, pride, and enthusiasm for the potato wholesale business. He worked hard work and was always looking for the latest sector ideas. These, along with his characteristic perseverance, were his hallmarks. It is in our family business' DNA. He was Jac van den Oord Potatoes, as we know it today's foundation. We're grateful to him for that; it's a wonderful tribute." The company's commitment and passion for potatoes are clearly reflected in this new range - continuing old, trusted traditions with a fresh yet familiar look. The Jac family consists of Basic Potatoes, Special Purpose Potatoes, Taste & Colour Potatoes, and Special Size Potatoes. "We've started eating differently. There is more diversity, and extensive and international preparations. Portion sizes have changed too. In the past, there were only potatoes that were

cooked in different ways. And almost everyone had a supply of potatoes in their house. Now, consumers often decide what to eat on the day," Leon continues.

"The new assortment has the correct potatoes in the proper packaging for any given potato meal. That helps people choose. What is special about the packaging is its look. It has specific colors, clear pictograms, and QR codes. These refer shoppers to the company's new online recipe and inspiration platform, www.LovingPotatoes.com. Also, the packaging is as recyclable as it comes. And we use matt foil, which prevents green discoloration."

VIRTUAL INTRODUCTION COVID-19 made this packaging range's introduction somewhat challenging. But Leon admits he doesn’t like to play it safe. "And that's entirely in line with the new assortment. We made striking, unusual choices with it too. Think of the colors and materials we used. Being bold in the market suits us." Since customers couldn't come to the wholesaler, it went to them. The company sent clients a fun video message, revealing Jac and the new packaging. The video is chock-n-block with information and inspiration—everything for an ultimate experience.

Soon, we will introduce special grill/bbq potatoes, the Grillers. We also want to do more with convenience.”

“An introduction of the assortment abroad will follow too. All the material has been translated into English, French, and German. So we can also serve international end-users. There are so many more possibilities. It is also good that potato consumption is starting to reach a tipping point. It confirms what we knew all along - potatoes are versatile, sustainable, and healthy. Totally hip and happening," concludes Leon. (CH)  leon@jacvandenoord.nl

By now, all Jac van den Oord Potatoes' clients have 'met the family'. And Leon is pleased with the enthusiastic response. "The element of surprise worked out as we'd hoped and the range was well received,” adds Van den Oord. “That gives us energy for the assortment's further roll-out because it's not over. Jac van den Oord always keeps moving, as families do. Now, for example, we have potatoes that pair very well with asparagus in the range.

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always growing

FARM FRESH PRODUCE FARMFRESHPRODUCE.COM 1-800-606-9267 GROWN IN THE USA


Sweet Potato

Steven Ceccarelli, Farm Fresh Produce, USA

“No matter what, we will continue to focus on exporting sweet potatoes to Europe” This year, North Carolina-based Farm Fresh Produce celebrates 10 years of growing and marketing sweet potatoes. Originally from Montreal, Canada, President and CEO Steven Ceccarelli came to the United States 10 years ago to develop the export market for sweet potatoes. “Exports are the reason the company was created,” he shared. “No matter what happens, my goal is to make it work overseas.” Currently, about 85 to 90 percent of the company’s product is exported overseas.

E

urope is Farm Fresh’s key export destination and a dedicated distribution center in the Netherlands supports shipments across Europe. “We had an office in Maasdijk, but last year, during the height of

the pandemic, we opened an office with storage and distribution capacity in Poeldijk, currently employing four people.” The main reason for the expansion in the Netherlands is to have better quality control and

better re-packing abilities. “We have our own Quality Control staff, which has proven to be greatly beneficial. The Dutch authorities are extremely strict when it comes to collecting tariffs and even on product that doesn’t meet the quality standards, taxes are still being charged. That’s the exporter’s loss. Because we have our own quality control staff, we are able to assess the product, provide the final results to the authorities, and only pay tariffs on product that meets the quality standards. This saves us from overpaying,” he said. Of course, Ceccarelli is hopeful the new US President will re-negotiate the tariffs. “He is more pro-Europe trade than our previous President, but no matter what happens we will pick ourselves up and find a solution.“ In addition to Europe, Farm Fresh also sends product into the United Arab Emirates and Qatar. How has Brexit impacted sweet potato exports? “With the UK leaving the European Union, import tariffs on sweet potatoes have been eliminated, which has encouraged most companies to push more product into the UK. “However, administratively, exporting to the UK has become a mess. The country had months to prepare for the exit, but it was not well executed, making exports to the UK challenging in a different way. AGF Primeur • 2021

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Sweet Potato

CEO Steven Ceccarelli

AMERICAN-GROWN SWEET POTATOES STILL PREFERRED The United States is known for growing high quality sweet potatoes, but they are still a relatively new product in Europe and gradually, more European countries are exploring growing sweet potatoes themselves. Would that result in increased competition for exporting companies like Farm Fresh? “In Europe, there is still a lot of room for consumption growth whereas in the United States the wholesale markets didn’t see any growth last year,” shared Ceccarelli. One rainbow in the sky from the US perspective is that sweet potatoes were part of the USDA’s Farmers to Families Food Box program created during the pandemic. This has fueled consumption at the domes-

tic retail level. However, in the years to come, consumption growth will be driven by Europe. “Back in the day, we researched the opportunities of growing sweet potatoes in Spain and possibly other countries, but the majority of our customers asked us to stay with American-grown sweet potatoes. As a result, we have not expanded into other growing countries yet. However, if the tariffs remain, we may need to consider growing in other origins. That’s something we are currently exploring, in partnership with growers.” NO MERCEDES FOR THE PRICE OF A PEUGEOT What does the future hold? “Like in every business, there is a customer for everybody.

Some customers only care about price while product origin as well as food safety are subordinate. At our company, we focus on quality, food safety, and sustainability. We won’t offer the cheapest product, but we will be somewhere in the middle. You just can’t expect to pay the price of a Peugeot and drive a Mercedes.”  For more information: Steven Ceccarelli Farm Fresh Produce Tel: +1 (910) 920 9871 steven@farm-fresh-produce.com www.farm-fresh-produce.com

August 1 instead of September 1

How greenhouses help advancing the start of sweet potato harvest In North Carolina, the largest sweet potato growing state in the United States, sweet potatoes are typically harvested during the month of September. After harvest, the product is cured and sold out of storage until new harvest starts again the following year. “Our philosophy is to have a new crop earlier and earlier every year,” says Steven Ceccarelli with Farm Fresh Produce. To make this happen, the company has heavily invested in growing

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sweet potato plants in greenhouses prior to transplanting them into the field. This is the first year of large-scale use of greenhouses for the company. “Since we don’t have to worry about the weather, the seeds were planted in the greenhouse around February 10, which has given us a significant head start,” shared Ceccarelli. “In the past, when everything was outdoors, we wouldn’t be able to start planting until the middle to end

of March. This helps us in reaching our goal of starting harvest around August 1 instead of September 1.” Why is it important to start harvest earlier? “Europe is a key export market for us and some European retailers source from other origins during the summer,” commented Ceccarelli. Moving up harvest by a month cuts out one month of our customers sourcing from somewhere else. This makes a real difference.”


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Vision

Jantine Heemskerk and Peter van Duijvenbode, Heemskerk, the Netherlands

“We’ve finally reached the level we planned for, pre-COVID-19”

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In 1960, Wim Heemskerk laid the foundation for Heemskerk. He started producing processed bags of soup vegetables and selling them at the Amsterdam wholesale market. Wim was the latest generation of a true Dutch vegetable-selling family. Sixty years later, that one-man business has grown into a modern company where, per week, between 3,5 and 4 million packs of vegetables go to large retail and fast food chains. Wim passed away in 2018. But his son, Cor Heemskerk, has been at the helm of this processing business since 1989. Cor is also Heemskerk's Managing Director. In this interview, we talk to Commercial Director, Jantine Heemskerk, and Operational Director, Peter van Duijvenbode. We discuss market developments in this COVID-19 year, and the new building plans.

ter understanding of how you can improve your processes too."

How have you experienced this corona year? Peter: "It had and is still having a huge effect on the organization. We have 1,100 employees, including temporary workers. You don't want to take any risks with them. We immediately took measures with partitions between workplaces, staggered breaks, and so on. From the beginning, we were very strict in sending people with

“That applies to fruit salads, too. Promotions and the weather affect these sales more. Although we had good weather, the summer peak was lower than in other years. On the other hand, the weather benefitted a category like fresh packs. We expected to reach the predetermined budget level this year. I do, however, think this corona crisis will bring about structural shifts. For example, more people are real-

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complaints home. Fortunately, we've had relatively few infections. By the end of September, only one person had tested positive. By now, more people have become infected. But thanks to a tight internal triage and source and contact follow-ups process, we've been able to limit the spread. All these efforts cost a lot of time and money, but we quickly got to grips with the situation. Along the way, you gain an even bet-

Jantine: "It also provided an impetus to get the work done. Our turnover got a huge boost, certainly during the stockpiling weeks'. Sales of stir-fry and soup vegetables were through the roof for several weeks. After all, you can't store our processed vegetables for too long. At some point, the supermarkets got less busy. We are, however, seeing a change in consumer behavior. The coronavirus pandemic is definitely affecting meal salad sales more than we anticipated. People mostly eat these out of home, so these sales dropped.”


izing the importance of healthy food, and ordering shopping online has also taken off."

How important is the Dutch market for you, and where do the export opportunities lie? Jantine: "Currently, the Netherlands still makes up 85 to 90% of our revenue. But, we do want to reduce our turnover share in this country. We've now started in Germany with [the online store - ed] Picnic. We hope the long-awaited processed vegetable breakthrough will finally take off there. The German retail market is quite conservative and often has the same, low price products. In the Netherlands, the processed vegetables' share is 30-35%, but Germany has only gone from three to five percent. So, there is movement, but it's sluggish.”

“I believe the Dutch figures are also possible in Germany, but relatively little has changed there in the last ten years. And COVID-19 has slowed the focus on innovation a bit. That's what makes our partnership with Picnic so interesting - these are the consumers who are open to new ideas. Just the data we're accumulating in this way alone is invaluable. We're delighted to be able to take this next step. We're interested in the Belgian and Scandinavian markets too. And we are developing a concept for a Polish buyer." Your competitor, Hessing, has chosen to open a branch in Venlo, close to the German border. Would you consider that? Jantine: "No, we want to work from a single location as much as possible. And we want to do that in Rijnsburg, where our roots lie. We aim for 100% delivery reliability and

are 99.8% there. The more locations you have, the more complicated that becomes. Cor's grandfather always said, 'Everyone should take care of business where they are'. Our new building is going to be right across the street from our current premises, and that's complicated enough as it is”. What’s planned for the new building, and how will it look? Peter: "It will be ready by the summer. It will increase our business area from 27.500 to 43.500 m2 in two phases - quite an expansion. We'll be scaling up the new production lines in phases too. We'll then have enough capacity to be able to absorb future growth quickly. A keyword in the new building is robotization. We've been working on that for five years now and will roll it out further in the new building. For example, we already have robots that distribute our clients' branch orders. We have robots that decore iceberg lettuce and add, for instance, dressing sachets to packs. That means we already have far fewer people on the line. There are still many things we want to automate, but these are long-term projects.”

“We're pleased to have started this process five years ago. You can't suddenly start using robots. It takes a lot of time, patience, and money. It works out eventually, but always takes longer than anticipated. After all, you're dealing with natural products that aren't all uniformly shaped. Endive is an example of a product that's difficult to process automatically, although we're now close to succeeding in that. Of course, we still use more traditional methods too. A few years ago, pumpkins were still a small item. Now, we process a good amount of these every day. We've developed a special

line for that. As a result, we've reduced that line's number of people from ten to three. We've invested a lot in this product, but in this way, you get better control of the costs.”

“In the long run, we'll have to make do with having fewer workers. Even before this coronavirus pandemic hit, it was a must. Labor costs skyrocketed, and suitable people have become scarce. This trend is set to continue in the future. The great thing about a modern, automated processing plant is that you also become more attractive to new employees. Our current people don't consider it a threat to their jobs either; rather, the opposite. We are, however, broadening the scope of automation. Along with our supplier Sormac, we're also working on the washing process. Here, sustainability is an important factor too. We don't want to waste water unnecessarily and so are working on purification techniques on that front.”

“We're also continuing to develop our internal logistics. We already have AGVs (Automated Guided Vehicles) at the current premises' order picking sites. These are for our bulk clients. And we want to make full use of these in the new building. Volume and our factory's layout are crucial for this. But we also want to have a good system for the smaller volume products. We've had a 'small series factory' within our plant since September. It's a kind of mini factory where we do very small product runs. So, now, we can innovate faster. For example, our ice cream lines process 2.000 kg/hr. You'd rather not interrupt that for a 60kg batch of a new mixture. Now, we have a solution for that. "

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Vision

Much has happened in 60 years. How will you celebrate this? Jantine: "Our founder began producing and selling bags of soup vegetables. He processed about 100 bags a day in the shed behind his house. That has grown into days in which Heemskerk produces 800.000 packs. None of this would have been possible without all our employees' and our suppliers' commitment and our clients' confidence. We're celebrating the company's 60th anniversary modestly, as befits us. We've treated ourselves, and have a special anniversary delivery truck. We've also published a glossy Heemskerk magazine. For now, COVID-19 means a big party is out of the question. We prefer looking ahead rather than back, although I also enjoy looking at the old photos."

How important is it to be a family business? Jantine: "We don't know any other way. Funnily enough, many people think I'm Cor's daughter, but we're from the same generation. Our grandfathers were brothers, so Cor is my first cousin, once removed. I think that's perfect. We're closely related enough to be familiar with each other's quirks, but at the same time, not so closely related that we spend all our time together. So it's not that we're all brothers and sisters here. However, Heemskerk has all the characteristics of a family business. We invest carefully but don't calculate all our spending figures down to the decimal point. We also don't wait for thick reports from research firms. Pragmatism prevails. The challenge is to retain that culture. As you grow, you need more outside specialists, but we try to keep the organization level.” “Everyone must be approachable and aware of what's going on in day-to-day operations. We make quick decisions and like to get in there ourselves. That suits the industry we're in too. You have to be able to change gears quickly. If a new client approaches us, 128

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we don't say no. However, in all this hustle and bustle, you have to keep calm and have a clear view of everything. You have to be able to cope with that. If you can, it's the greatest job on earth. We see that people either quickly discover that it doesn't suit them, or they stay for a very long time. It's therefore not a question of whether we want to remain independent. Neither Peter or I wouldn't fit well within a more formal corporate organization."

much difficulty. For several raw products, this certification doesn't apply year-round. But, we've made good deals regarding this with our retail clients. However, we don't consider PlanetProof as an end in itself. Ultimately, we want to buy all our raw materials sustainably, regardless of the quality mark."

“For products such as overseas fruit, we often work with Dutch importers. Naturally, you can't fully anticipate weather extremes. However, we've carefully classified our raw materials into risk profiles. Based on that, we determine the minimum and maximum volume we need and ensure a good geographical spread. If need be, we may well have to buy vegetables in, say, the United States. But these are exceptions and, thanks to the geographical spread, we can usually cope well with any weather extremes.

Are you discussing the introduction of specific processing vegetables with breeders? Jantine: "We talk about many things with breeders and our growers. Mildew resistant varieties, for instance, are an important focal point. But shape and size specifications can be important too. We sometimes have different wishes than supermarkets. But these things take a long time; it's not something you just arrange. We strongly believe in chain partnerships. Farmers are also very knowledgeable. They know exactly when which varieties can best be used. We like to utilize this expertise because it gives you better insight into your raw material efficiency. When you consider how much wastage there is sometimes in the chain, it's sometimes better to buy a different, more expensive variety. In this, we can and want to take the next step."

Where do you get your raw products? Is that sustainable, especially given the recent years' extreme weather? Peter: "In the summer, we use mostly Dutch products. We adhere to 'the closer, the better' motto. This also cuts out unnecessary transport distances. In the winter, we work with Spanish, French, and Italian suppliers too. These are often contacts we've been working with for years. We prefer to get as much as possible from the source. Any links in-between must add value; otherwise, it makes no sense. That's why we source most of our raw products directly.”

Is PlanetProof important to you? Jantine: "Just about all our raw products are on their way to PlanetProof or similarly certified. Many companies in our sector seem to be apprehensive about getting this certification. But we're delighted with how we've been able to manage this. Most of our range fitted into this scheme without too

How big is your organic assortment? Jantine: "We have very few organic products. We have them in our range because certain clients request them, but these volumes are minimal. We sell products like organic rocket or spinach in reasonable volumes, as single items. But we have limited volumes of complete organic stir-fry vegetable mixes. We also prefer sustainable products to organic ones. Organic farmers often use animal manure. That's a source of pathogens, which is at odds with our strict food safety standards. In terms of quality and presentation, organic products don't always meet our standards either. We also think people want sustainable products, and those aren't necessarily organic."


Is the market becoming more competitive? Jantine: "Everyone prefers convenience and, in recent years, this has developed especially fast in the retail sector. Simultaneously, the processed vegetables market has matured, and its explosive growth has come to an end. An increasing number of foreign companies are entering the market. In the Netherlands, the cake is pretty much divided between the established business-

es. Outsiders always say that; but nothing lasts forever. That's why we must continue focusing on innovating our products, processes, concepts, and cost-efficiency."

Last question - what are the Christmas trends? Jantine: "We think fresh packs will be particularly popular. We have several nice variants, which people can use in starters, main courses, and desserts. We're making it easy

for people, but they still get to prepare the dishes aided by an instructional video or a QR code. And we're told our rocket, Brussel sprouts, and pumpkins are standard Christmas winners." (IH)  www.heemskerkfresh.com

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The expanding reach of Southern Hemisphere citrus, grapes, and avocados:

“Both production and demand continue to grow” Latin America, the fruit basket of the world, whose Southern Hemisphere geography makes it a perfect complement to the Northern hemisphere demand, is a produce powerhouse that has only been growing and expanding its production over the years. San Miguel, whose headquarters are in Argentina, has been experiencing this growth first-hand in their operations located throughout Latin America as well as in South Africa. For each of their key products – citrus, avocados and grapes – the company has been expanding their production to meet expanding demand.

T

he growth of citrus during the pandemic has been a much-discussed topic, and San Miguel’s experience with the

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demand for this category only corroborates the common theme: consumers can’t get enough of citrus as an immunity-boosting

fruit with a health-halo. “In addition to the high vitamin C content, the natural protecting peel of citrus fruit is also attractive to consumer,” says Agustina Fabbio, San Miguel’s Commercial Director of Fresh Fruit.

San Miguel’s citrus season was ready to kick off when the pandemic broke out last year. This brought the company a unique set of unprecedented challenges for the 2020 season. “We had to move fast, setting up protocols and implementing safety measures that allowed us to ensure the supply of our fresh fruit as well as take care of our employees, partners, customers and con-

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sumers’ health,” Fabbio says. In addition to each of these new challenges, the company faced a demand that far outpaced any they had ever seen: “During the 2020 season, we doubled our mandarin shipments to the US. The US imported a record volume of more than 310K tons of mandarins from the Southern hemisphere. San Miguel accounted for almost 20,000 tons of the total with our supplies from Peru and Uruguay. Moreover, the orange prices have improved considerably compared to the downward trend we’d been experiencing in recent years,” she shares.

GLOBAL EXPANSION: NEW MARKETS AND OFFICES In addition to the boost in demand for mandarins and oranges, the company’s lemon season also saw great movement. “We doubled our shipments of Argentine lemons in 2020 compared to 2019. San Miguel took part in the first historic shipment of lemons and oranges to China after the market was opened for Argentinian citrus. In China, Argentine lemons, South African oranges and Peruvian mandarins are traded in wholesale markets, in tea houses in the south of the country, in retail supermarkets, fruit shops and through e-commerce. We increased our presence in this market by partnering with JD.com, China’s largest online retailer, to market our products with the San Miguel brand on their website,” says Fabbio.

To further expand their presence in the Chinese market, the company is planning on opening an office in Shanghai in the near future: “China is the largest fresh fruit market in the world with increasing imports in the double-digit territory year-over-year. Our South African and Peruvian origins are ideal for exports to China and having an office in Shanghai will help us be closer to our customers and in the same time zone, which is key for Asian markets,” says Fabbio. For grapes, specifically, San Miguel is working to gain market share in this region: “China is the world’s largest grape producer and the presence of the local green seedless grapes helps to drive a lot of demand during their off-season. San Miguel’s green grapes enter in an early window, just before Chinese New Year, with premium quality Sweet Globes, mostly, to satisfy demand,” Fabbio shares. The company is also working on expanding their presence in Europe by opening an office in Spain. Fabbio explains: “This has been a goal of ours for a long time, but it was postponed because of the pandemic. But we are finally making it happen this year in 2021. We see a huge potential in the European market, especially with our

In their grape production, San Miguel has been working on transitioning more and more to the premium seedless varieties. “We produce four varieties of seedless grapes on our Chepén farms in Peru: Sweet Globe®, Sweet Sapphire®, Jack’s Salute®, and Sugar Crisp®. In our last season, 74% of the portfolio corresponded to premium seedless grapes, mostly sweet globes, which are the most popular in the market. The Sweet Globe variety enters during a strategic window, when the California grapes are winding down and before the Chilean grapes enter the market. To complement their volumes, we also offer the Sugar Crisp variety in this window,” says Fabbio.

Agustina Fabbio

Argentine and South African citrus programs. Having a team based in Spain will give us access to the expansion we seek.”

ROOM FOR GROWTH REMAINS FOR AVOCADOS AND GRAPES Outside of citrus, the company’s other important products are avocados and grapes. Both of these sectors have been seeing continued growth, and, according to Fabbio, both will see continued expansion in the future. “When it comes to avocados, we have been significantly raising our production volume over the last two years based on the productivity improvement of our existing crops and we hope to consolidate that growth this year,” she says.

THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE LATIN AMERICAN MARKET While they have a lot of experience exporting across the globe, San Miguel is also seeing success with more local distribution. “We expanded our exports of citrus produced in Uruguay to Brazil, doubling our volume of mandarins to that market. Brazil is a very interesting market for Uruguayan fruit because the transit time is only one to two days by truck and the consumer can experience a very fresh piece of fruit almost directly from our orchards,” says Fabbio. San Miguel exports lemons, Navels, Novas, Afourers and Ortanique mandarins into the Brazilian market. Similarly, San Miguel’s citrus volumes sold domestically into the Uruguayan market have also expanded. “Our overall supplies grew, and we sold 1.5 times as much citrus into the local market of Uruguay,” says Fab-

While the increased production throughout the world has also been increasing the competition, the avocado market continues to have room for growth and be full of opportunity. “More than 40% of our volumes go to the US, with Europe and Asia being the next largest markets. Even though the market is getting more challenging every day since growers from Peru, Colombia and South Africa have been growing new hectares, destination markets increasingly appreciate and consume this fruit. That is why we see great opportunities for this fruit to continue to grow. Our intention is to continue increasing our exports into the USA market as it is the natural choice for Peruvian fruit, due to logistical ease, as well as expand our business in Asia, specifically in Japan,” says Fabbio.

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bio. “Our lemons also continued to be sold into the local Argentina market with stable volumes, and we sustained an expansion in distribution of mandarins in Peru. Finally, we are also growing strongly in the Mexican market with both our grapes and mandarins,” she adds.

LONG-TERM PROJECTIONS: FOCUS ON SUSTAINABILITY San Miguel has worked on introducing sustainability initiatives that will guide their long-term growth. “One of the major global challenges is volatility – to which weather is an important contributor. Short- and long-term fluctuations in weather patterns and climate change can have extreme

impacts on agricultural production, resulting in drastically reduced crop yields. We have seen strange weather patterns in the regions that we produce in, such as rain in areas that should be a desert like in our northern fields of Peru, or extreme droughts in several areas of South Africa last year,” says Fabbio.

To prepare themselves to continue to deal with this challenge, San Miguel has an Environmental Risk Management system that allows them to monitor possible risks, optimize processes in the event of any crisis, and implement strategies to mitigate the impact, such as through the incorporation of mulching or netting. “In alignment with

our Sustainable Development Goals, we launched our Action for Climate 10-year plan in Argentina in 2020 to reduce our carbon footprint. The initiative integrates our Global Greenhouse Gas Inventory, with the use of +67% of renewable energy and the preservation of +60% of our land as a native forest that acts as a carbon sink. Thus, we will capture more than 370,000 tons of CO2, which is equal to what 700,000 people produce at home. We hope to contribute the longevity not only of our company, but also of the land we work on and the planet as a whole,” Fabbio concludes. 

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Stone fruit

Stone fruit in italy

Frost damage in the north, abundant production in the south A plant that particularly resents low temperatures is the apricot tree. In the south of Italy quantities are expected to increase for all varieties.

2

021 has been marked by frosts in northern Italy, one of the areas with the highest production of stone fruits such as peaches, apricots, plums and cherries. From mid-March onwards, the temperature dropped below zero several times, particularly in regions such as Emilia-Romagna and Veneto. "However, the situation is quite different compared to 2020, when damage to stone fruit reached 80% in Emilia-Romagna. This

year the damage is still present, but to a much lesser extent".

Specifically, "In some areas where the temperature has dropped 4-5 degrees below zero, losses of up to 50-70% have been recorded. These are limited areas, in the most disadvantaged flat areas or in the valleys". Apricots are the most frequently damaged fruit, as the blossoming had already taken

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place. "It must also be said that this year the flowering was abundant, much higher than average, so the harvest will not be as jeopardized as in 2020," said the director.

The Veneto region, especially in the fruit-growing area of Verona, also experienced severe temperature drops.

"Temperatures were below zero for several days in a row. These frosts, that started since the beginning of March, have greatly stressed the plants and affected those that were already in bloom because of the heat of late February," explained Francesca Aldegheri of Confagricoltura Verona. We


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Stone fruit

know that significant damages will occur to stone fruits, particularly to apricots, for which we foresee up to 80% loss. There could be damage to cherries too, in particular to the varieties whose flowers already opened. There could be some loss also for peach trees, but minor, because the plants are more resistant than apricots." By contrast, in southern Italy there was no frost, and the production is expected to be very abundant, which may compensate the losses in north Italy.

tion trend has been marked by a tendency of gradual expansion. The extension of the cultivation areas in the most important Italian regions mirrors the general trend, both in the northern part of the country, in Emilia-Romagna and Piedmont, and in the central-southern regions such as Campania, Lazio and Basilicata, with the prevalence of positive results and steady growth even in the worst cases. In the very short term, the forecasts are still positive for this fruit and a slight increase in Emilia-Romagna and Campania is confirmed. This trend is the result of new investments, which have had positive outcomes, especially recently. A substantial stability is expected, also facilitated by a good balance between abatements and new investments in Piedmont and Lazio. The aforementioned regions represent about 80% of the currently productive orchards in Italy.

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The estimate of the productive areas of plums expected for 2021 is slightly higher than 12,000 hectares (CSO Italy analysis based on Istat data).

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PLUM AREAS RECOVERING SLIGHTLY In recent years, the Italian plum produc-

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On the whole, the Italian production potential should settle at a little more than 21,000 hectares for year 2021 (Source: CSO Italy).

for potatoes and onions

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However, in recent years the planting of trees has slowed down compared to the recent past (first of all Emilia-Romagna and Basilicata) and this should lead to a more constant potential in the coming years.

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APRICOT GENERAL SITUATION The apricot tree has seen an increasing interest from producers, including as an alternative to peaches and nectarines, too frequently penalized by market crises, with an annual and progressive growth of newly planted trees. At the same time, there has been a progressive extension of the harvesting calendar and consequently of the sales period, which only lasted a few months in the past. This was made possible thanks to the introduction of a wide range of new varieties, both early and late, as a result of a selective work carried out by many breeders.

This positive trend is perceived in many Italian production areas, although with some differences. There has been a significant relaunch and expansion of the crop in Emilia-Romagna, which has reinforced its leadership year after year, with a recent increase in cultivation to about 6,000 hectares. The increase in potential has also been significant in Apulia, which currently boasts a surface area of about 1,500 hectares, as well as in Basilicata, with over 3,900 hectares. More varied is the situation in Campania, characterized by a good mix between tradition and innovation, with an extension of 5,200 hectares.

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COMPLICATED SITUATION FOR PEACHES AND NECTARINES Compared to the fruits analyzed above, the picture is much bleaker for peaches, pears and nectarines, which for many years have been suffering a progressive and almost inevitable decline in production potential. Peaches and nectarines are a product cultivated throughout the Italian peninsula, and in almost all of the main production basins there is a decline in the productive capacity, with a limited renewal of plants due to the scarcity of annual investments in plants, which is absolutely not sufficient to compensate the large amount of land annually destroyed. The fact that the regions of northern Italy are witnessing a progressive decline above the national average is a well-known fact and has been reported for some time now. This has led to lower harvesting, and consequently, to lower commercialization of weekly medium-late productions, with fruit growers choosing to invest in other types of fruit production over the past years. Up until a few years ago the drop in investments in the North was mitigated by

the southern cultivated areas, characterized by a good balance between felling and new investments. However, more recently even in those several central-southern production basins which boast a long tradition a change of direction is being witnessed, with annual abatements higher than replanting of trees.

expansion in some northern areas of Italy, such as Trentino Alto Adige and Piedmont.

The total production potential for all Italy in 2021 could be around 29,000 hectares (CSO Italy analyses based on ISTAT data). 

Generally speaking, the production potential of Italy is expected to be below 50,000 hectares for the 2021 campaign, considering the sum of peaches and nectarines (Source: CSO Italy), with a slight prevalence in favor of nectarines. STABLE SITUATION FOR CHERRIES The cultivation of cherries in recent years seems to show a certain stability as a result of the trends of the most important national production basins.

In this case, the prevailing region continues to be Apulia, which concentrates about 65% of the national production areas, followed by other traditionally productive regions such as Campania, Emilia-Romagna and Veneto. Finally, it is worth noting the rapid

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Exoten

Peter van Teeseling, Bel Impex, NL

“We want to depend less on original import countries” Baby corn, plantains, cassava, yardlong beans, and sweet potato. These are a few of Bel Impex's wide exotic fruit and vegetable range. These niche products can also increasingly be found in supermarkets. All the more reason for the Dutch wholesaler to focus on product expansion.

"W

e're big in small products, the niches," begins Bel Impex's Peter van Teeseling. "Specialty greengrocers used to sell these tropical or subtropical products. Now, more people are eating them. Some products like butternut squash and ginger started small. Nowadays, they are indispensable in supermarkets. Good import lines have been built up for them. When a niche becomes big, there is, of course, a risk. Large businesses could take them over from you. However, our added value lies in our knowledge, experience, reliable network of growers, and capacity. And our partners know that." FOCUS ON RETAIL Bel Impex was founded in 1992 in Amsterdam. For many years, this exotic fruit and vegetable wholesaler operated from two locations. Mainly retailers, market vendors, and smaller store owners came to the Foodcenter in Amsterdam to buy their exotics. The Forepark in The Hague served as a distribution center for supermarkets. Six years ago, Bel Impex moved into a new building. "We still do a limited amount of cash-and-carry. Over the years, our focus has shifted more to retail and wholesale. 138

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We supply our exotic products to both large and ethnic retailers. We also supply fruit and vegetable traders, exporters, and wholesalers in the ethnic channel." Bel Impex has a wide range of exotic fruit, vegetables, and herbs. They also have sweet potatoes, and field and root vegetables. Most of these come from the Dominican Republic, Honduras, Costa Rica, and Thailand. The exotic specialist imports these products directly from a fixed group of growers. They have been working together for years. Major products include lemongrass and yardlong beans from the Dominican Republic. Then there are red-and-white sweet potatoes from Honduras and chayote from Costa Rica.

The assortment also boasts various Thai vegetables, like baby corn, lemongrass, turmeric, pandan leaf, and galangal. "These products have a lot of growth potential. Chayote is one such product. This product is exported mainly to the ethnic retail sector and southern Europe. But we offer them actively in the Netherlands. The chayote is versatile and has a pleasant flavor. It is also attractively priced and is very healthy.

You’re sorely mistaken if you think all the exotic fruit and vegetables have been discovered already. Bel Impex is still finding new kinds. For instance, the exotic specialist recently started supplying purple Taro. This resembles regular Taro, a root vegetable from Costa Rica. But the purple variant is still unknown on the market. Bel Impex is also engaged in product development. They are, for example, adding the finishing touches to fresh packs. These are for making tom kai soup and curries. For this, Bel Impex works with partners and a culinary consultant. This consultant also tries out and tests known and unknown products’ various uses. Demand is increasing, but retailers are lagging. But foodies and health magazines are discovering chayote, which could have positive implications for retail," says Peter.

RED-AND-WHITE SWEET POTATOES HAVE GOOD GROWTH POTENTIAL Bel Impex thinks there are good opportunities for Honduran red-and-white sweet potatoes. That is in both the Dutch market and the rest of Europe. This is the company's main product. This variety's flavor makes it far more accessible than the popular orange kind. "It's not as sweet. So, it's better suited to northern Europeans' diets. Certain ethnic customers also prefer this white-fleshed sweet potato."


A Chayote field in Costa Rica

"The demand from the retail channel for these sweet potatoes is gradually rising. We have invested a lot in orange sweet potatoes lately. That is due to the high import duties on US products. This will remain the case until the start of the Egyptian season. We are, therefore, also looking at possibly sourcing sweet potatoes closer to home. From the Netherlands or Spain, for example."

Bel Impex has been working with a permanent group of Honduran sweet potato farmers for a long time. "We can, therefore, offer a competitively-priced, quality product. We import well-known varieties like Evangeline and Beauregard, but also Blesbok and Bushbuck, the red-and-white variety. We are not only GlobalGAP certified, we are also the first in Honduras to have a sweet potato cultivation social compliance

program. That means the production sites offer their laborers fair, safe, responsible working conditions," continues Van Teeseling. COVID-19 MEANS LESS FREQUENT AIR FREIGHT SUPPLY The COVID-19 pandemic is not very problematic for Bel Impex. The demand for exotic products is good. Peter believes this

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Exoten

looking at local cultivation of our existing assortment," explains the sales manager. "We're also considering moving farms in the countries of origin. They must be less affected by factors like extreme weather conditions."

Chayote is a versatile, accessible fruit

is partly because many people are spoiling themselves at home. They are doing so by cooking extensively and are prepared to pay for this. "That compensates for the loss on the foodservice side. What is difficult is the supply, especially air freight. The restrictions mean less frequent deliveries. We used to get products from the Caribbean three times a week. Now it is sometimes only once a week. Fortunately, sea freight imports are going well."

"We realize, even more, that we want to be less reliant on distant destinations. So, we are focusing on local sourcing to expand the supply. For many products, we do not want to only focus on the original import countries anymore. That is for bitter melons, yardlong beans, and many other products. On the one hand, because consumer awareness of food is increasing. On the other, because the demand for exotic products is rising. To ensure a stable supply, we are

JOINTLY STRENGTHENING NICHE POSITION Bel Impex doesn't just want to expand and develop its products. The company wants to become more of a service provider. To this end, the exotic specialist is looking for partners. They, like Bel Impex, are good at niches and want to grow in these. "Think of importers who don't want to or can't invest in logistics, certification, and so on. We offer a platform that meets all major retailers' and wholesalers' requirements. By joining forces, we can offer a broader package of niches, creating a powerful position together. The possibilities for cooperation vary. It could even be the complete logistic process. That includes store-level order picking, warehousing, and commerce. We're happy to relieve others of this burden," Peter concludes. (CH) 

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Herbs & Exotics

Peter Grundhöfer and Christin Neubauer on convenience goods, herbs, exotics, and the new normal

Grundhöfer Ltd strengthens its position in Frankfurt and Germany in a year of crisis

Grundhöfer Management-Team

The Grundhöfer company celebrated its 100th anniversary last year. Due to the pandemic, of course, there could not be any big celebrations. Nevertheless, the family-owned company, headed by Thomas Grundhöfer and Luigi Iervolino, is already looking to the future in these troubled times. We spoke to Peter Grundhöfer and his daughter Christin Neubauer about a strong year for the company and for the Frankfurt site. NO FUTURE WITHOUT CONVENIENCE GOODS On January 1, Grundhöfer Ltd took over MSG Frucht in Erlensee from Compass Group Germany. The company is thus integrating the convenience element at its main location opposite the Frankfurt wholesale market site. "We want to position ourselves more broadly through this forward-looking step. Convenience is a growing part of the industry and, certainly in the crisis year that was 2020, it became clear that it is advantageous to diversify, covering dif-

ferent segments of the fruit and vegetable trade."

This way, Grundhöfer is also taking advantage of the existing infrastructure in Erlensee, just 30 km apart, where MSG Frucht has its headquarters in a state-of-the-art building complex.

SOUTH AFRICAN HERB CULTIVATION IN FULL SWING However, the convenience division is not the only innovation at Grundhöfer. "For

the past three years, we have been in the process of setting up our own herb cultivation in South Africa. In December, things were ready. In addition to working with local growers and buyers, we now have our own production area. We had the first shipments of herbs from our own cultivation site in our assortment at Easter." The focus of the herb cultivation is on the classics, such as chives, thyme, sage, basil and rosemary. These are particularly in demand around Easter, of course. But fresh herbs for the well-known "green sauce" also came in from the South African location. "It's important to always have the right herbs at the right time, which is what makes this project so challenging and exciting." South Africa is known globally for its multi-billion dollar fruit trade, while herbs are (still) a niche: "In the winter months, AGF Primeur • 2021

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of business. If there are any shortages, the management and the community are committed to keeping everyone afloat."

He is proud of the creativity of his colleagues: "We are all looking for alternative sales channels and there are many ingenious ideas with which the crisis can be overcome. The weekly markets in the Rhine-Main region are booming, and that certainly helps. Overall, the sense of community is remarkable. We all want to take responsibility for our colleagues and stand by them as best we can."

many herbs are traditionally exported from the southern hemisphere to Germany, as domestic greenhouse production is more expensive and time-consuming. South Africa lends itself very well as a supplier. The air transport connections are good, so we can guarantee a quick turnaround."

LOGISTICS HUB FRANKFURT AM MAIN With the largest cargo airport in Europe and its central location, Frankfurt am Main is virtually ideally placed to be the Germany’s logistics center. Previously, exotic fruits imported by some of Germany's largest importers were distributed throughout Germany by a logistics company in Kelsterbach. As of November of last year, this venture was integrated by Grundhöfer as well.

"We collect the goods and pick them at our site, which has been expanded specifically for this purpose. This way, we complement our day-to-day business even further: our logistics were already well positioned before, but now we are able to expand this division and use it more efficiently," says Grundhöfer.

"This means we now combine all stages of the chain in our company," says Christin Neubauer. "We can offer our customers a 142

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service from the producer to the consumer; this is the trade of the future. So for a business like ours, this acquisition was a great opportunity. Food retailing continues to evolve. Demands are becoming more complex and more individual. Our raison d'être lies in the intermediate steps, for which the retailer is too big and the producer too small. We close this gap with our additional services."

ONE OF THE MOST MODERN WHOLESALE CENTERS IN GERMANY While wholesale markets in many places are suffering from declining demand and political discord, Frankfurt consistently demonstrates its strength, even in times of crisis. "On the one hand, we of course benefit from the good position of the Frankfurt fresh food center," explains Peter Grundhöfer, "On the other hand, we also strengthen the location ourselves, through our investments." He adds that they are also supporting each other through the crisis: "The Frankfurt Freshness Center was newly built some 15 years ago, and so a platform was created that is very interesting for the entire region. Accordingly, we see fewer losses, even now, in times of crisis. No one has had to go out

ONE YEAR INTO THE CORONA CRISIS WHAT WILL STAY WITH US? The pandemic has of course had an impact on the market and consumer habits, and this is something that is noticed at Grundhöfer as well. "We are under the impression that people are buying more consciously and that they are getting more in touch with the product again. I hope that this will result in less waste in the long term. Another trend is toward fresh goods and away from meat, which clearly suits our industry as well. These changes have been in the making for some time, but they have been accelerated again by Corona."

The crisis has lasted too long to simply be forgotten, Neubauer said, "The virus is affecting people's consciousness. People are thinking more about their previously 'normal life', and many changes may not even be conscious yet. Within our company, we definitely give more thought to things we just used to do habitually. This includes visits to trade shows or face-to-face meetings. We expect more meetings to take place online in the future. That saves time and, for example, emissions, because then we don't have to drive as much. Of course, this doesn't replace face-to-face contact, but it makes it much more intensive." (LH)  c.neubauer@grundhoefer-frankfurt.de


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Asparagus

The Greenery Product manager, Rob van der Weele: “Anything can still happen. What’s certain is that a decent volume of asparagus is on the way.”

Asparagus season off to a good start in Belgium and the Netherlands Harvester to hit first production marks

It has been a spring of extremes in the Netherlands. Just before Easter, it seemed like summer. Asparagus sales were booming. Then winter hit again. What will the rest of the season bring?

O

n 2 March, The Greenery auctioned the first asparagus of the new season. This supply, from a heated greenhouse, got off to a good start. That was thanks to the beautiful spring weather. “It’s a good start,” says Rob van der Weele, product manager at The Greenery, in the week after Easter. “However, the storm in mid-March had consequences. It made it cold in the greenhouses, and a few mini-tunnels were also damaged. Farm store and supermarket sales began too. These things combined meant sales increased considerably towards the Easter weekend, while there wasn’t that much available. That made for high prices.” 144

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COLD GROUND DELAYS CULTIVATION At that time, the greenhouse supply had reached its peak. The tunnels and mini-tunnels were coming into play. “We had a few summer days before Easter, then snow and cold weather hit us.” Rob says that cold front will affect the coming supply. “But our growers in the different provinces experienced considerable temperature differences. In Limburg, there was a good layer of snow on the tunnels. That’s very unusual for that time of year.” Full soil production should have begun by week 15. The first of these asparagus should be available by now. But Rob thinks this will be delayed. “It could be a few days

to a week late. The soil needs temperatures of above 10°C to warm up.”

The Greenery’s acreage has remained virtually unchanged this season. Van der Weele says although new fields have been created, the older ones have mostly been plowed. “These haven’t been replaced. Most growers want to see how things go. The COVID-19 pandemic creates uncertainty, for example, regarding workers. The farmers have finished planning. Working with the same group of people from Poland and, increasingly, Bulgaria and Romania helps. But, if just one thing changes or something happens, you are short of people. That makes it difficult.” CAUTIOUSLY OPTIMISTIC MARKET EXPECTATIONS Rob is cautiously optimistic about the season. There is an increasing demand for


“This year, we’re well ahead of where we were last year, which bodes well for the rest of the season,” says ZON’s Asparagus product manager, Rick Mengers, optimistically

asparagus from various channels. “Last year, the hospitality industry fell away and was sorely missed. Now they are better prepared. They have take-away options, meal boxes, and so on. The retail sector is also keen to buy. Nevertheless, it is hard to predict how the season will progress. If it warms up, things can suddenly speed up. Then all the asparagus will come onto the market at once. And whether or not the restaurants reopen is undoubtedly a factor. It is all unclear. What’s certain is that there will be a considerable volume of asparagus.” JOINT MARKETING CONTINUES The harvesting machine’s arrival is a nice

development. Rob expects good things from automated harvesting. “One of our growers started using this harvester this season. It is becoming increasingly difficult to find affordable laborers. This could be a breakthrough, especially for the somewhat larger growers.” He is also optimistic about Dutch asparagus’ joint marketing. “We’ll continue with the generic campaign with the Dutch Asparagus Center. So, some influencers received an asparagus box. These products will again receive plenty of attention from key retail customers and mass media like television. And we will inspire people with innovative recipes via #snacksperge on our verseoogst.nl consumer platform,” Rob concludes.

Specialist in apples, pears and strawberries

“MUCH BETTER THAN LAST YEAR” Dutch cooperative, ZON fruit & vegetables, has had white, as well as green, asparagus at auction since early March. “There are still meager volumes of green and purple asparagus in the Netherlands. But these are definitely increasing. The colored hybrid varieties, in particular, are picking up steam. Growers increasingly see a future in green and purple asparagus. That is due to the rising demand for these colored varieties. You don’t have to peel them, and they are available almost year-round,” says asparagus product manager Rick Mengers. ASPARAGUS CRAZE UNLEASHED Rick reflects on the week after Easter after the asparagus season had gotten under-

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Asparagus

way. “You wouldn’t have thought so, but it was summer for a few days in the previous week. That benefitted greenhouse and heated tunnel asparagus cultivation. Growers have even harvested the first asparagus from unheated mini-tunnels. We, therefore, had a good peak at Easter when an asparagus craze erupted.”

According to him, that was partly due to availability which had been relatively limited until then. “There was less overseas supply too. Prices have been good since the season began in the first week of March. It’s also good that the hospitality industry is being creative with takeaway menus and the like. It helps, and the season is already very different from last year. Retail demand is particularly high this season.”

Roel De Winter of Orca says, “’A’ asparagus cost twice as much as the ‘AA’s, which is very unusuall

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At the time of this interview, unheated farming still had to get going. Once temperatures start to climb, Rick expects plenty of supply, beginning in mid-April. “Production is generally declining. Acreage is decreasing, which results in lower volumes. There aren’t many new plantings either. Growers will only start planting again from now on. This is true for the rest of Europe too. All in all, we are certainly optimistic. We are

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already starting this year with a considerable head start compared to last year. That bodes well for the rest of the season.”

HARVESTING MACHINES BEING INTRODUCED Contrary to expectations, for the first time, ZON saw less demand for peeled asparagus last year. That was an eye-opener for this growers’ association. “People had more time and were cooking elaborate meals. That seems to include peeling asparagus themselves. This trend should continue this year. However, this sector’s biggest development is surely the arrival of Sparter and Avl harvesters. These are going to be put to full use for the real production this season. We will have to wait and see how it works out in practice. But machine harvesting is the future, especially for the larger growers,” concludes Rick.

“’A’ ASPARAGUS COSTLIER THAN ‘AA’” By mid-April, Orca’s Roel De Winter has joined the asparagus season discussion from Belgium. The winter weather irrefutably affected the supply. “The demand for asparagus has been good from the start of the season. Sales also went more than well on Easter weekend. There wasn’t too much

availability, which resulted in top prices. The cold weather is slowing production down, so there’s little supply; no more supply than previously. Prices of, on average, €6/tray, remain high.”

He says AA asparagus (those with a diameter of 20-28 mm) are typically sold to the hospitality and foodservice industry. But these are currently remarkably cheap. “The As are more expensive, which is very unusual.” Roel is optimistic about the rest of the season. Once the weather becomes warmer, supplies will rise too. The first asparagus from both heated tunnels and unheated mini-tunnels are making their appearance. “There’s still a lot more coming. Prices will drop a bit. But as long as the good demand remains, I foresee an excellent asparagus season.”

his brother, Tom of Rotom Tomatoes, will move into new premises.

Construction on the new building started recently. “These are two different companies, but that means we complement each other nicely. The new site will be equipped with all the modern conveniences. It also offers a lot of extra space, allowing us to work more efficiently. So, we are definitely ready for the future,” Roel concludes. (CH)  R.vanderWeele@thegreenery.com Rick.mengers@royalzon.com info@orca-nv.be

CONSTRUCTION HAS BEGUN Roel has also not done much new planting. That is the case with all of Europe’s growers, including those who supply the wholesale sector. “Only the larger growers continue to plant. Smaller growers are going out of business.” Asparagus is an important product for wholesalers, alongside chicory and open-field chicory. Next year, Roel and

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Asparagus

At only just over a second, the cutting is lightning-fast and results in almost no damage

New harvester put to work The time has come - this season, Teboza will put the Sparter harvesting machine to work. This Dutch asparagus cultivation company has been involved in developing Cerescon’s new harvesting robot for years. “This year, this self-driving harvester can start to truly prove itself in our sandy soils,” says Teboza director Rik Kursten.

“A

fter several years’ testing and tweaking, it’s high time to get started with machine harvesting. Unique to Sparter is its underground detection. That allows the asparagus to be harvested before they grow out of the bed. That prevents purple discoloration which benefits the asparagus’ quality. This detection method reduces harvesting frequency too, and that increases harvesting capacity.” VIRTUALLY NO CUTS Rik says this technique can locate asparagus that are as much as eight centimeters below the surface. How does that work? “The ‘feelers’ conduct electricity and so recognize the difference between soil and asparagus. As soon as they find an asparagus spear, the ‘feelers’ retract. The asparagus is then cut off and pulled out, all in one motion. This takes just over one second and results in virtually no cut damage.” 148

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Looking ahead, new fields are being planted with suitable asparagus varieties and a little more space between the beds. The company is envisioning longer rows too. That will reduce the harvesting machine’s number of rotations. However, the Sparter does a fine job on the asparagus fields as they are now. Teboza’s goal is for the Sparter to harvest roughly 15 hectares this season. This machine replaces 15 to 20 workers. Teboza will use the harvester in two shifts, with two employees present at all times. They will operate the machine, handle the asparagus, and so on. “It’s certainly exciting. We have good expectations, but we also have to be realistic.”

“We’re bound to run into something in the coming weeks. We’re used to working with machines, but this is much more complex. Using a genuine robot on an asparagus field in all kinds of weather is a challenge. In any case, we should gain a lot of insight this season. We’ll see what works in practice and what needs attention. Then we can up the Sparter’s use next season,” concludes Rik. (CH)  r.kursten@teboza.nl

Teboza director Rik Kursten: “After several years of testing and tweaking, the time is ripe to put the Sparter to real use.”


New asparagus variety characterized by earliness, economic benefits Paul Huijs, sales manager at Enza Zaden: “While developing the Deleza F1, we considered aspects like earliness, quality, and average stem weight.”

“The Daleza (E225W.004) comes into production early and has high stem weights right away. That means growers get uniform sizes and immediate financial benefits,” says Paul.

It has taken years of development and field testing. But Enza Zaden can finally introduce a new asparagus variety, Daleza (E225W.004). The asparagus market is a new one for this Dutch seed breeding company. Daleza (E225W.004) is a new hybrid variety, which adds something extra to the market, says Enza Zaden. How does it do that? “While developing the Deleza F1, we carefully considered the market requirements.”

“D

uring the trials, we looked at things like earliness, quality, and average stem weight. We then linked those to financial aspects such as weekly prices and harvesting costs. Daleza (E225W.004) comes into production early and immediately has a high stem weight, ensuring uniform gra-

Discover

ding. This is financially beneficial for growers from the get-go,” says Paul Huijs, sales manager at Enza Zaden.

lings. This year, breeders have sown more seed. Daleza (E225W.004) is a mid-early to early harvesting variety. It is being introduced in the BeNeLux, Germany, and France. “Asparagus is popular in German and Dutch cuisine. Consumers make an effort to buy the product fresh. The Daleza (E225W.004) responds well to that. This variety tastes good and is available early in the season. People will, therefore, return to buy the same variety,” concludes Paul. (CH)  p.huijs@enzazaden.nl

Last year, plant breeders sowed these seeds on a large scale at nurseries for the first time. Farmers are now planting these seed-

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Asparagus

“This new packaging, made from recycled solid cardboard, offers optimal product protection while keeping the asparagus fresh,” says Britt Kerstens, marketing manager at Solidus Solutions.

Packing for smaller households Asparagus are fragile, requiring specific packaging. Packaging producer, Solidus Solutions has come up with Small Portion Pack 2.0. “The new packaging is made from recycled solid cardboard. It offers optimal product protection and keeps the products fresh,” says Britt Kerstens, marketing manager at Solidus Solutions. “The asparagus can be transported in our Small Portion Pack. The supermarket can then be packed directly on their shelves.”

T

he Small Portion Pack (SPP) can hold up to 1.5 kg of asparagus. That is enough for one to two people. The packaging was specifically designed to make it easier for consumers. “There’s sufficient open space above the asparagus tips, so they don’t break. The packaging has an open frame, too, so you can place the asparagus directly

“We expect good things from this product. That is partly due to its broad appeal. Its target market includes asparagus growers, retailers, wholesalers, and cooperatives. The packaging offers protection and an attractive product presentation,” Britt concludes (CH)  Britt.Kerstens@solidus-solutions.com

in it. That speeds up the packaging process. We made the open-close principle more efficient by placing a small tab on the side. In the first version, there was a full band on the front that you had to open. This can now be opened completely, which makes it much easier to add asparagus by hand.”

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New variety saves a lot of money

Last year, the Limgroup breeding company introduced a new kind of asparagus. The Maralim is the latest mid-early variety. It has been extensively tested for several years. That is both in this Dutch company’s own trial fields and in practice with growers in Northwest Europe. “These showed that Maralim production can be up to 17% higher than the standard mid-early varieties,” says Stefan Pohl, Asparagus product lead at Limgroup.

“I

ts high yield and good grading provide higher volumes of Class 1 asparagus, resulting in higher sales per hectare. The good head closure also allows for an adjusted harvest rate while maintaining consistent quality. So, farmers can reduce labor costs. All this can amount to a saving of several thousand euros per hectare.” “We’ve had years of local and international practical experience. That shows that Maralim performs optimally when plant-

ed at 5 plants/m2. This is a typical white, straight asparagus variety. It’s highly breakage, hollowing, discoloration, and rust-resistant. Most of the stems are 20-28mm in diameter,” explains Stefan. You can sell this asparagus in all the channels, from retail to farm store sales. The breeding company is confident of this product’s quality and flavor.

asparagus variety. In recent years, it has made its way to Germany. Stefan explains that southern German farmers have been using this variety for several years. That is in the early harvesting period. “People appreciate the Vitalim’s, earliness, high yield, and uniform stems. More than 70% of this product falls in the 16-24mm grading.” “Vitalim achieves the best results in Northwest Europe with a planting density of four to five plants per square meter. It’s suitable for both double row and heated cultivation. The plant is characterized by its robust foliage and it hardly ever gets leaf diseases. Several independent trials show that Vitalim is also the only early variety that is suitable for replanting,” Stefan concludes. 

EARLY, UNIFORM VARIETY The Vitalim is a southern European early

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Vegetables

Primaflor-Campo-Pulpi

Eduardo Córdoba, General Manager of Primaflor:

“For the first time in 20 years, the market share of ready-made salads has declined.” The coronavirus pandemic has reshaped the market for fresh-cut lettuce and other fresh-cut leafy vegetables, whose growth had been unstoppable over the last 20 years. Eduardo Córdoba, General Manager of Primaflor, the largest lettuce producer in Spain, specialized in fresh-cut leafy vegetables, sprouts and salads, has analyzed the segment’s current situation, as well as the paradigm change brought about by the pandemic, the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union, the growing popularity of Asian vegetables such as Pak Choi and, in short, the challenges brought about by the current changes in consumer habits. The company, with over 40 years of history, has more than 6,000 hectares for crop cultivation and four handling and processing plants.

"U

ntil the arrival of the coronavirus pandemic, fresh-cut lettuce was growing in terms of volume, while regular fresh lettuce was in a stable situation. With Covid-19, the latter started recording remarkable growth after March 2020. There was an increase in consumer purchases of iceberg and romaine lettuce; basic, quick 152

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and easy-to-prepare products. After that, there was an overall stabilization in the category," says Eduardo Córdoba.

"It is noteworthy how, for the first time in 20 years, the market share of bagged, ready-made salads has fallen. In our case, it has not been affected in terms of overall

Eduardo Cordoba - managing Director

volume, although we have seen a drop in sales to the hospitality channel, which in turn has been offset by the increase in sales of small bags in supermarkets. Besides, some of our launches this year have helped us gain a little more market share. However, the pandemic has taken a big toll on our category, especially from March to summer.


As the paradigms of eating out have changed and the catering industry has closed down, on top of all the lockdowns, people have been eating more at home, which has had an impact on the snacking and ready-made food category," says the Primaflor representative.

"At Primaflor, we had developed a new range of products to strengthen our current ranges, and they have been affected by the big and constant changes that the market has been undergoing week after week," he says.

FOUR CLEAR STAGES IN THE EVOLUTION OF SALES SINCE THE BEGINNING OF THE "COVID ERA" Enrique Cordoba has divided the "Covid era" into four stages, evaluating the impact on sales of fresh-cut vegetables:

Eruption of the pandemic, first lockdown, from March 2020 to early summer: "There was a drop in the demand from the cater-

due to the pandemic. In turn, consumption in supermarkets stood at a stable level, with overall sales at this time of year falling by around 10-12% less than we expected. This was a result of small supermarkets gaining a larger market share during the first months of the pandemic thanks to their proximity to consumers, which was beneficial for Primaflor, since it is present in many of these supermarkets."

ing sector of between 20 and 30%, together with growth in the large retail sector, which helped compensate. At Primaflor, we fortunately don’t sell only fresh-cut products; a lot of our sales are of regular fresh products, so the fall recorded by salads in the catering trade was covered by the increase in fresh or bulk product sales in supermarkets." SUMMER: "The hospitality sector remained "dead"

AFTER NOVEMBER: "Coinciding with the export campaign, we saw a drastic drop in sales (around 30%), since in many of the destinations, where we have wholesalers, most of the products were intended for the food service sector." AT PRESENT: "It has not been possible to compensate for the overall drop in consumption. Supermarket chains no longer demand as much volume as they did in March."

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Vegetables

"For us, the key was that, when the current fiscal year started, our production and harvesting programs had been adjusted, as we had foreseen the drop in sales that was coming. It was risky, but it was the right thing to do. We now have a better understanding of the market in which we operate. We thought that 15% of our sales corresponded to the horeca (hotels, restaurants and cafes), but thanks to the coronavirus we have realized that it actually accounts for 25% of our turnover, since many of our market distributors are intermediaries in the horeca channel," said Primaflor's General Manager. THE CHANGES BROUGHT ABOUT BY BREXIT The United Kingdom is a very important market for this company, where it also has its own production. According to Eduardo Córdoba, there have been important changes since Brexit came into effect.

"Due to this new geopolitical configuration, all movements of goods from or to the United Kingdom are subject to customs formalities and controls. This has translated into higher costs for companies in the agribusiness sector in Spain, not only from January 1 onwards, but also prior to that. Given the great legal uncertainty there was up until the last days of last year, companies were forced to implement contingency plans and to seek external professional advice, both in Spain and in the United Kingdom. The commercial relations with our British clients were, are and will continue to be flawless, as both parties are adapting to the new 154

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circumstances to ensure final clients do not suffer the consequences of this political decision."

"In any case, it is clear that the last minute agreement reached by the European Commission and the British Parliament will facilitate the commercial exchange of goods and services between both economies. The implementation of tariffs on Spanish fruit and vegetables would have affected us negatively, since our costs are not comparable to those of third country producers, and neither are the guarantees in terms of quality processes, traceability and food safety. The agreement makes it clear that both parties continue to have a mutual preference for the exchange of goods and services, and this is evidenced by the current fluidity of the logistics."

"PAK CHOI HAS GROWN BY ABOUT 30% IN RECENT YEARS" Germany is traditionally the country with the highest consumption, followed by the UK. Spain has also jumped on this trend due to the greater influence and interest in ethnic and Asian cuisines. "Pak Choi has recorded a growth of about 30% in recent years and we believe that this trend will continue, not only for the green Pak Choi, which is the most popular, but also for the white and the Pak Choi sprouts. At Primaflor we have been producing Pak Choi since the 1990’s and it has become one of our flagship products," says Eduardo Córdoba. The company is a pioneer in the use of hydroponic production systems, such as

NGS, which are used with green Pak Choi, among other crops. "We make use of lands that would be unproductive with conventional cultivation. NGS is a hydroponic system with recirculating water with which we achieve significant water savings, since there are no losses due to leaching or evaporation from the soil. Each liter of water is recirculated 18 times. Thus, last season we reduced water consumption by 30-40% compared to traditional cultivation. In addition to making the planting and harvest remarkably easier, we reduced the use of phytosanitary products by around 30%," says Primaflor's head. "40% of consumers would choose lettuce as a product never to be missed at home if there was another full lockdown"

The lockdowns and the new daily routines have led to major changes in eating patterns and, therefore, consumer purchasing patterns. The growing importance of eating a healthy diet to avoid health issues or gain too much weight has led to an increase in the consumption of fruits and vegetables; a trend that is here to stay.

The increase in vegetable consumption during the lockdown and the subsequent consolidation of this trend is also evidenced by the fact that, when asked which product they could not miss in the fridge if there was another lockdown, 40% answered lettuce, as revealed by the internal study "Green Lovers Observatory". According to Eduardo Cordoba, Primaflor's


main challenges lie in innovation, which in turn is intended to make life easier for the consumer. "We want products that make life easier at home and which also serve as an alternative to eating out. Developments focused on sustainability are (and are increasingly becoming) more important for consumers, particularly in large-scale distribution, which is already demanding alternatives, in this case to plastic. Without any doubt, we have to continue investing in development and sustainability."

in the field, warehouse, farms, crops, etc. To stop innovating is unthinkable, it is part of our DNA. We are currently investing heavily in development and we are adapting to digitalization in all production processes to bring added value to the company," he says. 

However, "innovation is linked to uncertainty, since 12 million Euro are invested in innovation

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C i#t#r #u s

Javier Usó, manager of Frutinter:

“Spanish citrus has an edge over the growing productions from other Mediterranean origins, but we must react now” The 2020/2021 citrus season is at a very advanced stage in Spain, where volumes are going to be smaller than expected because of lower yields and quality losses due to the impact of the weather. The results will not be bad for the growers, as prices at origin have been high. However, the rainy and windy days at the beginning of the year have caused there to be slightly more discards and the final results may be affected to different extents, depending on the production area.

T

his is reported by Javier Usó, manager of Frutinter, one of the leading Spanish companies in the production and marketing of citrus fruits. This Valencian firm plans to reach 140,000 tons of citrus fruits this year, with two thirds of that being oranges and the rest clementines and mandarins. Its manager analyzes the current situation of the citrus sector, as well as the changes that are taking place at the production level and in the markets, given the rising competition from third countries. ANDALUSIA CONTINUES TO GAIN GROUND ON VALENCIA AS A CITRUS PRODUCER IN SPAIN "It is true that Andalusia is gaining ground with this crop, and with a growing trend. Without a doubt, the ownership structure has a lot to do with it, especially given the business globalization processes currently underway in the world of fruit and vegetable production and marketing," says Javi156

AGF Primeur • 2021

er Usó. "It is also becoming essential to comply with all protocols concerning food safety, environmental protection, social commitments, good agricultural practices, etc. And all this, as you can imagine, is very difficult to achieve if farms are organized in smallholdings, as is the case in the Region of Valencia."

"The new plantations in Andalusia will naturally bring the opportunity for advantageous changes in the supply and therefore, we must know how to articulate the production and marketing so that this does not entail a greater 'deseasonalization' of the Spanish citrus season. However, we believe that the main competitor that Spanish citrus is going to have is the other producing countries of the Mediterranean basin, particularly Egypt," he says.

Javier Usó, manager of Frutinter

"We have an edge over other expanding Mediterranean origins, but we must react now"

Citrus exports from other Mediterranean countries are quickly expanding on a global scale and are having an ever greater impact on the commercial operations of Spanish exporters. How will Spain face this competition, or how should it face it?

"The marketing of Spanish citrus is being affected and will be increasingly more affected. We are talking about countries with growing citrus sectors and with good climatic and soil conditions for the crops’ cultivation. Besides, their social-labor conditions have nothing to do with ours and this gives them a significant advantage in


terms of costs," says Javier Usó. "The great increase in the production observed in these Mediterranean producing countries is starting to take a toll on the Spanish supply. The Valencias from Egypt are overlapping with our Salustianas in the juicing market, and in a year like this one, with sales in the HoReCa channel very negatively affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, we are

beginning to notice this very clearly. The late mandarins from Morocco and, increasingly, from Turkey, are gaining ground in the European market. Also, when it comes to premium products, the Orri mandarins from Israel, with their very homogeneous and well-structured supply, are a serious competitor on the shelves of European supermarkets."

However, as an exporting company, Frutinter prefers not to define these origins as a threat, and aims to promote the strengths of the Spanish production and marketing. "They are serious competitors in our 'natural' market, which is Europe. You only have to look at the exponential growth in the harvest in countries like Egypt, Turkey, Tunisia, etc.

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Citrus

Competition is healthy and we must learn to make the best out of our strengths: years of experience, proximity to the market, a huge range of packaging options and exhaustive knowledge about distribution channels. These give us an edge, but we must react now."

Javier Usó believes that action should be taken on several fronts. "Firstly, third countries should have to adhere to the same environmental, quality, food safety and social responsibility protocols that are in place for the Spanish productions. Secondly, and most importantly, we should take advantage of the one disadvantage these countries have, which has to do with the logistics and shipping times. There are several ways to do this and our authorities should become strongly involved in projects such as the Mediterranean Corridor. We should also continue researching and allocating resources to new varieties and new packaging formats that will make it practically impossible for our competitors to catch up. Lastly, we should promote the consumption of European products at a European level."

INVESTING IN AUTOMATION AND PRECISION AGRICULTURE TO GAIN COMPETITIVENESS This spring will mark the start of the expansion of Frutinter's facilities in the Spanish municipality of Onda, in Castellón. There will be new machinery for the pre-sorting of citrus fruits on arrival at the packing plant. These new facilities will also feature new vehicles that will facilitate the automation of transport within the plant, as well as the total automation of traceability, among other aspects.

"Clearly, if we do not invest in more efficient production processes, we will become less and less competitive, as production costs are still high," says Javier Usó. "We are actually working on the implementation of Smart or Precision Agriculture, trying to save water and nutrients required by the plants, since they themselves tell us what they need at each stage of the day. The results are bearing fruit, and we see that the plantations are performing better, with a greater amount of fruit per hectare."

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"CHINA COULD GO FROM BEING AN IMPORTER TO AN EXPORTER OF CITRUS IN NO MORE THAN 7 YEARS" Much has been said about the potential of the Chinese market for Spanish citrus fruits, specifically oranges, which can best withstand the treatments required by the export protocols of this Asian country. Although orange exports to China had been increasing in recent years, they came to almost a complete halt last year due to the drop in the production and the impact of the pandemic on maritime logistics. From 43,677 MT in the 2018/2019 season, exports dropped to 9,284 MT in the 2019/2020 campaign. But does the Chinese market really have potential for Spanish oranges as a premium product in the coming years? "Frankly, I think not," says Javier Usó. "Our premium production can hardly withstand one-month trips and must compete with premium products from other countries closer to China. Also, China is a country that is big enough for everything, and if they need to increase their citrus production for their own consumption, we have

no doubt that they will achieve it in no more than 7 years. It would stop being an importing country and would become an exporter."

"ORGANIC PRODUCTION NOT YET TAKING OFF IN THE SPANISH MARKET" According to data from Ecovalia, citrus cultivation is, after bananas, the fastest growing in the organic sector, although for now, the fruit’s marketing is mainly focused on northern European markets.

"Back in the day, Frutinter did bet on organic farming, but frankly, today we are not as enthusiastic. We believe that the organic production is not yet taking off in the Spanish market, and since we have been trying for many years, we are not very optimistic. It is true that these productions are gaining ground in northern European countries, but it is still a very small share of the total harvest," says Javier Usó.  mkventas@frutinter.com

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Organic

New record for the production of organic apples in Italy As is often the case, not all areas recorded the same production trends. The production in Alto-Adige dropped by 7%, mainly due to spring frosts in some areas, while the production in Trentino increased by 5% compared to the previous year, although it remained below the average of recent years. The Piedmont region shows a steady growth and is now the second largest production area in Italy after Trentino-Alto Adige, with young plants now entering production and with important projects in terms of varietal renewal. Also, the regions of Veneto, Friuli Venezia Giulia and Lombardy have showed signs of a slight recovery, while production in Emilia-Romagna has dropped by almost 8%, hit by spring frosts which caused significant damages depending on the variety.

The total production of apples in 2020 in Italy was 2,119,388 tons, a volume very close to that of the previous year (2,114,112 tons), far from those sustained in previous seasons, namely -8% compared to the average of the previous 5 years (excluding the final balance of 2017), and far from Italy’s production capacity.

F

or the year 2020 the product destined for the fresh market, an amount of 1,873,359 tons, is ranked among the years with lower availability of apples when compared to the average of the previous years.

In terms of volume, the European production context in 2020 was also remarkably similar to that of the previous season, although slightly decreased (10,685,000 versus 10,783,000 tons).

Speaking of varietal diversification, the change of direction introduced a few years ago by Italian apple-growers is starting to manifest its impact.

The Golden Delicious variety, which remains the main Italian cultivar, slightly exceeded 700,000 tons. The Gala variety reached another production record of 380,000 tons and the new varieties, including the so-called club varieties, exceeded 100,000 tons.

The organic production in Italy set a record in 2020, reaching about 190,000 tons, equal to 9.1% of the total. The main area of production of organic products is Alto Adige, followed by Trentino, Piedmont, Veneto, and Emilia-Romagna. According to ISTAT, Italy has 8,235 hectares of organic apple orchards (of which 2,879 hectares in conversion to organic farming and 5,356 hectares already converted). Italy represents 35% of the total production of organic apples in the European Union, which amounts to 511,000 tons (Source: WAPA). THE PROGRESSION OF THE SEASON SO FAR The Italian harvest season started strong in mid-August with the earliest varieties, in a vastly different context compared to that of 2019, which was still suffering from the consequences of the cold storage, not yet emptied of the previous EU-wide record

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1200000 1100000 1000000 900000 800000 700000 600000 500000 400000 300000 200000 100000 0

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Jul/Nov 2020

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production. The month of March was about to mark a decisive turning point, in terms of volumes sold and better quotations, but both Italy and Europe had been overwhelmed by the pandemic, the lockdowns and their consequences. With an Italian production of 2.1 million tons and a European one of 10.7 million tons, and with the most significant contribution of Poland, the market started with a substantial supply/demand balance,

favoring the right quotations and fluidity in trades.

According to the latest data available from Assomela, the apple market in January was dynamic, with good sales and regular destocking. The total amount of Italian apple stocks destined for consumption was 1,020,570 as of February 1, which is 8% less than the average of the previous 5 seasons (excluding the exceptional situation of 2018).

A positive trend was recorded for the Golden Delicious variety, that had one of the lowest stocks ever recorded in February with 415,009 tons, while the Gala variety, despite the record production of almost 340,000 tons, had stocks of 73,170 tons, lower than the previous year. Club varieties also performed very well. Sales in January, which were good both for the domestic and export markets, reached almost 190,000 tons with a total destocking

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Organics

of 853,914 tons that occurred right from the beginning of the season. At the moment, producers' destocking plans are continuing as originally intended without any particular problems.

. wassen

With regards to the organic sector, Assomela has recorded regular sales and confirmed the availability of product until summer. At a national level, sales and quotations are satisfactory, even if the exceptional

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performances of March and April of the previous year are unlikely to be repeated. Last season exports both to the EU, and overseas did not record exceptional performances reinforcing a trend that unfortunately has been ongoing for some years now - while according to data, for the 2020/2021 season, sales outside Italy seem to have shown an upward trend, both in terms of volume and value.

According to Istat, up to the month of November, 350,468 tons of apples were exported, that is 30,000 tons more than in the same period last year, with a strong increase in total value. However, it seems clear that the situation remains highly uncertain and that it is necessary to monitor the evolution of the emergency linked to Covid-19, the new lockdowns in Italy and in some areas of Europe, and the economic consequences also for consumers, who, despite their preference for apples, could have less purchasing power in the following months.

Another factor to be taken into consideration, both in Italy and in the rest of Europe, is the weakening of the Ho.Re.Ca channel and a the halt to consumption in restaurants, canteens and hotels.

In such an uncertain and constantly evolving scenario, a lower supply is certainly allowing easier business exchanges both in Italy and abroad, and satisfactory prices.

Looking to the long term, there are issues that the sector has been addressing for some years now, such as the need for new export markets - last year Italian apples entered three new markets in Thailand, Taiwan, and Vietnam - and the production trend in Eastern European countries, with particular reference to Serbia, Ukraine and the countries of the former Soviet bloc, whose production is visibly increasing in terms of quantity and quality. It is also essential to continue monitoring the development of organic production and the near-future impact of the implementation of the Green Deal and the Farm to Fork strategy in the Italian apple sector.

So far, there are good expectations for the 2020/2021 commercial season, even for the traditional varieties whose availability is lower than usual. 


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De Terp Squashpackers BV innovates with new squash processing line for fresh cubes Recently, the company started processing its organic squashes at the source. De Terp has been an organic arable farm since 1985, in the Dutch Riverlands, specializing in winter squash. Year-round, the company supplies several retailers in the EU. This year, a grand total of 550 ha. of pumpkins are on contract for the northern and southern hemisphere.

of pumpkin but of ‘squash’; edible fruits with thick flesh, that have a nutty, relatively sweet taste,” says Jeroen Robbers, owner and founder of De Terp Squashpackers BV.

Because quality and taste are paramount, a limited number of edible pumpkin varieties with high brix values and a high dry matter content have been chosen. These varieties are excellent for various dishes. These are not the ‘kilo knaller’ varieties (50 tons/ha.), but varieties with a modest yield of 20 tons/ ha. As everyone knows, there is always a negative relationship between quality and high yields, and this is especially true for pumpkins. “We do not speak

It is these slightly harder varieties that stand for the somewhat higher quality. They are of course very much suited to our new cutting and packaging line. We see that the pumpkin is preeminently a product which has an extra added value when pre-cut, because for the average consumer they are not easy to cut by hand. Until now, this has been a negative aspect, but with our own cutting and packaging line for the fresh

New! Squash cubes directly from the source!

cut department, we hope to turn this into an opportunity for the development of a new market. Our focus is therefore on quality, the right varieties, the right growing areas, and year-round supply of sufficient volume. The processing line has a capacity of 1500 bags per hour, which is sufficient to supply several retailers. The sachets are packed carefully, without any additives, and they have a shelf life of over eight days. It goes without saying that our mission is to work in an organic, energy-neutral and carbon-neutral manner. Our packaging for the pumpkin cubes is therefore compostable, plastic-free and bio-based. All organic, Demeter-, QS-, Global Gap-, IFS certified.

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German wholesalemarket

Fresh food centers in this exceptional, Corona-dominated year

German wholesale markets are besting the Corona pandemic Corona has already been part of our society for more than a year, and this was the same for the traders at the local wholesale markets. From the first cases of hoarding and travel bans in the spring of 2020, to the two lockdowns, to the ongoing gastronomy closures and the situation threatening the existence of many wholesale market companies: Here is a summary of this past crisis year.

April 2020

March 2020

Falling sales rates despite hoarding sales

164

On March 22, 2020, the federal and state governments agreed on a comprehensive “restriction of social contacts.” In the wake of this, sales of fruits and vegetables also dropped rapidly. “Our sales rates have dropped 60 percent the last two weeks,” said Nadir Sahin, a trader at Karlsruhe Wholesale Market. “We sold a lot of potatoes and onions last week

because of the hoarding. In this area, we are now seeing the sales stabilize again. Price-wise, the crisis is primarily affecting typical items for gastronomy, such as cucumbers, peppers and mushrooms.” Nadir Sahin operates a cash-and-carry market at the Karlsruhe wholesale market

Cologne wholesale market experiences renaissance Although certain traders in the Cologne market have really faced some hardships, the crisis is generally having a rather positive effect on the wholesale market, said Abdessalem Najar. “Now the importance of the wholesale market becomes apparent. Due to the diffi-

AGF Primeur • 2021

cult procurement situation, people are once again largely dependent on the wholesale market for their daily supplies. This has definitely led to a revival of the wholesale market,” says Najar, Managing Director at Zündorf & Zerres Ltd.

Abdessalem Najar, managing director at Zündorf & Zerres Ltd


May 2020 August 2020 September 2020

“Taking new standpoints into account” The crisis will also change the Frankfurt fresh produce center in the long term. “Every crisis brings changes, but opportunities as well,” says Silke Pfeffer of the Market Office. “The world of food sales

will change as consumers’ eating habits change. The traders in the fresh food center will certainly have to re-evaluate their business concepts, also taking new viewpoints into consideration. The

same is true for the fresh food center itself.”

“The introduction of new products remains a core task” The main clientele of traditional, Stuttgart-based company Werner Ebert Ltd & Co. includes market stockers and restaurateurs. The latter category has suffered significant sales losses because of the Corona crisis. “The catering trade is still far from performing at its usual level,” says Sales Manager Klaus Jürgen

Braun. But the main concern of the fruit trade remains the same, even in times of crisis. “Star chefs don’t cook, they compose. Our job is to provide new approaches to innovative dishes,” Braun reported.

Headquarters of Werner Ebert Ltd & Co. at the Stuttgart trading estate

“This year can be written off“ At Germany’s smaller fresh produce centers, such as in Freiburg, the crisis has had a noticeable impact on business. The slump in sales is mainly due to the loss of the catering and bulk consumption sectors, says Enrico Smolik. “Both sales markets are still suffering

from the Corona requirements. Many large companies are still working in two shifts, which is why some or all of the company canteens remain closed. So this year can just be written off.” Freiburg-based greengrocer Enrico Smolik

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German wholesalemarket

October 2020

“The catering industry is still suffering“ Most wholesale market traders in Bremen specialize in supplying regional restaurateurs and bulk consumers. This also goes for with Fruchthaus Hulsberg, which is why they inevitably have to contend with a drop in sales. Sebastian Samborski: “The catering trade is still

suffering. At the height of the crisis, we lost a lot of sales. In the months that followed, we returned to 80 to 90 percent sales. Right now, we’re seeing another slump.” Sebastian Samborski of the Fruchthaus Hulsberg company

“Sales were higher than they have been in years“

Christian Hoffmann, Managing Director of Becker & Wermelskirchen Ltd

Christian Hoffmann took over as managing director of Becker & Wermelskirchen Ltd at the Düsseldorf wholesale market shortly after the Corona outbreak. “In spring - at the beginning of the pandemic - sales, were higher than they had been for 15 to 20 years,” he recalls. Changes in consumer behavior and increased demand for certain items in some cases led to bottlenecks, with corresponding price

markups. “Chicory was sometimes three times as expensive as usual, during Easter. The same applied to airshipped mangoes, which sold for high prices due to the difficult air freight situation. “We offer high-quality Osteen mangoes from Spain as an alternative.”

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November 2020

Restriction of vegetable sales The closure of the restaurant industry is having an impact on vegetable sales at Berlin’s Fruchthof, says the management of Gemex Handels Ltd. Throughout the year, fresh produce from Italy is delivered twice a week. Typical gastronomy articles are also less in demand, due to the current situation. “Before

the Corona crisis, there were easily 20 pallets arriving at our company every week. Currently, there are only 3 to 4 pallets per delivery; less than half of the normal demand.” Gemex Handels Ltd is based in the central market hall.

Second lockdown accelerates sales decline The consequences of the second lockdown in November were certainly noticeable at the Vienna wholesale market. “We have hardly any orders left for berries and are observing a 60-70 percent drop in sales. This trend already

existed before the lockdown, but now the slump has noticeably accelerated,” says Franz Schwarz, stand manager of Obst Stelzer Ltd, which specializes in soft fruit.

December 2020

Stand manager Franz Schwarz of Obst Stelzer Ltd

“Fresh produce supply still assured“ Despite Corona, the Hamburg wholesale market continues to handle tons of fruit and vegetables. “The supply of fresh produce is assured even under the current conditions,” notes wholesale market manager Eliane Steinmeyer. Despite all the challenges of the past months, the wholesale market has not

had to suspend a single trading day. Since the beginning of the pandemic, however, a clear shift in demand from commercial to private consumption has been noticeable, says the wholesale market manager Wholesale market manager Eliane Steinmeyer in the central market hall

January 2021

Stable retail and wholesale sales The Hannover Wholesale Market mainly serves regional specialist retailers and marketers. In contrast to the catering trade, this sales segment in particular has benefited from the pandemic, says Michael Kowalski, managing director of the Rust Gebrüder company. “In the weekly market trade, sales were significantly higher than usual, particular-

ly during the first lockdown. We, on the other hand, specialized mainly in large kitchens - such as hospitals, canteens, nursing homes and the like. But even in this segment, sales were quite stable and they could be maintained.” Michael Kowalski and son jointly run the Rust Gebrüder company

Considerable growth in organic products

Roy Zylka (r) is one of the winners of the crisis

While wholesale consumption and gastronomy sectors have suffered considerable sales losses, there were increased sales in the food retail sector as well as in the market trade: “Classic market trade is attracting more attention on the part of the consumer. Based on the items purchased, we see that consum-

ers prefer to keep their money in their pockets. Many have lost their jobs or are working part-time. This naturally affects their purchasing power,” says the management of the Essen-based family business,

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German wholesalemarket

February 2021

“Classic market trade attracts more attention“ While wholesale consumption and gastronomy sectors have suffered considerable sales losses, there were increased sales in the food retail sector as well as in the market trade: “Classic market trade is attracting more attention on the part of the consumer. Based on the items purchased, we see that consum-

ers prefer to keep their money in their pockets. Many have lost their jobs or are working part-time. This naturally affects their purchasing power,” says the management of the Essen-based family business. Niklas and Hubert Hengesbach manage Josef Hesse Ltd at the Essen fresh food center

“Return to normality is a long way off“

Peter Nüchter, father of the current owner, at the wholesale market in 2017

Duisburg’s gastronomy sector is also suffering hard sales losses, reported Sven Nüchter, owner of the family business of the same name. “Everyone will certainly be suffering; actual insolvency is luckily still a step further away for many gastro businesses. Therefore, it is

still too early to speak of a wave of insolvencies. No one can predict what the post-Corona world will look like. There is still a long way to go before things will be back to normal.”

March 2021

“The situation is extremely precarious“ For many long-established family businesses in the Munich wholesale market, the situation is slowly but surely threatening their existence. “Will decades of work and effort, put into one’s company now be in vain? For us, it is time to raise the alarm, because the situation is

extremely precarious. A complete sales channel has simply been broken,” Ingo Gutekunst, managing director of the gastronomy wholesaler of the same name explains. The Gutekunst company team at the Munich wholesale market

Volumes for the catering trade have been cancelled again The Leipzig wholesale market is both a contact point for the weekly market trade and a transshipment point for the regional catering trade. “The classic wholesale market stand sales business continues unchanged. At the weekly markets as well as in the specialized

retail trade, we were even able to record higher sales than usual for a while, but since then, this increase in sales has nevertheless flattened out again somewhat,” Sascha Mehlhorn, buyer and seller at Hübler Fruchthandelsgesellschaft reports. In the catering trade, mean-

while, heavy sales losses are still being suffered. “We were already preparing for the reopening of the gastronomy industry, but the first orders have already been cancelled again, until further notice.”

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Retail

Metro AG on challenges in times of Corona

“Staying power and willingness to perform in the restaurant industry should not be underestimated” The current Covid 19 situation poses major challenges for society. For Metro AG too, the pandemic comes with special challenges in operational practice. Even in difficult times, however, the wholesaler wants to fulfil its social responsibility as a food retailer, to give everyone the chance to shop safely and to support retailers in equalizing customer traffic during the pandemic. "METRO wholesale stores worldwide offer ideal conditions for this with their wide assortment of goods, spacious sales areas and the highest hygiene and cleaning standards," the management reported.

I

n spring 2020 and winter 2020/21, for example, METRO wholesale stores in two German states, North Rhine-Westp-

QUALITY RANGE OF TOP FRUIT W www.vankesselfruit.nl

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halia and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, opened their doors to all consumers, after consulting with the respective state

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governments. "This way, METRO Germany was able to make its contribution as a basic supplier, offering as many people as possible the chance to shop safely. The openings were carried out in compliance with strict hygiene measures, control of access, avoidance of queues as well as the applicable distance rules. METRO Austria has counted as the country's "critical infrastructure" in this regard since 2017. This means that with "Open for All", the twelve locations have fulfilled their task of ensuring the basic supply of the Austrian population. The challenges regarding these "new" customer groups went well, but soon METRO Austria was able to fully focus on


Fresh herbs in sustainable packaging

commercial customers again," the company says. Steffen Greubel starts as METRO's new CEO on May 1.

SALES DEVELOPMENT DURING THE PANDEMIC METRO AG's individual regions were affected to varying degrees by the COVID 19 pandemic in terms of their sales development. According to the company, developments were very dependent on the composi-

tion of the customer groups as well as the duration and intensity of the restrictions in the respective countries. The revenue development of the gastronomy customer group was down significantly in the 1st quarter of fiscal 2020/21. In contrast, sales to trader and in particular trader customers developed positively. In Germany (13% Trader, 46% SCO share of sales in fiscal 2019/20), for example, sales in local currency and like-for-like declined by 4.5%

Exclusive potatoes and onions

in Q1 2020/21. While METRO Germany was able to compensate for the decline in the gastronomy sector to a relevant extent through the positive development of business with tradespeople, Rungis Express was hit harder by the restrictions. Reported sales decreased by 4.4%. Commercial customers can currently access the entire METRO product range as usual throughout Germany. Opening up to

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Retail

all does not mean a loss of focus on core commercial customers, such as restaurateurs. On the contrary; the company remains committed to supporting the hospitality and events industries. Examples include digital solutions for guest registration in restaurants, options for ordering food online as a takeaway solution, as well as a variety of customized offers, individual consulting solutions and assistance to bridge the temporary lockdowns. The company is receiving a lot of positive feedback from consumers. "People are pleased to have another shopping opportunity and to be able to fall back on the extensive METRO assortment. This is particularly true for our fresh produce area and the fruit & vegetable assortment. Of course, consumers tend to reach for smaller containers, but we are also observing a fundamental interest in large containers. Demand for flowers and plants has also risen as a result of the lockdown.”

PROTECTIVE MEASURES & MERCHANDISE PROCUREMENT To ensure the safety of employees, customers, and partners even in times of crisis, the Metro store network has taken numerous measures to make this protection as effective as possible. The basis for these measures is always according to the latest specifications and recommendations from authorities and experts. "With their wide range of goods, spacious sales areas and the highest hygiene and cleaning standards, the German METRO wholesale stores offer ideal conditions in the current situation. For example, we avoid overcrowding in the stores by using technical solutions. In addition, extensively trained staff and clear signage help our customers to comply with all the rules." Another challenge is apparent in the procurement of goods, as the supply of fruits 172

AGF Primeur • 2021

and vegetables was partially affected due to entry stops and Corona requirements. "Partnering with our suppliers, we were able to bridge the lockdown-related challenges in terms of seasonal workers, as well as higher requirements in terms of infection control. Thanks to the close and sustained exchange with our suppliers, we were able to successfully counteract supposed bottlenecks at all times and thus always offer our customers the usual assortment. The extensive experience gained in 2020 will help us and our suppliers to reliably provide all product ranges for our customers in 2021 as well." LONG-TERM TRENDS: PACKAGING AND LOCAL NEEDS Aside from the Corona issue, Metro AG has long-term challenges to take into account. One recurring theme is the implementation of sustainable packaging: "For restaurateurs and for METRO as well, it's the product that counts. That's why we try to use as much packaging as necessary and as little as possible. With our private label packaging, we strive for reduced environmental impact when considering the entire life cycle of a product. All pre-cut herbs under the METRO Chef brand have been using a greatly reduced amount of plastic since mid-2020. This way, METRO avoids more than 100 tons of plastic waste every year. The conversion of our apple range to more sustainable packaging has largely been completed. Furthermore, the 2.5kg and 3kg packaging of METRO Chef brand mushrooms is currently being converted from plastic to cardboard. We are actively looking for alternatives to conventional plastics while ensuring that we meet our customers' expectations for high quality and hygiene standards." METRO also strives to throw away as little food as possible. As a wholesaler, they try to optimize the stocking of goods on an

individual market basis, tailoring this to local needs. Close contact with commercial customers is particularly advantageous in this regard. "For example, we can contact restaurateurs directly and offer fresh products at special prices in good time before the expiration date. This benefits many restaurateurs, especially in the current situation. Here, for example, our colleagues specifically address restaurants, canteens and other large-scale consumers who use these goods on the same day. At present, demand across all product ranges is largely comparable with previous years. The exception is the catering sector due to the lockdown. In the fruit and vegetable sector, we have responded to the increased demand for assortments suitable for the out-of-home sector and have made these the focus of our marketing."

STAYING POWER AND WILLINGNESS TO PERFORM All in all, the wholesale group is looking to the future with confidence, although the consequences of the pandemic will also be felt in the longer term. However, there is no belief in the feared wave of bankruptcies in the food service industry. "Corona is not a structural crisis for our business, but a pandemic that will end in the foreseeable future. We will most likely see more business closures in the restaurant industry because of the pandemic, although one should never underestimate the staying power and willingness to perform in this industry. The vast majority will overcome this situation as well, and after the pandemic, we expect to see a wave of new openings. The investment hurdles for restaurateurs are generally not extremely high. Moreover, the trend toward out-of-home consumption will provide additional impetus and this will continue. We will also see an even more modern and digital gastronomy." 


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Greece

Greek potato season about to start, while the kiwifruit season has ended

“2020 was a tough year in general” Greece is a country mainly covered with mountains, 80% of the total 131.957 km2 is mountainous. With less than half of the remaining 26.391 km2 being available for agriculture, Greece is one of the countries that has invested in its agriculture for a long time. As a matter of fact, Greece adopted a system of farming cooperatives as early as 1915.

F

armers with small portions of land utilize insecticides and various other techniques properly to maximize their produce. With great effort, despite the ever changing climate and various other factors that affect the world’s economy, Greece’s agricultural sector has managed to contribute 4% to the

national GDB, almost double the European average.

GREEK POTATO SEASON ABOUT TO KICK OFF Agricultural products account for one third of the total exports in Greece, with potatoes

being one of the export products, especially during Spring. Dimitri Koutsogiannopoulos, Export and Sales Manager for ‘Greek Fruits’ states their potato season is about to kick off: “The value of potatoes exported in 2020 totaled at $35 billion. The new potatoes season is starting soon in Greece, the fresh crop offers a fresh look with pilling skin that makes it ideal for export in the foreign markets. The season usually starts mid-April up until mid-June. Even though 2020 had a 29% decrease in terms of exported volumes when compared to 2019, we at ‘Greek Fruits - Antonios Koutsogiannopoulos and Sons G.P.’ managed to increase our export volumes by 12%.

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For the upcoming season our aim will be to reach last year’s target once more, and hopefully even surpass it.”

Although the season is yet to begin, there have already been challenges in terms of weather, Koutsogiannopoulos explains. “The weather has been fine lately, but we’ve had some really bad and cold weather at the start of the planting season. The cold weather either damaged the already planned potatoes or forced the producers to postpone the planting. This causes the season to start with a major step back, the first potatoes to come will be fine but with less production per acre or the next wave of potatoes might come a bit late.” “The top two countries we export to are Poland and Romania, but we also export to the Slovak Republic, Czech Republic and Ukraine. We’re always looking for new opportunities to expand our client list, even to countries we don’t currently export to. Germany is one of the biggest markets around Europe,” Koutsogiannopoulos says. So how does Germany hold up as a mar-

ket? “Unfortunately Germany is just 19th at importing potatoes from Greece. This is mostly because Germany produces a lot of potatoes and any needs of imports are filled by other countries closer to Germany. Of course, Germany is the largest importer of Greek watermelons but this is a whole other market. As a whole though, Germany is a great importing country of Greek products.” Last year was a tough year for everyone. The pandemic has made it apperant that the lack of demand from the food service industry can’t be replaced, Koutsogiannopoulos explains. “2020 was a tough year in general. The Coronavirus has already been around for over a year and the world has adapted to live with it. We do not expect any trailer shortages or transportation issues due to border closures this year. It should be much smoother than last season. Nevertheless, various lockdowns and measures taken all this time did have a huge impact on our trade. The food service industry not working or only doing take-aways has made clear that the quan-

tities consumed by them can’t be replaced by the quantities consumed individually by people cooking at home. The amounts of harvested potatoes during the winter was already huge, with many remaining in stock despite the spring season starting.” GREEK KIWISEASON WRAPPED UP The potato season might be about to start, the kiwiseason in Greece has already ended. According to Christina Manosis, sales manager for Greek kiwifruit exporter Zeus, the European market has not developed as much the past years: “We have not seen as much growth in the European market as we had hoped. The European market is becoming very fragmented. There are not a lot of oppurtinities to increase volumes in terms fo kiwifruit. What we have seen in the past two years, is that Zeus has increased its market share in the United Kingdom, which is very important to us, as it’s our main market. About 50% of the Greek kiwifruit sent to the UK supermarkets is sent from Zeus. When looking at the other European markets though, there simply hasn’t been a lot of change in the past few years. This

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Greece

the amount of stocks they want to have in their supermarkets. This means orders have slowed down slightly in some markets. For one, the European markets are just fine, but overseas markets are more cautious then we expected. This didn’t lead to any problems, as we still managed to sell all our kiwifruits this season, which was great news for us in these unsure times.”

doesn’t mean the market is no longer interesting for Zeus, as we steadily supply European countries and share their desire to grow agricultural products in an environmentally healthy way. This desire means there is still a lot of potential for us to work with European clients.”

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The pandemic has definitely had an effect on the world trade market, Manosis explains. However it was mostly overseas clients that changed their mentality. “After Covid appeared, the market has become a lot more cautious, as the market is quite unstable. Buyers are very careful planning

After Italy becoming a serious competitor to the Greek kiwis, Turkish cultivators are also increasing their kiwi production. “We’ve been monitoring the Turkish kiwi market since the early 2000’s, we’ve even visited some orchards there. We keep a close eye on them, and we can’t ignore Turkey has the potential to become a major player in the kiwifruit. However, since Greece is part of the European Union we feel like we’ll have an advantage, as we don’t have to pay taxes. We’ll have to stay one step ahead in terms of what the market needs. But competition is always healthy, and will keep us at our sharpest!” Manosis concludes. 


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EXPORT

Citrus

Moroccan citrus

RUSSIA

(in Tons)

2014 / 2015 2015 / 2016 2016 / 2017 2017 / 2018

2014 / 2015 2015 / 2016 2016 / 2017 2017 / 2018

118.040 217.700 277.600 271.700

2014 / 2015 2015 / 2016 2016 / 2017 2017 / 2018

GOLF STATES

USA 2014 / 2015 2015 / 2016 2016 / 2017 2017 / 2018

CANADA

EU 214.100 200.850 225.450 223.000

11.400 32.500 45.900 68.300

2014 / 2015 2015 / 2016 2016 / 2017 2017 / 2018

35.000 56.550 70.300 77.700

Others 5.000 15.400 18.150 25.900

2014 / 2015 2015 / 2016 2016 / 2017 2017 / 2018

1.660 6.200 12.600 11.200

Source: Maroc Citrus

Moroccan citrus in the thick of market share competition

Infographic citrus Marokko.indd 1

Between 2008 and 2018, Moroccan horticulture and agriculture received a massive monetary boost. The government (40%) and private parties (60%) invested 104 billion Moroccan Dirhams (more than $11.6 billion). By 2018, that had led to things like a 117% increase in exports, valued at more than $3.6 billion. Citrus is one of the sectors that is benefiting from this process. Maroc Citrus represents the Moroccan citrus sector. This company states on its website that this sector developed significantly.

T

hat is since the Morocco Green Plan I began. In 2020, the citrus sector's acreage totalled around 129,000 hectares. It yielded an average of 2.4 million tons. It, therefore, plays a vital socio-economic role in Morocco. Mandarins, such as Clementines or Nadorcotts, are grown on 50% of the cultivation area. Oranges, like navel oranges, account for 46% of the land farmed, and lemons for the remaining four percent. About 70% of Moroccan citrus is sold locally. The remaining 30%, an aver-

age of 600,000 tons in the last five years, is exported.

STEADY GROWTH Moroccan citrus exports have gradually increased in recent years. In the 2014/2015 harvest year, the country exported 385,200 tons. In 2018/2019, that had grown to 715,450 tons, which is an increase of about 15%. So, Moroccan citrus is in demand. Around 80% of that fruit goes to Russia and the European Union. The North American and the Gulf States markets follow. There

Production figures of Moroccan citrus fruits in tons season 2015/2016 2016/2017 2017/2018 2018/2019 2019/2020 Source Maroc Citrus

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Production 2.035.000 2.362.501 2.275.401 2.619.138 2.213.576

Export 531.200 650.000 677.800 715.450 600.548

Internal sales 1.455.800 1.662.501 1.547.601 1.803.688 1.563.028

13-4-2021 11:05:00

was a report in the Spanish El Periodico Mediteranneo newspaper, stating that the markets closed to Spanish citrus, in particular, are regular export destinations for Moroccan citrus. This applies to, for example, Russia. This country has been deprived of European citrus since 2014. That is when the Russian government banned EU imports. Or the United States, where tariff hurdles have made Moroccan citrus more attractive than European citrus. The US and EU have since agreed to temporarily suspend import tariffs on citrus. Speaking on behalf of Valencian growers, a Spanish horticultural organization made a statement on the CastellónPlaza website. It says the US import fees were causing Spanish citrus exports to that country to decrease significantly.

It also expressed hope that the temporary suspension would lead to a solution. "Reinstating our exports won't be an easy task. We need to regain the market’s confidence. Moreover, Morocco and Chile in particular have benefited from our absence in the US market," it said. El Periodico Mediteranneo reinforces this. "Morocco is competing with the other Mediterranean countries as well as South Africa. That is in the battle for European market share. Not only in oranges and mandarins but other fruits and vegetables too."


Mohamed Laroussi (left), chairman of the DutchMoroccan Economic Council, is involved in promoting trade between the Netherlands and Morocco. This Business Council is part of the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) TRADE BUSINESS COUNCIL TURBULENT WEATHER The 2019/2020 season's exports seem to have brought the rising growth figures to a halt for now. "There were fewer exports than in the previous season," reports MoroccoFoodEx. At 517,500 tons, that represents a 25% drop. Of those exports, 46% was destined for the EU and 26% for Russia. The third export partner was Canada, with 12%. The US, Gulf States, and sub-Saharan Africa follow, with 7.8%, 3.9%, and

3.7%, respectively. With 190,000 tons, Nadorcott took the lead, by far, in Morocco's 2019/2020 citrus exports. Clementines were in second place, with 154,000 tons. And with 96,000 tons of exports, the Moroccan late orange completes the top three. The USDA reports that Moroccan citrus yields declined in the 2019/2020 season. That was due to unfavorable weather in

southern Morocco. Heat stress limited flowering, resulting in a drop in year-on-year citrus yields and exports. However, this did not affect the export value. Firm export prices meant export values remained stable. The 2020/2021 season is still ongoing. But preliminary figures from October 2020 showed a slight fall of three percent in exports. That is compared to the same time the previous season. (MW) 

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the whole skin and then cut yellow layer from the white part. Either way requires a manual application and costly labor. But our machine allows a high peeling speed with peeling accuracy.” Ryo said. “Besides kiwis and citrus, the machine also works well for more than 20 types of fruits and vegetables.” Simple performance supported by complicate technologies “A peeler is a combination and balance of many elements such as the material of the blade, the shape of the peeler, the way it touches the fruit and the way it moves and speed control, etc. All these factors play a role and interact with each other. We can say that behind the simple performance, is our continuous investment in R&D and an enormous amount of time spent experimenting. This also allows our machine a high durability.” Ryo said. When asked about maintenance and after sales service, Ryo said, “Though the working principle sounds complicated, the operation is actually very simple, and not much maintenance is needed. We rarely receive calls from clients who experience problems. But if they have any questions or need us to check something, we can easily check online. Another advantage is that the machine is very easy to install. Under the covid-19 environment travel is not easy, so when the machine is delivered on site, local staff can easily install and test the machine by themselves, with our engineers’ online support.” Varieties of peeling machines Besides FAP-1001, ASTRA manufactures varieties of peeling machines for various demands. Such as, tabletop compact peeler KA-700H, pineapple, melon and mango peeler KA-750. This year, ASTRA is launching a totally new pineapple peeling machine designed for supermarkets, KA-725. For further information, please contact ryo@e-astra.co.jp


Vegetables

Jean-Pierre Martin, RodaFruits:

“We have been working locally as much as possible for years”

Jean-Pierre Martin, manager and Sandrine Chasseigne, fruit and vegetable buyer/Photo credit: RodaFruits

RodaFruits is the Normandy branch of RibéGroup, regional leader and recognized player in the distribution of fresh produce (fruit, vegetables, seafood, butter, eggs, and cheese) in the Greater Northern Region of France, with 5 distribution sites for fruit and vegetables, including RodaFruits near Rouen. Since its creation, RodaFruits has also been a member of the Vivalya network, the first distributor of fresh fruit and vegetables in France, with 23 independent members and more than 83 warehouses throughout the country. NEW SEASON FOR RODAFRUITS Currently busy with the spring supply, RodaFruits will move to a new family of products. The apples, pears and citrus fruit

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are now giving way to the first asparagus, spring vegetables and bundles of radish, onions…. We are going to start an entirely new collection and campaign of products,

with families that will follow us until after schools start again, for the most part. Local salads will be available in a couple of weeks, and within a month, we will also have the first local field strawberries, starting with the Gariguette followed by the Mara des Bois,” explains Jean-Pierre Martin, manager of RodaFruits. The summer supply will begin with tomatoes, also from the field, around the end of May/beginning of June.

Since the government’s announcements, which include the closure of collective catering and school canteens, RodaFruits has been forced to find a way to redirect


its merchandise to other circuits. For RodaFruits, the catering sector (collective and commercial) represents 60% of business and supermarkets represent 40%. “Our objective is really to make sure that we can compensate one circuit with another if necessary.” RodaFruits saw its activity drop by one third due to the closure of restaurants, but the company was able to compensate for this loss via supermarkets. “In the region of Rouen, there is a lot of company catering but the employees who no longer eat in those restaurants now consume more at home. We are trying to redirect everything that is normally intended for catering towards our supermarket clients where sales are quite good.” There is however a slight difference in the products. “The products for catering are not the same as the products for supermarkets. The 4th and 5th ranges for example are more difficult to sell to our supermarket clients. Even for the more classical products like apples, the calibers for catering, especially for school canteens, can be different from the calibers for retail. The same goes

of the pandemic. “Overall, consumption is quite dynamic. For some time now, we have been observing a clear preference for products “Made in France”. We are currently working on the melon campaign for this summer. French melons, as well as peaches and nectarines, are really popular.”

for packaging, so it can sometimes get complicated. We also had a large quantity of organic products that we managed to redirect to other distribution circuits.”

REINFORCEMENT OF THE “MADE IN FRANCE” CONSUMPTION TREND For several years, French consumers have been increasingly inclined toward consuming products “Made in France”. This trend has been reinforced since the beginning

FOCUS ON LOCAL PRODUCTS RodaFruits gets 40% of its supply locally from nearby families. “We have been working locally as much as possible for years.” Historically, Normandy is a vegetable-growing region, so spring is a very stimulating season for the company. “All our salads, radish and bundles come from the Vittefleur basin (between Rouen and Dieppe). From May to October, 100% of our salads are bought locally, which guarantees local products for our clients and consumers. We distribute our fruit and vegetables within a 150 to 200 km radius around our warehouses.” An important player in the economic life of the region, RodaFruits also maintains strong ties with its producers. “We have

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been working with our producers for years and over the past 2 years, we have been observing a change of generation, as we now work with their children. Accompanying our producers over several generations allows us to perpetuate our operations in the area while maintaining a certain activity. It also contributes to the development of the area, and those producers accompany us as well in our development.”

RodaFruits accompanies its producers in their transition to the HEV certification (High Environmental Value). “100% of our apples and pears produced locally now have the HEV certification. We are currently working on obtaining this certification for more products, to guarantee volumes and a fair remuneration to our producers. Our entire HEV production is sold under our brand “Les Jardins de Louis”, which only includes producers who are committed to a virtuous approach and aiming towards the HEV certification.”

The desire to work “locally” lies in the DNA of the company. “The employees working in the region of Rouen, for example, come from Rouen. The suppliers and transporters are also from the region. We have immersed ourselves in the area, so we are very familiar with the production basin.”

Michel and Jonathan Rossignol, salad producers in Vittefleur / Photo credits: RodaFruits

ered to our clients. This way, the clients are guaranteed a very fresh product harvested on the previous day, and a lower environmental impact.” RodaFruits offers some 100 references from local producers and is working on a dozen local products for its spring collection. HEV CERTIFICATION Within the framework of the EGALIM law,

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If the company chooses to focus on local products, it is also to be able to offer products that are ultra-fresh. “We use the pickup method, which means that we deliver to our clients in the morning and then, in order to avoid running on empty, our trucks stop by the local producers to pick up the merchandise that will be dropped at the warehouse and subsequently deliv-

NEW PACKAGING COMING SOON To comply with the new law banning the use of single-use plastic, RodaFruits has invested in the creation of new packaging. “In supermarkets, we sell fruit and vegetables in trays,” explains Jean-Pierre Martin. “Up until now, we were using plastic packaging, but we have bought a new assembly line in order to work with recyclable cardboard packaging only.” 

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South Africa

Logistical issues could be the fly in the ointment:

South African fruit exports increase across the board South African fruit exports have had a few tough years, but the 2020/21 season has seen record exports almost across the board. Citrus, top fruit and stone fruit have all seen, or estimate, record export volumes. The grape industry is experiencing volumes above the initial estimates in all growing regions and the avocado export estimate is up by 1.5 million cartons on last year.

S

outh Africa is coming out of a period of drought which has hampered fruit production for the last few years, this coupled with new plantings and higher yielding varieties is producing good volumes of high-quality fruit. However, it is not all plain sailing for the exports, as they have been hampered by serious logistical problems. There is shortage of containers globally and this combined with delays at Cape Town port due to weather issues has made the logistics side of the business the main challenge of the season. CITRUS South African citrus exports are going from strength to strength. 2020 was a record year for export volume and it is looking highly likely that the 2021 export figure will exceed that of 2020.

146 million cartons of South African citrus

were exported in the 2020 season, Justin Chadwick, CEO of the Citrus Grower’s Association of South Africa, gave a comparison as to just how much fruit that is; “If we were to stack 146 million cartons of fruit side-byside, the line of cartons would span approximately 40,000 km in length. That is equal to the height of 4.4 Mount Everests stacked one on top of the other. “The increased export volume is mostly due to the new plantings now maturing. Between 2019 and 2020 the biggest increase was for lemons: 22.1 million cartons (15Kg) in 2019 and 28.4 million cartons in 2020; and soft citrus went from 18.2 million cartons in 2019 to 23.7 million cartons in 2020. Oranges had lower increases; Valencia from 46.8 million to 52,4; and navels from 24.3 to 26. Grapefruit reduced slightly from 16.1 to 16.5.”

EXPORT Stonefruit 2019 Apricot

Nectarine

Peaches

Plums

Middle East

42%

UK

29%

Europe

28%

Middle East

50%

UK

32%

Europe

13%

Middle East

42%

UK

32%

Europe

13%

Middle East

52%

UK

20%

Europe

18% Source Hortgro

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Oranges made up 48% of the export volume, soft citrus 24%, lemons 19% and grapefruit 9%.

2021 SEASON The estimate for the 2021 export season is 158.7 m cartons for South Africa an increase of 9% above the 2020 figure while Zimbabwe and Eswatini combined increased from 3.9 to 4.4 million cartons. Soft citrus will see the biggest increase at +29%, late mandarin varieties stand out in the soft citrus category with a 42% increase. Valencia oranges and grapefruit are expected to increase by 5% and 16% respectively.

According to Chadwick a very small volume of citrus be sent early this season, mostly lemons. The main packing will start in earnest towards May.

Europe imports the lion’s share of South African citrus, followed by the Middle East, Asia, and the UK.

“We are hoping to get the China lemon protocol signed off, as well as wider access to the USA. The final administrative hurdle for access to the Philippines is concluded which should mean import permits issued before end March 2021,” commented Chadwick. “Egypt is increasing in volume, which is impacting on all citrus exporters around the world, this is particularly the case for oranges.

“Brexit has led to a change in the regulations on CBS in citrus imported into the UK, and phytosanitary certificates are no longer required for citrus to UK. As a result, a lot more Argentinean fruit could be diverted to the UK, and from CBS areas in South Africa.” STONE FRUIT Nectarines, peaches, and plums all have record export volumes and apricots did very well on the back of two very poor seasons. Nectarine volumes have been increasing every year, whilst the last peach record season was in 2015/16 –at 2.2m equivalent cartons vs the 2.43m this season. The last record year for plums was 2016/17 with 12.34 equivalent cartons compared to 14.4m in 2020/21.


“The stone fruit industry has been hit hard by drought the previous three seasons along with experiencing heatwaves in the midst of flowering. Apricots were hit hard with the drought and plums especially with the heat waves. The current 2020/21 volumes can be attributed to the good winter rains of 2020, cool spring conditions and a mild summer which was especially beneficial to the sizing and sugars of plums. The drought did have an impact on the expansion capabilities of stone fruit, however the hectares that have been planted, have now also come into production adding to the current volumes,” explains Jacques du Preez, General Manager Trade and Exports at Hortgro. The United Kingdom, Middle East and Europe are still the biggest markets for South African stone fruit

Older cultivar orchards are being replaced with new cultivars bred locally and abroad. Nectarines have seen new plantings in the mid-season gap, trying to fill it and make sure that the supply is more evenly distributed. Similarly, new plum cultivars that were planted fill the gaps before and after the traditional Laetitia, Songold peaks with more plums available for longer/later in the season.

TOP FRUIT Top fruit exports are also set to reach record volumes this season. Apples are estimated to increase by 4% and pears by 6%. “The Bigbucks/Flash Gala apple is one of the cultivars that has seen significant new plantings in the past few years. Growers are replacing older and more marginal orchards with improved strains. Traditional varieties such as the Golden are also still being planted/replaced,” according to du Preez.

(Quelle SATGI)

“Demand is currently still healthy, but exporters are cautious of how it will play out for the remainder of the season. Logistics and container shortages are probably the biggest challenge. Top fruit has a healthy diversified market, especially apples. The majority of apples are exported to the Far East & Asia and Africa, followed by the UK for the last full season.”

South Africa is still on the verge of gaining access for pears to China, but it is uncertain when this long process will finally be concluded.

The industry launched a market development campaign in China at the end of March and plans to launch campaigns in Nigeria and India as well.

“The Orange River region was affected by rain early in January, causing some losses, but producers in the region packed with great caution after the rain to reach decent intake levels,” explains Clayton Swart Com-

Pears are exported to Europe, Far East & Asia, followed by the Middle East and Russia. Europe remains the main export destination for South African pears.

GRAPES The South African grape volumes have proved to be much higher than estimated for both intakes – over 71 million cartons as well as exports of over 69 million cartons. This has been down to good weather and ideal harvesting conditions coupled with new higher yielding varieties that came into full production.

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FRESH PACKING? JUST DO IT!

euro-west.nl euro-west.nl


Russia Far & Middle East Africa Other Total munications Manager at the South African Table Grape Industry.

The area planted in South Africa has stabilised at around just over 21,000 hectares for the past few years. The big difference is that older varieties are being replaced with higher yielding new generation varieties which cater to market needs.

2,6 1,9 1,8 2 100

1561 1141 1081 1201 60057

% of the 2020 Avocado crop exported to the differet countries

Russia Far & Middle East United Kingdom Africa More Asian markets will be targeted over Other the next few years, but according to Swart Europe this is not at the expense of the traditional European and UK markets, it is more about spreading the risk and having a more balanced export profile.

“The Asian markets are developing slowly but surely. We have to also market our country brand in these markets. The Philippines and South Korea are the immediate targets. The fastest growing markets are Canada and the US, but this is built on a small foundation.”

AVOCADOS The South African avocado export is growing each year and the volumes this year are estimated to be 16.5 million cartons, up 1.5 million cartons on last year. The volume of avocados produced has been steadily increasing since the 70’s. In 1970, 1480 tonnes were produced. Volumes increased by around a few hundred tonnes a year until 1985 where the volume doubled from 8500 tonnes in 1984 to 16,500 tonnes in 1985. This continued to increase steadily each year with a production of more than 60,000 tonnes in 2020. “New orchards are being planted at a rate of about 900 ha per annum to add to the current plantings of 14,700 ha,” according to Derek Donkin, CEO of SubTrop. “Most new orchards are planted on better rootstocks and with improved irrigation technology for efficient water usage. A lot of

United Kingdom 23%

Russia 2%

Europe 69%

Other 2%

emphasis is placed on good soil preparation to improve production.” Hass and Hass-type cultivars such as Maluma Hass are seeing the biggest increase in production.

Europe takes the majority of South Africa’s avocado production, followed by the UK, the rest of the volumes are sent to Russia, the Far and Middle East, and Africa, but in much smaller volumes.

Far & Middle East 2% Africa 2%

grow the market. South Africa is also pursuing access to new markets such as Japan, India, China, and the USA.

“Travel restrictions due to COVID-19 has put a stop to government officials traveling to finalise protocols. Hopefully, things will improve in 2021 to allow the finalisation of protocols to access at least one new market.” 

The domestic market has many different outlets, from high end export quality ripe and ready fruit, to second and third grade fruit sold by hawkers. The domestic market is growing, as is the export market.

Avocado production is increasing all round, especially in South American countries. Donkin said this is a concern for the South African industry: “Therefore, South African growers have teamed up with South American countries through the World Avocado Organization to promote avocados and

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How a Dutch company’s Polish branch became a full-fledged processing plant:

“We like offering clients products others can’t or won’t make” Grant Saakian has been with Snebo since he was 17. Eight years ago, he went to Poland to set up an onion processing plant there.

Eight years ago, Snebo established a site, its second, in Poland. It began as an addition to the company’s production and sales in the Netherlands. Since then, it has grown into a stand-alone processing company. Snebo Orchowo is now, arguably, the largest fast-food onion ring player in Europe.

S

nebo is a Dutch family business that’s been around since 1979. They peel and process fresh onions. These onion products find their way to local and international clients. Grant Saakian has been with Snebo since he was 17. He’s lived in the Netherlands for most of his life. But eight years ago, Grant went to Poland to get Snebo’s onion processing company off the ground there. “We set up shop in Orchowo in June 2013. The goal was to start a second Snebo branch. But that changed pretty quickly," he says. Since last year, Grant has owned 50% of the company. He also manages Snebo Orchowo. "The companies operate under the same (brand) name, but they are sep-

arate. We produce our own onion products and serve different markets than Snebo Ossendrecht [in the Netherlands]."

COOPERATING TO STRENGTHEN ITS OWN POSITION Grant says the branches are in daily contact and work together where possible. "The companies are strategically located in the Netherlands and Poland. That’s exactly why we can respond quickly and flexibly to our clients’ wishes. That’s good for service and quality. Our processing company’s onion products aren’t marketed from the Netherlands or vice versa. However, we can transfer or take over orders. Each company has its specialization, in which we reinforce each other."

Snebo Orchowo specializes in processed onions, mainly onion rings. This is a precise operation. All the onions have to be delivered whole and with a certain thickness and diameter. “It involves a lot of manual labor. After peeling the onions, they’re sliced, and the rings are separated. No-one has invented a suitable machine for this (yet), so we do most of the work by hand. The onion rings are then breaded, deep-fried, and sold as a frozen product to our clients. These are mainly fast-food and large restaurant chains. Most of these are in the UK. I dare say we’re the top player in Europe when it comes to fresh onion rings,” Grant says.

INCREASED DEMAND FOR SPECIAL PRODUCTS They’re also producing more pickled onions. These are made by peeling and slicing fresh onions into any shape. They’re then placed into a brine, a natural mixture of water, salt, and vinegar. That keeps the product fresh for longer. “We’ve developed our own recipes for this. Or we use the recipes provided by our clients.” Pickled onion products are AGF Primeur • 2021

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Onions

The (past) closure of most of the hospitality industry has affected this onion processing company. This was particularly noticeable in April and May 2020. “We’re not completely dependent on a certain market. That’s an advantage. Retail sales, for example, have actually increased. We didn’t grow as fast as expected last year. But we still grew. So, we’re feeling it, but we certainly can’t complain. It’s also brought new challenges. We responded to different markets and clients, which are now expanding,” says Grant.

“We use Spanish onions for shashliks,” says Grant. “For these, we’re now expanding with cut bell peppers.”

used in things like salads with longer shelf lives and the fish industry. "There’s been an increase in demand in recent years. So we’re expanding both in terms of products and production capacity. Germany, Poland, and the Czech Republic, in particular, buy a lot of pickled onion products.”

"In the coming years, we also want to focus more on frozen onions. That’s why we’re now working with several Polish partners. They process our peeled onions into frozen products. This expansion automatically broadens our sales base enormously. Our frozen onions end up as far away as Canada. We have concrete plans to start producing frozen onions entirely in-house. I’d say people need to keep an eye on us," remarks Saakian. Shashlick onions are another unique product this company produces. "We use Spanish onions for this; they’re most suitable. We usually supply this product from March to September. That’s barbecue season. We are currently busy expanding this product with bell peppers. These are also intended

The onion rings are separated, one by one, by hand.

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AGF Primeur • 2021

for use in shashliks. Snebo Orchowo typically provides clients with products others can’t or won’t make. Of course, we offer a range of standard onion products, but our special products are what truly set us apart."

POLISH FRESH MARKET INCREASING The bulk of this Polish onion processing company’s work consists of peeling and slicing yellow onions. They also supply whole peeled onions for sale to large industrial clients as well as small volumes of red onions and shallots. These go mainly to the UK, France, the Netherlands, and Germany. "We have some German and Polish fresh market clients too. The convenience and fresh-cut produce markets are growing here in Poland. So, we expect the future demand for fresh-cut onion products to increase too. We are, therefore, investing in that as well,” explains Grant. Both branches of the business work with local suppliers to procure onions. These include onion growers and larger sales organizations. "We support them by buying onion sets and seeds. We also offer the growers professional cultivation guidance. We especially focus on growers who have never had anything to do with onions before. We guide them so they can grow perfect 'Snebo onions' for us. Besides that, we work with Dutch growers and suppliers, and we buy onions from Spain. That’s when there’s insufficient product in the Netherlands and Poland or specifically for the shashliks." MORE MACHINES, BUT MANUAL WORK REMAINS Much has changed in the eight years the company has been active in Poland. When Snebo Orchowo started, they still peeled most of the onions by hand. The company

now does that mechanically, and the slicing is semi-automatic. But Grant says people are still needed for certain onion products. "That is apart from separating the rings for the fresh onion rings,” says Grant. “Shallots, for example, are still peeled by hand. That’s simply because some products aren’t suitable for machine processing. And manual labor guarantees good quality. Here too, we foresee further development opportunities in the years to come." “I’d like to thank the Snepvangers family, particularly Toon. They trusted me and gave me a chance. I remember very well, nine years ago, we were sitting together in the restaurant of the hotel where I lived. That’s was in Snebo Orchowo’s early days. I said to Toon, 'One day, we’ll be the biggest in Europe.’ He laughed then, and we still laugh about it now. Because, in a way, we succeeded. Snebo has become a brand which we’re only going to strengthen further," Grant concludes. (CH)  grant@snebo.com.pl

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China

Trends in the Chinese import fruit market The Covid-19 pandemic has been a challenge for the global fruit industry for more than a year now. There have been several changes and transformations in the industry in response to these challenges. How does the Chinese import fruit market fare? What kind of market trends have developed in the last year? We interviewed representatives of several fruit companies and summarized their responses to provide an overview of the market trends and development directions in the Chinese import fruit market. ESCALATION AND TRANSFORMATION IN THE FRUIT WHOLESALE MARKET There are more than a dozen first-grade wholesale markets in China, but only a handful can handle the majority of fruit, are conveniently located for distribution purposes, and boast up-to-date facilities. These fruit wholesale markets include Xinfadi Market in Gaobeidian for north China; Huizhan Market in Shanghai for east China (especially for western products), and in equal measure Haiguangxing Market in Jiaxing also for east China (but specializing in eastern products), as well as Jiangnan Market in Guangzhou for south China. These four markets service three major regions in China.

Several years ago Beijing began to restrict the companies that did not specifically service the capital region. More than a thousand companies moved away. One of these companies was Xinfadi Agricultural Wholesale Market. This market had a long history in Beijing, but had to move to Gaobeidian in Hebei, roughly 80 kilometres from the capital. The new market was named ‘Hebei Xinfadi Wholesale Market’. After several years of development, Hebei Xinfadi Market already replaced Beijing Xinfadi Market as the primary wholesale market for north China. Manager Ying, a spokesperson for Jiaxing

Market, explained that “agricultural wholesale markets face more and more pressure, but this does not come from competition between different agricultural wholesale markets. No, agricultural wholesale markets are competing with different retail channels such as e-commerce platforms and direct purchases from production areas. Every agricultural wholesale market has its own strengths. We think that every agricultural wholesale market should display their own unique strengths and in doing so help the Chinese fruit industry develop.”

Take Jiaxing Market as an example. The market developed an online platform, called ‘Jiaxing Fruit Data Online’, that provides accurate and timely information about the fruit industry to visiting traders in Jiaxing Market. The data on this platform is refreshed in real time so that visiting traders can check on the market trends and predictions for any kind of fruit whenever they want to do so. Or take Xinfadi Market in Hebei as another example. In order to satisfy growing consumer demand for import fruit and ensure smooth distribution of fruit to Beijing, Tianjin, and Hebei, Xinfadi Market has established a ‘northern maritime highway’ that connects to Tianjin port. “In this way, import fruit is not required to enter the country via Guangzhou or Shang-

hai and then transferred along domestic distribution networks with Beijing as its destination. Instead, import fruit from all over the world can be shipped directly to Tianjin port and then distributed to markets in north China. That is how Tianjin port turned into a first-grade import fruit distribution hub. In addition, many largescale agricultural wholesale markets hope to transform into distribution centres that combine storage space for diverse products, high-quality processing factories, inspection and quarantine services, and other accompanying facilities, whilst gathering and providing synchronized market data on integrated online platforms. This is another trend in Chinese agricultural wholesale markets.

CLOSE COOPERATION BETWEEN WHOLESALE MARKETS AND PRODUCTION AREAS According to manager Huang of the Shanghai International Fruit Exposition, product quality and price are no longer the only points of competition. Two key points in the future of Chinese agricultural wholesale markets is supervisory capacity and management capacity. “In the past Chinese market supply was insufficient. In the earliest stages only Guangzhou received import fruit. Chinese traders could earn money just reselling to third markets in China. But that quickly changed, Chinese traders started visiting production areas and purchased directly from the source. Only suppliers with stable sources made a profit. That era is now also over and will not come back. The market is transparent and the price is under pressure. In some cases the prices in production areas are higher than in the wholesale market. Importers have no choice but to set up their own supply chain and provide retail services. However, retail services are not easily perfected and sellAGF Primeur • 2021

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China

ers need global distribution coverage. All of these services reduce the profit margin. It is clear from these market developments that the age of individual entrepreneurs is over. Traders have to set up innovative enterprises and pay close attention to efficient management, integrated systems, and long-term development goals. Furthermore, traders have to put up with loneliness, actively accumulate experience, develop in every direction, keep an eye on markets across the globe, fine-tune operations, give equal attention to long-distance and short-distance lines, maintain day-today development in the company and have a firm grasp on fleeting opportunities.”

Manager Zhang of Sango Co., Ltd. added that many production areas these days have set their eyes on the Chinese market. The import volume grows larger every year. Under these circumstances, differences between companies will not be very obvious. Companies that invest in production areas and establish close cooperation with suppliers will be able to scale up productions and reduce the cost price per unit. This seems to be an ongoing trend in the Chinese fruit industry. Other than that, traders can only rely on product quality.

Only if they follow the mantra ‘when people lack, I supply; when people have, I supply better’, then they can stand out among the crowd.

CONSUMERS PAY MORE ATTENTION TO PRODUCT QUALITY In January, a shipment of import cherries tested positive for traces of Covid-19. This ‘cherry incident’ had a huge impact on the import fruit market. Some of the wholesale markets in China were unable to sell their imported cherries. Only after the news was quiet for a few days were firstgrade markets able to cut their losses and sell their import cherries cheap. The low price attracted customers and gradually the trade in import cherries resumed. Once trade was slowly moving again, first-grade wholesale market sellers slightly increased the price, but buyers immediately stopped purchasing import cherries. Sellers could do nothing but keep the price low to keep the products moving. Although Chinese specialists asked the people for a reasonable response to the ‘cherry incident’, many consumers were hesitant. On top of that, some retailers had their concerns as well. If fruit tests positive, then the shop has to close and the products have to be

destroyed, and personnel has to self-isolate. Only extremely low prices could persuade retailers to take this kind of risk.

Chinese consumers are more careful when it comes to product quality and food safety in the aftermath of the ‘cherry incident’. Chuck, a spokesperson for Kingo, summed the situation up, “I think this incident has been a warning signal for the import fruit industry. The Chinese market is improving rapidly. And news travels fast on social media. These platforms can have a huge impact on the market. Issues about product quality and food safety will attract the attention of a lot of people and will lead to heated debate.” At the same time, there are people in the industry who propose that importers supply consumers with information about the inspection and disinfection procedures, as well as other measures taken to prevent the spread of Covid-19. “They should provide consumers with proof of inspection. Import fruit meets high standards, and consumers should not have the impression that any kind of fruit can enter the Chinese market without strict inspection.”

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GROWING DEMAND FOR IMPORT FRUIT COMES FROM SECOND-TIER CITIES In addition to the four major agricultural wholesale markets Hebei Xinfadi Market, Shanghai Huizhan Market, Jiaxing Haiguangxing Market, and Guangzhou Jiangnan Market, there are also several medium- and large wholesale markets in the second-tier cities of central China. There is, for example, the Wanbang Kaipi Import Trade District in Zhengzhou, or the Hong Xing New Market in Changsha. These markets have recently opened their doors and already demand is growing. The consumption level in China is on the rise and that stimulates market demand for top-quality import fruit. In response, a growing number of powerful traders moved part of their business to second-tier cities to set up shop in new wholesale markets.

Sango Co., Ltd. has 14 subsidiary companies in east and southwest China. Manager Zhang, responsible for the company’s import department, explained that “our marketing strategy is to keep expanding wholesale and retail channels in China’s second-tier cities. From the beginning of China’s open door policy until now the

economy has seen solid growth. First-tier cities led the charge and stimulated developments in second-tier cities. Although the consumer power in the four major first-tier cities Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen is quite high, the number of retail spots in these cities is relatively small compared to the number of second-tier cities in China. The four major cities only cover a small area of the country. And while the economic power of second-tier cities is not as strong as first-tier cities, there is huge potential for growth. The future of China’s economy is in the ‘decentralization’ of the market. Following this development, if we open a stand in every wholesale market in second-tier cities, soon the focus will move from quantity to quality.” TOP-QUALITY DOMESTIC FRUIT IS ON THE RISE The outbreak of Covid-19 last year created obstacles for sea freight of import fruit. The import market suffered from many additional obstacles because of the pandemic. At that time some consumers shifted their attention from import fruit to top-quality domestic fruit. They began to realize that the product quality and flavor of premium

domestic fruit could easily compete with import fruit. And domestic fruit has a distinct price advantage over import fruit. Furthermore, some consumers worried about the risk of infection from import fruit. The competitive market position of import fruit suffered as a result of this damaged reputation.

Now that the consumption power in second- and third-tier cities is growing, import fruit is no longer the expensive, high-status fruit it once was. Import fruit is becoming a common sight in many markets in first-tier cities and beyond. Some import fruits have turned into staple fruits and considering the high cost price, traders find it more difficult to make a profit. That is why some traders have switched their attention to the retail of premium domestic fruit. Lehe Consulting Co., Ltd. provides specialized consultancy services for brand strategy and brand formation as well as the strategic structure for the integration of production and marketing. Manager Zhou, a spokesperson for the company, explained that the domestic fruit industry rapidly developed in the last few years. These developments

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draw the attention of foreign investors who see an opportunity in China’s growing fruit industry. Many Chinese companies are currently implementing standardization of plantation, post-harvest preservation, and processing systems. The Covid-19 pandemic stimulated these quality improvements in the domestic fruit industry. “Consumers all know that there is no lack of premium fruit in China. And people who can spend a lot of money can also distinguish between top quality and inferior products. For example, people in Dalian rarely eat import cherries because they know that local cherries from Dalian taste even better than import cherries. The price of Dalian cherries is even higher than the price of import cherries these days,” said manager Zhou. One spokesperson for a wholesale market in Guangzhou added that “the price of some domestic premium fruits is not that humble. Premium Hongmeiren tangerines, for example, sell for as much as 35 yuan [5.34 USD] per 0.5 kg. And the popular domestic Sunshine Rose grapes sell for 65 yuan [9.91 USD] per 0.5 kg.”

“There has been a sudden explosion of domestic premium fruit brands in the last few years, such as Xinjiang plums or Taizhou muskmelons. These brands are quite strong in the domestic market. However, large-scale chain stores rarely develop premium brands. This concept has not yet rooted in the Chinese market. Even though domestic fruit has high added value, traders often sell them in bulk or in cheap packaging. Some traders think that it is unnecessary to invest in external aspects such as packaging or sales management. It is precisely for these reasons that only a few strong domestic fruit brands have emerged in the Chinese market,” said manager Zhou. “I think that producers and retailers should familiarize themselves with strong brands and learn from them. Only then will the added value of domestic premium fruit brands increase. And only then will domestic premium fruit gain a foothold in the international market.” CHINESE MARKET DEMAND FOR IMPORT FRUIT REMAINS STRONG Egyptian oranges, Chilean cherries, and Australian plums did not sell well in the Chinese market last year. There are several reasons why these fruits did not do well in Chinese wholesale markets. Their market prospects do not look good, and many importers suffered financial loss. Interestingly enough, this situation does not apply to import fruit from Asia. According to manager Ying, a spokesperson for Haiguangxing Fruit Wholesale Market, “our trade volume last year still increased by

15% in comparison with the previous year. Our total trade volume was around 30,000 shipping containers. The growth primarily came from trade in Asian import products. However, as the Covid-19 pandemic is slowly brought under control, we also see a recovery for Western import products. Compared to last year the situation is gradually improving.” Kingo spokesperson Chuk agreed, “although we are in the middle of a pandemic, and the fruit market initially slowed down, I think there is still a lot of potential in the import fruit market. Now that the weather is improving and the outbreak of Covid-19 is largely brought under control in China, we see economic recovery in every industry. Consumption levels are also rising. However, market trends also depend on conditions in overseas markets where the outbreak of Covid-19 is still spreading. The market will be shaped not just by developments in distribution and customs procedures, but also by the confidence consumers have in import fruit brands.”

A spokesperson for a wholesale market in Guangzhou explained that “in recent years a growing number of countries obtained permission to export fruit to the Chinese market. China’s annual import volume of fruit is impressive. However, we see that the popularity of a particular kind of import fruit generally does not last for more than five years. Take US oranges for example, they were selling very well a few years ago, but now their market share is rapidly dwindling. And this is not because China has taken steps to protect their domestic orange industry. There are two reasons for this development: first, domestic orange growers quickly pick up on popular trends and switch to similar orange varieties. Import oranges are expensive because of custom tariffs and transport costs, which means they can not compete with domestic oranges in terms of price. They are gradually pushed out of the market by domestic oranges. Second, importers all purchase the same import fruit and flood the market. In the end they have to lower their prices to compete with other importers.” According to Mr. Zheng, import fruit can only establish a lasting presence in the Chinese market if there is a distinct price advantage over domestic fruit, as is the case with Egyptian oranges, or if they take advantage of differences in production season, as is the case with Australian and South African oranges. Mr. Huang, a spokesperson for Shanghai International Fruit Expo expressed a similar opinion, “import fruit from the southern hemisphere perfectly complements the Chinese market because their growing season falls in our off-season. Fruit growers

in the northern hemisphere who want to stand out need to have top-quality fruit for reasonable prices, and on top of that they need to distinguish themselves in terms of fruit varieties.”

THE MARKET GRADUALLY IMPROVES Mr. Huang, spokesperson for Shanghai International Fruit Expo, shared his opinion about future developments in the import fruit market. “I think that the darkest hour for the import fruit market in China is already over. First, we will be better able to prevent the spread of Covid-19 when the weather improves. And a growing number of Chinese consumers has already received a vaccination. Some Chinese fruit importers have received their vaccinations and are now brave enough to fly to overseas production areas. This year the Chinese market conditions will be much better than around the same time last year.” The Shanghai International Fruit Expo will take place in August this year. People from fruit industries all over the country and abroad will convene in Shanghai. This is the first major international fruit expo in China since the outbreak of Covid-19. Mr. Huang shared with us the reasons for this exposition, “fruit distribution is an old-fashioned industry. We rely on personal contact and exchange of information. It is essential that we organize this exposition now that the outbreak of Covid-19 is largely brought under control in China.”

“In addition, colleagues in the Chinese fruit industry also need a moment for face-toface interaction. There are many premium fruit varieties in China that could greatly benefit from widespread promotion. Many people in the industry, including first-tier importers, wholesale traders, representatives from various retail channels, and domestic fruit growers, will all convene in Shanghai to exchange information and share the latest developments in the fruit industry. However, many overseas visitors may have to stay away this year to prevent the spread of Covid-19. Some suppliers already have branch offices in China and their local representatives will come in their place. This will give them a distinct ‘market advantage’ over other overseas competitors.”  Mr. Huang Xianhua / everflourish@fruitexpo.cn Chuck / kingo@kingo.com.tw Zhang Tianyi / tim_zhang@sangofruit.com Zhou Weiqi / Wechat: mynameisTonyMr Ying Jianjun / Wechat: yu50355867 Mr Yang Jianfei / Wechat: ff38157

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Avocado

Enrique Colilles, CEO of Trops

Enrique Colilles, CEO of the Trops cooperative, talking about Spanish tropical crops

“Spanish avocados are a success story with great market opportunities ahead” The introduction of tropical fruits in the Mediterranean coastal strip of the Spanish provinces of Malaga and Granada several decades ago, taking advantage of the area’s subtropical climate, not only proved to be a wise decision, but has turned the region into the largest European production area for mangoes and avocados.

"T

rops started growing avocados in the mid-1980’s," says Enrique Colilles, CEO of this cooperative, based in the Malaga municipality of Velez-Malaga. "The company was created in 1979 by 5 agricultural producers who grew strawberries, but this fruit stopped being competitive in Malaga when Huelva started working with it, so the producers decided to introduce a new fruit: avocado." At the time, the importance of that initiative and the subsequent boom in the global demand for this fruit, which keeps growing year after year, could not yet be foreseen. Since then, Trops has become the largest tropical fruit producing and marketing cooperative in Spain, with almost 2,900 members producing 40% of all Spanish avocados and 50% of the mangoes, says Enrique. Their success in the markets and the growing demand that both fruits enjoy have 202

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facilitated the increase of their productions. This has been possible thanks to the technification and improvement of the plantations and their expansion to various regions of the Iberian Peninsula; a process strongly conditioned by the climatic requirements of the two tropical fruits.

"New avocado farms have been established in recent years in many areas of the Region of Valencia, Huelva and Cadiz. There are increasingly more and more farms in the area of Valencia, which may already have about 1,500 hectares. Even though avocados are demanding in terms of maximum and minimum temperatures, and in the end, the climate is a limiting factor, we can expect the productions to increase gradually," says the CEO. "Mangoes have even stricter requirements in terms of temperatures, so they have not expanded beyond the provinces of Malaga and

Granada, where there are currently around 4,000 hectares in production. In the period between 2008 and 2014, many new mango plantations were established, mainly of the Osteen variety, but in recent years the situation has stabilized," says Enrique.

In any case, it is a considerable figure, and there’s potential to produce between 40,000 and 50,000 tons of mangoes; a volume that could not be reached in previous campaigns due to the impact of different weather events. "With the acreage we have, our production could be much greater than the 20,000-30,000 tons we have been reaching. In normal conditions, we could even double what we obtained this year. In fact, right now we foresee that the 2021 mango production will be a large one." "Spanish mangoes are a seasonal European product with a great flavor and affordable price" The Spanish mango season starts in mid-August and ends in late October/early November. This is the period when the fruit reaches its optimum ripening point. That is precisely the feature highlighted in TV and radio advertising campaigns launched


by Trops since 2019. The idea was to improve the knowledge about this "seasonal" tropical fruit produced in the extreme south of the European continent and encourage its consumption. "The ideal temperature conditions we have in the Axarquia and the Tropical Coast of Granada allow us to offer European stores (our natural customers) a mango harvested the day before. The fruit’s flavor is far superior to that of the productions of many other countries, which need a few weeks of transport by ship, since such mangoes have to be harvested with a much lower maturity level and this takes a toll on the fruit’s taste."

And that message is paying off, says Enrique Colilles. "Consumers are very receptive to the information they are given. And we have noticed that there is greater recognition and demand for Trops mangoes, both in terms of the product and the brand. We had no doubts about our decision to conduct promotional campaigns and these results encourage us to continue in this

direction. Also, with Spanish mangoes we are returning to the concept of seasonal fruit: a fruit that has an affordable price and a great flavour." In fact, for Colilles, flavor is more than just a characteristic of the fruit they market; it is synonymous with credibility in the market. "We want the buyers of Trops mangoes to know that the ripeness of the fruit they are purchasing will always be optimal. The consumer has many alternatives; access to a very wide supply, so you need to have a product that offers credibility."

A LOT OF AVOCADO IS STILL NEEDED TO MEET THE EUROPEAN DEMAND If there is one tropical fruit that stands out globally, it is the avocado. Despite exponential growth in the total production, the demand still outstrips the supply. And the preditiction is that it will continue to rise, since per capita consumption in markets such as Europe, which stands at around1.5 kilos per year, still has interesting growth margins, if we compare it with the per capita consumption in the North American market, which exceeds 3 kilos per capita. "Another 700,000 tons of avocados would still be needed to meet those consumption levels in Europe, although the price will also be adjusted," says Enrique Colilles. The Malaga-based cooperative undertook a development project on the Peninsula that led it to expand its operations to neighboring Portugal. Its members currently have around 1,500 hectares in production in the Algarve area.

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Avocado

Reyes Gutiérrez Family

"This represents approximately 60% of Portugal's production. The plantations have the same kind of trees as the Spanish producing areas, as they have been supplied by the same nurseries that supply trees in Spain, and the conditions are very similar, so Portuguese avocados have the same features as those we produce here," says Enrique. "In Tavira, we have a warehouse for all the fruit produced in Portugal and in the province of Huelva, which adds to the three warehouses we have in the province of Malaga (two of them in property), another one in Estepona, two in the province of Granada and a partner warehouse in the Region of Valencia." But the crop’s boom has not only attracted agricultural producers and marketers. Investors from sectors unrelated to the agro-food sector and investment funds have set their sights on the flourishing business of this tropical fruit, whose market excels in the fruit and vegetable segment. "It is understandable that industrialists from other very cyclical sectors will aim to diversify their businesses. And we are seeing that the agricultural sector, although not incredibly profitable, is very stable, since the population needs to be fed and is growing constantly," says Enrique. However, despite the eye-catching figures that are always associated with avocados, the Trops CEO stresses that the profitability of their 204

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cultivation is relative. "For example, if you were to ask me which is more profitable, an avocado farm or a Tango mandarin farm, I would definitely go for the Tango. In recent years, the average price at origin of avocados has stood between 2.2 and 2.8 Euro per kilo, but you have to take into account the difficulty of its production, the low productivity per hectare and the costs involved." However, avocados are much more attractive than any other product, since "they are a success story and there are great market opportunities ahead," says Enrique Colilles. "If Malaga had more infrastructure and technology for water management, the acreage and yields would increase"

However, the crop’s growth hasn’t been free of controversy. Their water need has put avocados in the spotlight in recent years, raising doubts about their sustainability. Colilles has a strong opinion on the issue. "The lack of water for avocados is a myth that is affecting us. In the province of Malaga, more concerned about holidays and residential tourism, agriculture has never been given much attention. The problem is not that we do not have water, but that we do not have water infrastructures. Moreover, we need less water than other countries to produce avocados, and there is much more water than we need," he says. "It makes no sense that there are reservoirs like the one in Marbella that are draining into the sea

because of a lack of capacity, while others are 30% full," he says, referring to the reservoir of La Viñuela, located in the Axarquia region. "Nor do we use reclaimed water, which is perfectly suitable for irrigation, as they do in Israel."

"If we had the right infrastructure and technology for water management, we would have a much greater productive potential than we do now, both in terms of yield per hectare, which could be up to 20% greater than the current one, and in the number of hectares in production," says Trops' CEO.

LAMB HASS AND MALUMA AVOCADO VARIETIES TO EXTEND THE SPANISH SEASON TO 7 TO 8 MONTHS The presence of Spanish avocados continues to grow in the European markets, where consumers increasingly demand quality tropical fruits from “local” sources, given their lower carbon footprint compared to the fruits from other origins. Therefore, extending the Spanish season is one of the most ambitious goals pursued by the sector, and varietal diversification with rough-skinned varieties offers great prospects. This is what the Malaga-based company Reyes Gutiérrez has been striving for. "We have been testing with the Lamb Hass and Maluma varieties, with which we could get Spain to be present in the market on a


to the Lamb Hass, because we have encountered certain difficulties in its management in our experimental farms due to its sensitivity to fungi."

In addition to Hass avocados, the season could kick off in November with the Maluma and end in June with the Lamb Hass, and although the rough-skinned varieties are the most demanded in the European market, they are not the only ones produced in Spain, as pointed out by Juan Antonio Reyes. "Spain also grows green-skinned varieties such as the Bacon or Fuerte, which are in great demand in Eastern countries such as Hungary, Poland, Ukraine or Romania.”

regular basis for 8 months, from week 40 to week 25/30," says Juan Antonio Reyes, manager of the company.

"The Lamb Hass is a variety with great advantages: its upright growth allows it to be planted in intensive orchards; it offers high productivity and its fruit has a good size," says Juan Antonio. "It is a very good complement to strengthen the Spanish sea-

son and extend it by up to two months after the Hass avocado campaign. At Reyes Gutiérrez, we want to encourage producers to plant this variety." "Regarding the Maluma, it is a variety with a high productive value and a totally opposite production calendar to that of the Lamb Hass. In Spain, we could start with the Maluma in week 40/41," says the manager of Reyes Gutiérrez. "However, we are still a little behind with it, compared

This Malaga-based company, a specialist in the cultivation and marketing of tropical fruit, has embarked on an ambitious expansion project. We currently have 450 hectares spread between Portugal, Cadiz and Malaga, and the goal is to expand the acreage to 1,000 hectares by 2025," said Juan Antonio Reyes.  Enrique Colilles ecolilles@trops.es Juan Antonio Reyes jarg@reyesgutiérrez.com

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Strawberries

Jan Westerkamp, Kühling Fruchthandel:

“Growing under glass will become an increasingly interesting alternative in the near future” German berry production through protected cultivation has enjoyed a rapid growth in recent years. In the shadow of the booming production in tunnels, as well as on racks, strawberry cultivation in glasshouses is also gradually gaining in importance. In addition to the large installation, mainly for vegetables, in Thuringia (Wittenberg), Bavaria (Steiner) and in the Rhineland (Landgard), the smaller growers as well as the classic specialist wholesalers have now also recognized the potential of greenhouse fruit for themselves.

N

orthern German family business Kühling, based in Emstek (Oldenburger Land), also decided to market greenhouse strawberries two years ago. "We were already supplying the respective grower in Borken (NRW) with packaging, and he was still looking for special sales channels for his premium goods from the greenhouse. In the course of this, the cooperation in the matter of greenhouse strawberries came into being," says Jan Westerkamp, sales manager at Kühling. 206

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In terms of marketing, greenhouse strawberries are particularly lucrative in the early periods, says Westerkamp. "Our grower harvests his greenhouse produce in three waves. The second crop hits the market in late June-early July during peak season, when everyone is present at the market. During this period, sales to food retailers are logically somewhat more difficult because not all of the production volume is accepted by the retailers. We take care of the marketing of this overproduction so

that the producer can continuously produce the same amount. Because of our size and distribution channels, we are better able to respond flexibly to these smaller volumes compared to the retailers."

OUTSTANDING QUANTITY AND QUALITY This year, the harvest season kicked off the week after Easter, a little later than usual. Westerkamp: "It was too cold in parts and we had too few hours of sunshine, so the crop developed a little slower. After all, we are still talking about a natural product. Nevertheless, the fruit grew and colored evenly. Due to the trained professional staff, both the quantity and quality at picking are outstanding from the marketer's point of view."

"Our grower starts the season in the glasshouse, then moves to the tunnel with heated gutters." The next step would be to do away with heating completely and produce


growers in the greenhouse growing sector who want to work with us." MINIMAL COST DIFFERENCE Compared to outdoor cultivation, strawberry production in a greenhouse is associated with significantly higher costs, Westerkamp says. "This is related to fertilization and heating, among other things. Rising labor costs are another factor: proportionally, you need significantly more personnel in the open field, which is why the differences in production costs are minimal on balance. Furthermore, there is the inevitable change of fields and crop rotation that one has to take into account in open field cultivation, while in the glasshouse one can cultivate the same area several times each year. This, combined with the higher yield per square meter, makes greenhouse cultivation an increasingly attractive alternative in the near future."

Lena and Christa Kühling

a continuous consistent volume, with no gaps in supply or surpluses. "We as marketers don't notice it in the quality of the product. From the grower's point of view, it's important to plan the crop so that you move seamlessly from the glasshouse to the tunnel and the racks."

The main variety grown is the Malling Centenary. Westerkamp: "This variety is excellent for protected cultivation - whether in the tunnel or glasshouse - and has a very good reputation with our customers, such as resellers, direct marketers, etc." Saleswise, he does not see any major problems ahead for the strawberry industry, despite Corona. "There has been a lack of demand

in the food service sector, in contrast to which there have been more sales in the food retail and direct marketing sectors. Weather-wise, there was a seamless transition between the southern, central German and northern growing regions, so everyone could be served at good prices. In addition, the strawberry market is rather constant: especially in the glasshouse, no excess quantities are produced."

THRESHOLD POINT OF DEMAND According to Westerkamp, the further marketing potential of fruit from protected cultivation is not up for debate at all. "If I were to ask my customers at the wholesale markets, they would prefer to have ten times the amount of goods from protected cultivation. I'm also sure that the market is receptive to the product and its quality. However, we must be careful not to exceed the critical threshold point of demand. The raison d'être in the market is, in my view, finite. We shouldn’t push it either, otherwise there would be a corresponding drop in prices," Westerkamp concludes. 

The last wave of harvests of the so-called autumn strawberries hits the market from September until December. Currently, 1.4 hectares (0.8 ha glasshouse area) are available. "In the future, this will be expanded to 3 ha total area. We are still looking for

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Packaging

Belgian coop restyles its strawberry box The Belgian strawberry season has begun anew. Belgian cooperative, REO Veiling, has also auctioned the first summer strawberries. Tomabel wants to draw even more attention to this fruit. So, this organization has restyled its strawberry box. They did so in consultation with REO Veiling. The new Tomabel strawberry box will be launched in early May. QUALITY LABEL The Tomabel quality label introduced its current house style last year. That included a new logo and changes to its packaging material. "Back then, we chose a universal logo that's easily recognizable locally and abroad. After all, Tomabel growers are proud of their products. They love eating them, but they're just as happy to share them with the rest of the world," says Philiep Willems, Tomabel executive.

label. It appropriately reflects Tomabel's good image," Philiep explains.

"Besides developing new packaging for our Tomabel strawberries, we're also investing in new varieties. We have distributed the promising Opera variety for several years. Starting this season, these strawberries will be auctioned separately. We couldn't

do that in the past; the supply volumes did not yet allow for that. However, we expect to put good volumes on the market this year. Traders love Opera strawberries.”

“They're firm, tasty strawberries, making them ideal for long-distance export. We are testing the Falco variety too. We have delivered the first plants to eight to ten growers, and they will test them this season. This strawberry should eventually wholly replace the Elsanta. But first, we must wait for the test results. Varieties marketed under the Tomabel label invariably have good quality, durability, flexibility, and continuity," continues Philiep.

"Within this context, we also presented our new strawberry box, which boasted the logo. Based on the past year's experiences and comments, we recently gave the box a makeover. We also listened closely to the traders' and producers' ideas. And ultimately arrived at the current design. The new strawberry box is bright and modern, making it much more striking. We improved the box's quality too. The Tomabel strawberry box is now even sturdier." NEW VARIETIES The restyled box is available to REO Veiling's customers from the beginning of May. "We're not ruling out also revamping the other Tomabel products' packaging. We started with strawberries, but Tomabel tomatoes will get a new look soon too. In this way, we are placing Tomabel in the market as a quality, attractively packaged 208

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Philiep Willems


FINE FLEUR REO Veiling does not only offer Tomabel strawberries but also those of the Fine Fleur brand. These are not currently on the market, as Fine Fleur strawberries are grown 100% in the open field. "We expect the first of these strawberries in a few weeks. Fine Fleur and Tomabel strawberries exist in harmony. Fine Fleur strawberries are also subject to strict quality control, so they are of excellent quality; Flandria [another Belgian quality label]. Its strawberries have a

minimal share and are in decline at REO Veiling. Some of those farmers are now growing under the Tomabel label."

Yet, strawberries have been gaining ground at the REO cooperative in recent years. Philiep expects the share to grow again this year. "This year's supply will increase. But don’t forget that natural products depend on many factors, including weather conditions. Last year was extremely hot, which affected strawberry cultivation. The weath-

er is playing a major role now too. The new season's start was slightly delayed. That was because of some dark days early in the year. At the beginning of April, we had very nice days, so the season caught up. A week later, the weather turned icy, which reduces the demand. There's always something with fruits and vegetables," concludes Philiep. (SR)  philiep.willems@reo.be

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Packaging

André Vois

German Project S&P hits the ground running with sustainable packaging systems

“Paper banding contributes to credible marketing of organic products” There is no better packaging than no packaging at all. However, in view of today's global product flows, leaving out packaging altogether is virtually impossible. After all, wholesalers and retailers need to be supplied continuously. The use of banding instead of full packaging is a possible solution and is being used more and more often. German packaging specialist Project S&P from Kranenburg is fully committed to these flexible packaging systems.

"W

e want to motivate the fruit and vegetable trade to switch to banding as a simple and sustainable form of packaging. The concept is crystal clear: Everyone should be able to use the same machine quickly, on different products and 210

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in various ways. Whether the banding is made from 100% recyclable paper, plastic, or other materials, either printed or unprinted. In addition, we also offer the corresponding packaging installations, i.e. the paper banding machines," says André

Vois, responsible for the banding machine Proband V1000 at Project S&P.

Günther Hach Amar, manager at Erzeugervermarktung West Ltd & Co has been a customer from the very start. For him, the flexibility of the packaging system was decisive: "We use the Proband V1000 for banding numerous products, ranging from rhubarb to leeks, zucchini, fennel and asparagus. Because parts can be easily exchanged, it is possible to package almost our entire assortment with just one machine. This is, of course, a huge advantage in our industry. Moreover, I find it especially important that the machine is


solidly built and that the service for it is excellent."

The Proband V1000 is able to process numerous bandings in different sizes with just one installation. Should its frame still need to be changed, then this can be done very quickly, the company says. "The touch screen indicates how to switch applications, from fennel to a completely different product like zucchini, for example."

100% RECYCLABLE For Project S&P, the ecological aspect in particular is an important selling point. Companies that carry a wide organic range in particular should also focus on sustainability in their packaging, André Vois argues. "Our paper banding, which can be applied using the Proband V1000, is 100% recyclable. As far as we are concerned, that means this system contributes to the fact that organic products can be truly and credibly traded as 'organic'." Vois also appeals to smaller producers who want to make the switch to paper, as he sees his system as an excellent entry-level model. (HH)  A.Vois@project-sp.de

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To p f r u i t

Randolf Aaldijk, Origin Fruit Direct, the Netherlands

“Investing in CA storage, SmartFresh extends South African top fruit season” South Africa is a huge country with lots of different climate zones. So, many different kinds of fruits and vegetables can be grown there. The Western Cape is an important apple and pear cultivation region. Ceres is well-known. However, top fruit is not farmed solely in that province. The Eastern Cape boasts orchards full of apples and pears too.

O

rigin Fruit Direct in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, specializes in overseas fruit, including South African top fruit. "For apples and pears, we work with a supplier based in Langkloof in the Eastern Cape," says Randolf Aaldijk. "It's a different area to the Western Cape. The conditions between the two regions can vary considerably. The top fruit season is currently in full swing there. And Europe is a vital sales market for South African apples and pears. But exports to Europe are not going so smoothly this year for either fruit. Langkloof has been facing a drought for five years. The apples are, therefore, on the small side. However,

European buyers only want large apples, so exports are on hold at the moment."

DROUGHT Pears from that same area are having a hard time of it too. There are still many Conference pears available in the Netherlands and Belgium. There is, therefore, little demand for pears from South Africa. "The limited demand is bringing prices down. That is the opposite of the situation last year. Then, there was much less volume available on the European pear market. So, the South African growers got more money for their product. The pears are of good quality this

year too. The drought is forcing the trees to grow their roots further down.”

“That provides the fruit with more sugar and nutrients. Also, pears like dry, warm weather, so this year's internal and external quality is excellent. This year, both apple and pear volumes have been hammered by two hailstorms in Langkloof. In contrast, the Western Cape has a bumper crop of apples as well as pears. That is due to a cold winter and a good amount of rainfall. However, strong winds hit some growers in the Western Cape. It blew the fruit right off the trees," continues Randolf.

CHEEKY/CAPE ROSE "Our suppliers have had Cheeky/Cape Rose pears in the assortment for some time now. This is a blushed variety of which volumes increase annually. The supplier has very high hopes for this pear, because of its nice shape and good eating quality. It also had

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a better shelf life than Rosemary pears. However, the market still needs to get to know this pear. According to suppliers, the Cheeky/Cape Rose variety should be far better promoted in Europe. People can then see that this pear is better than the Rosemary in all aspects." Investments have recently been made in the Celena pear too. "This competes with the Rosemary and Cheeky varieties. The Celena is gorgeous and has a great eating quality. But growers are having yield issues with these trees. It takes a long time for them to come into full production." CA STORAGE "The South African top fruit sector has

invested heavily in CA storage in recent years,” adds Randolf. That is so that it can better spread out bringing apples and pears to market. With SmartFresh's help, South Africa can supply the European market from September to December. Lately, many growers have also put up hail nets in their orchards. Langkloof gets battered by hail at least twice a year. That, like sunburn, can cause considerable damage. The nets are a simple way to protect the fruit and safeguard your harvest." According to Aaldijk, there's fierce competition in both the South African and international top fruit markets. "Top fruit CA storage is expensive. But get that in place

and have enough volume to keep your CA storage cells filled throughout the year. Then you can secure programs with large customers for the whole year at reasonably low prices. That makes it very tough for smaller exporters like us to get a good foothold for our brand in the markets. So, CA storage is a great tool but also presents a major challenge. Because now, you have to compete with growers and exporters from everywhere, the northern and southern hemispheres alike," concludes Randolf (SR)  Randolf@originfruitdirect.nl

Origin Fruit Direct is a specialized sales office for citrus, grape and pomegranate growers. Our mission is to further optimize the value chain between grower and buyer. We strive to deliver top quality fruit, offering optimal service in the process. Furthermore, we are continuously searching for new products and varieties from all over the world.

Origin Fruit Direct B.V. • Albert Plesmanweg 250 • Havennr. 2450 • 3088 GD Rotterdam +31 (0)88 244 9300 • info@originfruitdirect.nl • www.originfruitdirect.nl

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Packaging

100 years of Klingele: Corrugated cardboard manufacturer continues to grow

“Continued growth potential in the corrugated cardboard industry after the crisis” Even in times of Corona, the Klingele Paper & Packaging Group remains on its path towards growth. The leading corrugated cardboard and paper packaging manufacturer celebrated its 100th anniversary last year and has now expanded its international network to 23 locations in 10 countries. And the company is still looking ahead confidently, despite the tough times we are in; after all, the market for environmentally friendly packaging is still growing, and even markets that have not yet been tapped have recognized the potential of these solutions for themselves, Carolyn Wagner, Managing Director West Europe of the Klingele Group, says in an interview.

T

he history of the Klingele company is closely linked to the innovative spirit of the Klingele family. As early as the middle of the last century, the company, then known as "Klingele Papierwerke", entered into new fields of business and ventured abroad: in 1961, it entered the paper business with the acquisition of a paper mill in Weener, East Frisia. That very same decade, Klingele became active beyond Germany's borders for the first time through its initial investments in Spain. INTERNATIONAL GROWTH Today, the company is still shaped by its global philosophy: in 2021, Klingele acquired a paper mill in Nova Campina and an associated hydropower plant in Catas Altas in Brazil. On the island of Cuba, Klingele currently has two locations. "In addition to Latin America, the African continent is also interesting for us. We already have a site in Mauritania and next year we

intend to open another plant in Senegal. These countries have a young population and are therefore a potential growth market."

High-quality packaging for fruits and vegetables has always been part of the company's core competence." The father of current managing director Dr Jan Klingele was already involved in banana and vegetable packaging. At our site on the island of Tenerife, we almost exclusively produce fruit and vegetable packaging," says Carolyn Wagner. CORONA: BOOM IN ONLINE TRADE Unfortunately, the company’s anniversary year was overshadowed by the Corona pandemic. The consequences of the crisis were

Carolyn Wagner

inevitably felt in Klingele's international distribution network as well. "At the beginning of the crisis in March-April, there was a considerable increase. All in all, however, we recorded an average sales year," Wagner said.

Certain areas - such as online retailing - were among the winners of the crisis, according to Wagner: "In the field of ornamental plants many products are being shipped to hobby gardeners. Furthermore, there is an increased demand for solutions for pick-up boxes and subscription services. We also see great growth potential in

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this division in the longer term, especially since people are increasingly looking to replace plastic with paper or cardboard, particularly in the mail order business."

PAPER SHORTAGE AND NEW FIBRES An ever-relevant topic with reference to the paper and corrugated cardboard industry is the impending paper shortage and the recycling of waste paper. "The demand for paper packaging is growing, while the availability of raw materials is declining. This is related to various factors, such as the declining print media. At the same time, there are various solutions to prevent this impending shortage as well. On the one hand, we have our own paper mills, and on the other, we are participating in several research projects with the purpose of appropriately utilizing new fiber materials, like straw."

Specifically, for fruits and vegetables, she said, there are several, longer-term developments. "There is an observable shift from white- to brown-colored packaging, partly because people associate the color brown with a more natural product. In addition, kraftliner paper is obviously on the rise, certainly for fresh produce such as mushrooms and soft fruit, precisely because a moisture-resistant solution for direct contact is required here. In the food retail sector, we see that discounters are also increasingly turning

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to sustainable paper and corrugated cardboard solutions," says Wagner.

FUTURE: ONLINE TRADE SHOWS AND B2B TRADE In times of Corona, trade shows and trade events are somewhat rare. But the first packaging trade shows - such as Empack Dortmund - are set to return soon. "Stationary trade fairs will also be held again in the future. From our point of view, however, the more traditional fairs will become fewer; instead, we at Klingele believe in the potential of online fairs and easyfairs or meeting platforms." The potential of online platforms is not only reflected in digital events, but also in the growth rates of online store Klingele24.de. "This store is a pure B2B platform for commercial customers and was launched just over a year ago. In the wake of the positive response, we are aiming to further expand this platform in the near future," says Carolyn Wagner.  For more information: Klingele Papierwerke GmbH & Co. KG Carolyn Wagner Alfred Klingele Str. 56 72 73630 Remshalden Tel +49 7151 701 180 Fax +49 7151 701 10180 E Mail Carolyn.Wagner@klingele.com Web www.klingele.com

100 years of Klingele • 1920 „Badische Wellpapierfabrik Klingele & Holfelder“ is founded on April 21, 1920 • 1936 Second production site is built in Grunbach near Stuttgart • 1947 Dr Werner Klingele takes over the company management • -1952 Founding families Klingele and Holfelder go their own ways, Grunbach becomes Klingele‘s main plant • 1961 Start of paper production and expansion in Spain • 1968: Dr Brigitte Klingele joins company management, nationwide presence in Germany • 1980: New paper machine gives Klingele a leading technological position in the market for corrugated base papers • 1992: Dr Jan Klingele takes over group management • 2000: Largest expansion program in the company‘s history begins; around 400 million euros are invested in the following years • 2008: „Weener Energie“: power plant based on substitute fuels • 2013: Foundation of Blue Paper SAS in Strasbourg as a joint venture with VPK Packaging • 2017 to 2019: Moving into Scandinavia, Cuba, Spain and Great Britain • 2019: New umbrella brand „Klingele Paper & Packaging Group“ • 2020: 100 years of Klingele • 2021: Move into South America and towards virgin fiber paper: acquisition of a paper mill in Nova Campina and a hydropower plant in Catas Altas, Brazil • Overview current (2020): 3 paper mills, 13 corrugated cardboard plants, 8 converting plants and 1 sheet feeder plant in Europe, Africa, Central and South America • 3,000 employees, 2019 sales: 820 million euros


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Packaging

Driven by increasing online sales, and desire to reduce plastic packaging

Steep rise in corrugated cardboard packaging demand The world is changing, and consumption patterns along with it. The Dutch Bureau of Statistics (CBS) reports that COVID-19 measures have started to affect people’s consumption behaviour. Online sales shot up by 43% in 2020 compared to the previous year. With a 6.9% increase last year, the food sector is one that is benefiting from this.

A

ll these products need to be packaged, and corrugated cardboard is often chosen for this. “The demand for corrugated packaging, therefore, also rose sharply in 2020,” the Corrugated Benelux Association (CBA) says in a press release. This is the trade association for that area’s corrugated cardboard industry. “Also, corrugated cardboard is sustainable and therefore sought-after by consumers. Cardboard is increasingly replacing plastic.”

SINGLE-USE William Roelse, De Jong Verpakking’s commercial director, has also noticed this development. This Dutch company focuses on corrugated cardboard packaging. It not only supplies the food and non-food industries. It also has fruit and vegetable sector and e-commerce clients. “COVID-19 has increased e-commerce. So, currently, there is generally a high demand for corrugated cardboard,” he says. William also sees an increase in demand in the fruit and vegetable sector. He distinguishes between

William Roelse

Appropriate packaging “It must be packaging which best suits the company’s business model,” says Eelke Westra on choosing appropriate packaging. He is the Postharvest Quality program manager at Wageningen Food & Biobased Research. This program is part of Wageningen University and Research in the Netherlands. “Sustainability is becoming increasingly important.” There is, however, a vital consideration when choosing packaging. Products must retain their quality, and they must be transported to consumers cost-effectively and adequately. Wageningen Food & Biobased Research makes these issues quantifiable. And so, help businesses transition from plastic to alternative materials. “For example, we calculate a material’s footprints and advise about its functionality and recyclability. We also test packaging and products’ shelf lives.” Based on that, a company can decide which packaging is most suitable in all respects. Eelke mentions the current Packaging versus Losses project. Companies can submit cases to this. “It considers alternatives to fossil plastics and lets you make the most sustainable choice.” CARDBOARD Paper and (corrugated) cardboard are some of the bio-based materials that may gain importance. Eelke has noticed a rise in this packaging material’s use in the fruit and vegetable sector too. That’s because more people are buying these products 218

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online. “These have to be transported. And during distribution, cardboard has always been a widely used solution. Cardboard is very well-suited to creating a manageable unit of individual products. It also protects them from handling damage.” Using (corrugated) cardboard also reduces the need to use plastic. Its uses range from bulk import and export packaging to consumer cardboard trays for, say, vine tomatoes or apples. Another advantage is that paper and cardboard have a well-functioning recycling system. This means that these materials can be used only once, with no issue. VISIBILITY Eelke says for recycling, it is preferable to use mono-materials. If the cardboard, for instance, needs a plastic coating, it’s harder to recycle. Virgin raw materials are almost always used for food packaging. Food safety

Eelke Westra sees that sustainability is more and more on the agenda

is an issue that is under discussion. Possible contamination from ink residue from a packaging’s previous use must be considered. One of the disadvantages of cardboard is that it isn’t transparent. “We grew up with plastic and are used to seeing products through the packaging. You can’t do that with corrugated cardboard and paper. Companies will have to find a solution. They need to assure consumers that the packaging contains good products,” Eelke concludes 

www.wur.nl/packwithimpact


Corrugated cardboard is in demand due to increased online sales

protective transport and consumer packaging. Corrugated cardboard is already widely used for protective packaging whilst transporting fruit and vegetables.

De Jong Packaging subsidiaries, Karpack and De Jong Ecocups produce consumer packaging. “Plastic packaging for products like tomatoes or apples is increasingly being converted to paper and corrugated cardboard.” Corrugated cardboard transport packaging can only be used once. This eliminates the transmission of viruses and other contaminants. William sees this as an advantage. “Retrieved multi-use plastic crates are washed. But despite this, they can sometimes still harbour certain plant viruses. There are definite advantages to using corrugated cardboard for that.” This material can also be printed, allowing suppliers to share messages with their clients. CIRCULARITY Corrugated cardboard has another advantage. It’s made from paper, which is sustainable. “Of the paper we use, 80 to 85% is recycled from old paper streams. It’s

then used to make new paper.” William sees added value in this circularity. “We focus on sustainability which is what the world needs. Creating a closed loop - making new paper from recycled material - adds value. Consumers drive the demand for sustainable packaging. That became apparent during the Netherlands’ Circular Economy Week in February. “People have had enough of plastic. Chain stores are responding to that, and that demand filters back to us.” RAW MATERIAL Raw material prices reflect the increased corrugated cardboard demand. “There’s a rising demand for paper. And in some areas of Europe, wastepaper, as a raw material, is becoming scarcer. These factors are affecting this crucial raw material’s price. That is in line with general economic principles,” states the CBA. Brexit is one of the reasons why less raw material is available for corrugated cardboard. “Brexit has delayed the wastepaper and cardboard supply from England. That is noticeable on a European level. And China’s economy is picking up. So, they have begun importing paper pulp

and recycled paper this year again,” reads the CBA press release. The COVID-19 pandemic has also hindered wastepaper collection in Europe.

INCREASE De Jong Verpakking, too, has seen a rise in raw material prices. That is clearly due to increased demand. “Something is happening at the moment; the demand for paper remains high. Other raw materials prices are also climbing,” says Roelse. However, he also notes that the paper market is a global one with ever-fluctuating prices. For example, the current high prices are levelling off again. That is after prices had dropped sharply at the end of 2019. “In the coming months, the situation may change again because of the COVID-19 vaccinations. It is hard to predict how this will affect the corrugated cardboard industry. But with all the focus on sustainability, corrugated cardboard’s future looks bright,” William concludes. (MW)  w.roelse@dejongverpakking.com

Corrugated cardboard is often used as a replacement for plastic packaging

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Vision

Piet Pannekeet steps down on a high note:

“I’m leaving JASA behind with peace of mind” gradually developed into complete packaging lines. Nowadays, that even includes complete supply and outflow systems and robotization.

Did the overseas step quickly follow? At first, I focused primarily on vegetable processing companies. We started working with Newtec. The focus then shifted to the entire fruit and vegetable sector. I sold my first Newtec in Belgium. That expanded steadily and continues to do so. Newtec is still one of JASA's bigger suppliers. Thanks to Newtec's global dealer network, I soon met all the Newtec dealers around the world. They also needed vertical packaging machines. So, we quickly became very international. PMT began operating under the name JASA Packaging Solutions in 2005. And JASA has developed into an international weighing and packaging machine specialist. JASA packaging machines and sleeving machines are used worldwide from Denmark and Italy to South Africa and New Zealand.

In January this year, Piet Pannekeet bade farewell to JASA Packaging Solutions in the Netherlands. Now it is time for him to renovate his house, old cars, and - since it is in Piet's blood – second-hand machines. "I can leave the company with peace of mind. It has become far more structured in the past four years. That is thanks to my successors. Turnover has doubled in those four years." How did the business get started? I began my own business in 1984. That was under the name, Pannekeet Machine Techniek (PMT). Before that, I had worked in the vegetable processing company that my father co-owned. There, I built and rebuilt all kinds of machines. I worked there for about ten years. After starting PMT, companies quickly knew where to find me. Thanks to packaging and machine dealers, I was in high demand. I ended up in Westland. But I also did jobs for companies in other parts of the Netherlands. At that time, the Primeur magazine had only just started. I advertised in it a lot and got my first Belgian clients in 220

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that way. I started employing extra people quite quickly.

I bought used machines, and we began reconditioning those too. From 1987/88 onwards, we started building more machines ourselves. In retrospect, we were pioneers. We worked day and night, but it was a wonderful time. In the early years, it was mostly simple machines with smaller capacities. Back then, we also manufactured cleaning machines and centrifuges, but we stopped at some point. We really started distinguishing ourselves in the field of weighing and packaging machines. That

Do you expect the German convenience trend to continue? I have been saying for years that it will. Dutch vegetable processors don't set up shop in the border region for no reason. These businesses get a lot of interest from German companies. That's why, last year, we also set up a company in Kleve, Germany. We hired employees specifically for the German market. We already had good contacts with certain German processors. These are, for example, tomato, apple, and potato, processors. So, our sales in Germany are broader than just the convenience market. What is something that happened in the last 35 years that you will never forget? I once got a huge order from a large Czechian vegetable processor. That was along with Frans Schepers of Eillert [another Dutch machine manufacturer]. Back then, it was my biggest order ever, worth about a million guilders. The client was entirely fixated on achieving maximum capacity. Even though he didn't even have any products to run at that capacity. And he hadn't yet realized any turnover either. We did everything we could to help him, but he simply wanted more than we had promised. There was no talking to him, and he went bankrupt in no time. Also, the West/East German bor-


der opened in the early 90s. There were many 'cowboys' who started up factories with East Germans. They often needed new installations quickly. But I could frequently repurchase those machines cheaply. Even though, in some cases, they had not even been installed. What is the best machine you have built? Oh goodness, what a question. We have built so many great machines. The first one that comes to mind is the Quick-Pack. We developed this machine along with our Italian dealer and NNZ. I don't know if it's the best. But it was a highly successful model that has been built for over 20 years. Our Bag-2-paper was also revolutionary for vertical packaging machines. It uses 100% paper, with no plastic coating. The packaging is closed without sealing it and is, therefore, 100% recyclable. Thanks to the vertical packaging system, the products are packaged at lightning speed. But we have completed so many great projects. That's besides all the vertical forming, filling, and sealing machines and complete lines. The

carton sleeve machines have also been immensely popular in recent years. These are used to pack products like apples, kiwis, and tomatoes.

What machine would you have liked to build but didn't? I would have to say the vertical packaging machine for traffic light bell peppers. But it wasn't a complete failure either. It is still running to the client’s, who supplies supermarkets, full satisfaction. But its eventual design had many snags. So, we considered it too complicated to convert into a standard line.

The desire for plastic reduction has allowed us to open up new markets. It is easy to separate out packaging from its plastic.

What do you think of the whole sustainability discussion? No plastic, compostable, recyclable… Everyone, indeed, embraces these terms. However, people also use them willy-nilly. In our view, plastic is often wrongly pushed aside. Certainly, in the short term, we can't do without it. It is essentially very sustainable, provided it is correctly processed and recycled. That should be emphasized much more. But that is mainly up to the industry concerned, not us. We help companies with their demands in this. And where we could, we would come up with solutions. The Bag2-Paper solution I mentioned earlier is such an example.

Is the fruit and vegetable sector your main market, or would you like to branch out? The fruit and vegetable sector remains JASA’s biggest market by far. However, we OUR PRODUCTS would like to serve a wider range of sectors. Did COVID-19 affect JASA much? In recent years, we have been supplying Like every other company, we had to considerably adjust our business operations. more and more machines FRESH and packaging CUT SALADS to other sectors too. These include tapas, But It also taught us that there are positive baby leaf selection that bring freshness to the table. things about working from home. Fortumeat, meat substitutes, and Anut producers. The different flavours create unique combinations with classic and new varieties such as edible flowers.

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Vision

nately, only a few of our employees became infected. So, we remained reasonably free from the virus. That is to say, until the beginning of this year. I caught the virus and infected a few colleagues. Fortunately, we are all healthy again. It, however, taught me that you can never be too careful. The company's turnover hasn't suffered. Many of the companies in our client base supply supermarkets. They actually urgently needed more machines. You seem like a headstrong businessman. Did you have trouble leaving the business behind? In my 35 years of business, our company's revenue fluctuated for years. That

was mostly due to my management style. I am quite direct and sometimes impulsive. When it got busier, or the pressure increased a little, I would quickly decide we had too many employees. I had a hard time with that. I was always looking outwards, and I primarily considered the clients. So, we would often work ad hoc. I found it difficult to let things grow internally, along with what was happening outside. That drastically changed in 2016. That’s Eduard de Haan started to manage the company.

He set up a larger management team. Eduard is one of those people with a long-term strategy and clear course. In the last four or five years, we recruited people internally to

Piet with the 60 degree JASA in 1994

take over things from me. That has led to far more peace and stability. It's not for nothing that we managed to more than double our turnover in that period. We hired new, well-trained salespeople too. That provides a stable basis for the future. I had already sold my shares in 2007. That was to Hendrik van den Berg and my daughter, San-

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Jaguar & Starfighter

dra. Eduard bought some of Sandra's shares. So the three of them are JASA shareholders. Sandra moved to the States 2,5 years ago. Was that your idea? Haha, no, that was all her. She wanted to set up her own thing and saw opportunities in the North American market. Her husband, Joost, also works for the company. They and their two children left in 2018. It has become a true success story. Initially, they did a lot of research into the most suitable location to set up shop. They eventually settled in Richmond, Virginia. In the first year, they sold a few sleeving machines. But in the second year, their turnover grew enormously, thanks to lettuce projects. I am, of course, incredibly proud of her. The end's not yet in sight either. Dutch machine builders have a good reputation in the US. A lot of fruit and vegetables are grown and processed there. I don't know if they will ever come back to the Netherlands. But that isn't currently an issue. They are having a fantastic time. What's in store for JASA? I am very optimistic about its future. JASA is continuing to grow on various fronts, like turnover and new developments. For example, the company recently delivered a complete robotics project to a large client. There is a demand for

many more of these kinds of systems. This branch is now being added to JASA's vertical machines, complete lines, and cardboard sleeving machines. And the business is also starting something new with cardboard. I am leaving JASA at a time when there are generally many new developments in the pipeline. The company's investing heavily in R&D and IT. Traceability is one of the crucial focal points in this. As is the Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE). JASA and its clients will certainly reap the benefits of this in the future. Can Piet Pannekeet detach himself from JASA? The remains to be seen, but it doesn't worry me too much. Through Sandra, I will, of course, remain indirectly involved with the company. I also regularly speak to the developers and salespeople. I often still drop in for a cup of coffee. And clients with whom I have a close relationship can always call me. But above all, I want to give everyone the space to do their work without Piet hanging around. I try not to get in anyone's way, but I am happy to help and advise. (IH)  p.pannekeet@jasa.nl

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Vegetables

Founders Eric Verhoeff, Kaz Vermeer and Bas Nootebos

How crop estimates can help growers and buyer organizations In recent years, a lot has been invested in collecting and using data. Kaz Vermeer's company VanBoven in the Netherlands is no exception. Together with two co-founders, Kaz applies data to predict the harvest of vegetables like broccoli. This information is of great importance to both growers and purchasing organizations.

"G

rowers only know for sure how much broccoli they have while they're busy harvesting. The actual harvest always differs from expectations. That's why buyer only organizations know very late how much product they'll have to deliver to their clients. You can build up a stock of many products, but not of fresh produce,” begins Kaz.

“When farmers deliver too little broccoli because their forecasts were incorrect, the purchasing group has to get more somewhere. When growers deliver too much, it must be sold quickly. Both cases cause panic and considerable price fluctuations. That leads to wastage in the fresh produce chain. We want to change that." FRESH FACE Kaz and two of his friends founded VanBoven in 2019. Kaz, Bas Nootebos, and Eric 224

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Verhoeff are Delft University of Technology and Wageningen University graduates. "We finished at the same time,” says Kaz. “We also had a shared interest in data, the agricultural sector, and entrepreneurship. We, therefore, started to explore the possibilities. We joined forces to put the power of data to use in the agricultural sector.” “In 2019, we launched pilots at various types of farms, from bulbs to arable farming. In this way, we gain practical knowledge of how information can contribute to the cultivation process. These pilots have shown that our technology can offer great added value, especially in the vegetable sector. This year will only be our third season, so we're a fresh face in the sector," laughs Kaz. SUPPLY AND DEMAND "Our crop estimates offer up to two weeks

app.vanboven.io

Achter Kapelsestraat

USER

The breeder has access to a web portal

of predictive insight. That's the exact amount of time chain partners need to balance supply and demand. When the market is balanced, prices remain stable, and everyone benefits. Growers, sometimes in cooperation with a purchasing organization, can subscribe directly to our service. For that cost, we measure your crop extensively throughout the season. Growers can access our web portal too. They can see exactly how many plants and vegetables of what size are where, in each field. And that up to two weeks in advance.” USED FOR BROCCOLI VanBoven is currently focusing on broccoli.


PICK ME! Dutch quality

Juicy The vegetables are inspected with a drone

This is a difficult full soil crop to estimate. "We use drones to collect the data. With this modern technology, we can inspect a few thousand individual plants in half an hour. That's much more than we could do by hand. We've specially trained our algorithms. They can detect and measure individual broccoli plants in the drone photos,” explains Kaz. “We can see whether each plant has formed a crown or not and how big it is. This crop development stage is called the generative phase. And at this stage, the weather has the greatest influence on growth. We, therefore, use the weather forecast to predict crown development. Our approach uses multiple measurements taken in the field.”

“So, in practice, it works much better than attempts to predict everything from a distance. In recent years, we've seen the first effects of climate change. Our models learn each season and so can anticipate these changes. As the weather becomes increasingly erratic, the need for these solutions in the agricultural sector will only increase," adds Vermeer.

NOT ALWAYS DRONES VanBoven uses drones to collect the broccoli data, but not for all crops. "Drones are handy for broccoli, but, ultimately, it's all about the information and its application. For other crops, other sensors can also collect data. Collecting and applying data to predict harvests - that's our core business."

COOPERATION IN THE CHAIN "Growers don't just deserve fair prices. Our data can ensure that retailers can better adjust their sales programs to product fluctuations. [Dutch supermarket giant] Albert Heijn, for example, could tailor its promotions to coincide exactly with large harvests. Then data use is essential. By supplying really good predictions, a grower can significantly distinguish himself. And ultimately, everyone benefits from an optimal balance in supply and demand," continues Kaz. FRESH MARKET "We've gradually introduced our service for broccoli. However, in principle, harvest forecasting is interesting for all full soil vegetables. We're definitely going to expand our offer to,

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Vegetables

Photo of the plot taken from a drone

for instance, cauliflower. The products that qualify must be intended for the fresh market, not for storage. It’s also harder to measure certain products, such as those that grow underground.”

“It's certainly possible to make predictions for these products, but we're not there yet. Besides full soil vegetables, fruit is the next logical step. These products have an interesting market dynamic in which harvest predictions are vital. We're currently seriously considering the possibilities in strawberries. We're less interested in greenhouse

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vegetables at the moment. That's because greenhouse climates are far better regulated," says Kaz.

INNOVATION IN THE SECTOR It was a challenge for the startup to introduce a new idea to the sector. "Many farmers were interested in our solution. But, they were still a bit cautious and preferred to see how fellow growers fared. Fortunately, several companies wanted to truly innovate. They became pioneers, for which we're very grateful. We now work with a great group of growers.”

“There have been an increasing number of new farmers that want to join. That's a great development.” A question VanBoven often gets is whether they can predict crop diseases. "It's a very understandable question. Currently, the answer is 'no'. We're focusing on one problem at a time. For now, that's crop predictions and not so much agronomics. It is, of course, a very interesting direction for the future," concludes Kaz. (SR)  kaz@vanboven.io


Vision

Hans Vanderhallen, Cooperative Hoogstraten:

“Van logistics sales company to open knowledge organization” Hans Vanderhallen has his roots in Hoogstraten’s auction site in Belgium. After he studied and worked as a scientist elsewhere, Hans returned to the nest in 2000. Twenty years later, he succeeds Gaston Opdekamp as Coöperatie Hoogstraten’s director. The plan for a gradual orientation process flew out the window when ten weeks after Hans’ appointment, the coronavirus pandemic hit Europe head-on. Here is an interview about his vision for the cooperative’s future. What is your background? I was born and bred in Hoogstraten. My father started as an employee, and our family lived in the caretaker’s house. If I wanted to see my father, I had to go to the auction. When he first became deputy director and then director, we relocated a few hundred meters. I might not have experienced the horse-and-carriage era, but I’ve seen the auction house evolve. Casual farming was very popular here, and, like every other student in the Belgian region of Noorderkempen, I sorted gherkins. Specialized, protected strawberry, as well as tomato and bell pepper farming, only followed later.

I studied agricultural engineering and worked as a scientific researcher at a pig breeder for a while. I’ve always lived in Hoogstraten but had to travel all over the country for work. At one point, I was spending more time in my car than working, and that got to me. When I applied for the logistics manager job at Hoogstraten Auctioneers, there was no clever career path planning behind it. But I’d always had a strong connection to the Hoogstraten community. At first, I got stuck into the central sorting of bell peppers. In 2016, I was appointed deputy director, and administration and commercialization were added to my fields of work. And as of 1 January 2020, I’m allowed to call myself the director. The large gherkin volumes are a thing of the past. What comprises the current product assortment? Hoogstraten occupies a specific place in the

fruit and vegetable landscape. We have a limited product range, in which strawberries, tomatoes, and bell peppers form the top-3. The remaining products have somewhat smaller volumes but aren’t any less significant. However, the product assortment within, for example, the tomato category is very diverse. We offer these in all kinds of colors, shapes, sizes, and packaging. Strawberries are our showpiece, and Hoogstraten has gained global recognition with these. There are several reasons for this - dedicated growers, the product’s quality and appearance, specific sorting standards, our brand, and our marketing system.

How important is the auction for Hoogstraten? The auction forms our strawberry sales’ foundation. This way of doing business may seem outdated to many, but, year after year, the results speak for themselves. I don’t see auctions disappearing entirely, just changing. Being creative with auctions is in our blood. Pre-sales, block lot sales - each year, we introduce several new concepts. What is vital here is our buyers’ cooperation. Every new idea is, after all, is only successful if our buyers see value in them. I am, however, delighted that most of the changes we’ve implemented have led to positive results.

The basis remains. At 09:30, the strawberries are sold to someone who, at that moment, is prepared to pay the most for them. Strawberries are then also that one product that is most suited to being auc-

tioned. Partly because their consumption is highly dependent on the weather. We also don’t disregard other sales methods. We’re flexible enough to consider which products and producers best suit a specific client and sales system. For example, 90% of our specialty tomatoes are sold using brokers and price agreements. We may not always get top market prices, but we do offer our farmers and clients security. How many growers does Coöperatie Hoogstraten have? There are currently about 250 growers affiliated to Hoogstraten. We sat at around 200 for a long time. But last year, farmers from Zundert Auctioneers - whom we were doing sales for already - switched allegiance, which added approximately 50 producers. Most of our members are regional. If you were to draw a 40km radius around the auction house, it would include 80 to 90% of our farmers. That is, however, not a prerequisite. We also have a bell pepper grower from Bleiswijk (about 85km away) and a tomato producer in West Flanders (150km away). Also, for bell peppers, we have collaborated with Zaltbommel Auctioneers for years now. Products, therefore, don’t always have to be sold here. AGF Primeur • 2021

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Vision

Wouldn’t it interest you to expand to include Southern European farmers, and so, add larger strawberry, bell pepper, and tomato volumes in the winter? We focus on marketing our own growers’ products. We guarantee year-round availability, thanks to lit cultivation. For instance, we already have 80 hectares of tomatoes under lights. We also offer strawberries throughout the year. That volume gradually increases every year. That must not grow too fast, because winter strawberries remain a niche product, which, for the time being, still fetch a good price. That is why we do see expansion opportunities but in a controlled manner. Fortunately, I can say that, so far, we have matched supply and demand well. But we’re continually looking to keep that balance. Who are Coöperatie Hoogstraten’s clients? Domestic supermarkets all buy from us. Certainly now, in these coronavirus times, that is essential since most sales are being done via the retail sector. We’ve also had a good relationship with Belgian, as well as Dutch, exporters for years now. They sell our strawberries, tomatoes, and bell peppers to overseas markets. Then we negotiate with foreign clients ourselves too, alone or in collaboration with exporters. Does that not cause friction, you entering the export market yourselves? If you do it transparently, it certainly doesn’t. Mind you; we prefer marketing our products overseas via exporters who we have worked with for many years. It’s not like we are going to compete with our own clients. People know us well enough to know we won’t do that. I wouldn’t say we don’t discuss this with exporters, but if they 228

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don’t seize certain opportunities, we’re alert enough to discuss the possibilities and even act proactively.

Is exporting to far-off destinations important for you? We have some lines to places like the Middle East and Hong Kong, but the total of these volumes is negligible. That is why we find it far more important that specialized exporters buy their products from us, rather than us taking care of exports ourselves. In this respect, we certainly don’t want to be on the frontline. Setting up such a structure is definitely not a short term plan for us.

Belgium has an auction structure, while in the Netherlands, sales are more fragmented. Do you expect more Belgian growers will want to do their own sales in the future? There is, indeed, a high degree of integration in Belgium where most farmers are members of a cooperative. That doesn’t mean they grow the product, bring it to auction, and then sit back and watch what happens to their goods. We see growers are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of forecasting. The time of being surprised that a specific type of crop has been expanded, and you weren’t aware of this is, fortunately, over. Together, we discuss strategy - which production steps are being taken and what packaging is best suited to that. Some farmers look to commercialize more themselves than others. That, however, doesn’t mean we blindly follow their vision. On the contrary; we try to create a mutual vision. I’m sure using a cooperative is far more beneficial than doing independent marketing.

What personal mark do you want to make as director? I’m focused on expanding and professionalizing our organization. Our producers are growing and becoming more professional, and they expect the same from their cooperative. When I was elected, I said I think we should move from being a logistical sales organization to an open knowledge organization. For that, we must bring in good people. Each farmer can, of course, rediscover the wheel, individually. But workers are scarce, and it is much better to bring the best minds together and bundle our member companies’ know-how. That will benefit everyone. That can be in the areas of logistics - which involves a lot of money every year - but also IT and, of course, commercialization. For example, we are working closely with (the research foundation) Proefcentrum Hoogstraten and private businesses. We are helping to develop a UV disinfection robot, as well as a strawberry harvesting robot. But there are more tasks we think of and then do together. Do you also have organic products? We currently have no organic farmers. When our clients request this, we will approach our producers. But, for now, none of our growers have switched. I would like to point out that, every day, the farmers work at delivering their products with as low an environmental impact as possible. That is still sometimes underexposed. Where possible, they use organic pesticides.

But, for the time being, the switch to 100% organic is not feasible for everyone. They are, however, managing to reduce chemical


intervention, which makes for conventional cultivation with as little environmental impact as possible. Much progress has been made, albeit by trial and error, especially when you consider that with certain crops, the risk of disease is higher than it was five years ago.

What do you consider to be the largest threat to Coöperatie Hoogstraten? Aside from the threats we are currently dealing with because of the coronavirus pandemic, I consider the concentration on the buyers’ side a danger. Supermarkets are expanding, and we must ‘arm’ ourselves to manage our producers’ interests as equal partners. That goes beyond commerce alone. Think of packaging, IT, and operational service provision as a whole. Our daily challenge is to clearly show our cooperative’s added value. For that, you need to be of a specific size and have particular expertise.

Three years ago, you held merger talks with BelOrta. Will there be a renewed attempt under Hans Vanderhallen? I don’t know. If that helps us reach our goals, it is certainly worth investigating. If retailers can do it, why not the supply side? Three years ago, the merger talks revealed that the cooperatives each had a different strategy and working method. There were no hard feelings. We were just in a different place from BelOrta. But, who knows? Different opportunities might arise within a few years. The world changes faster than we think. It could be possible with like-minded people in Belgium, but also outside of the country. I believe an essential starting point is that it mustn’t become a one-size-fits-all organization. People must have choices; not everyone is the same. You must take a

good look at who your producers and clients are, and then, transparently, offer a tailormade solution.

You must have envisioned your first months as director differently? Ten weeks after my appointment, it was Friday, 13 March, and the first anti-corona measures were implemented. Just a week later, we went into a ‘light’ lockdown. We were recognized as an essential service and had to jump right in. Other companies now have a blueprint - we had to figure things out ourselves. Where, usually, you, as a new director, get to learn the business’ ropes, we had to make immediate decisions. I think we, as a cooperative, can reflect on the start of this crisis period in a reasonably positive way. Naturally, certain things could have been done better or quicker.

But we want to be a flexible organization, which means you allow yourself to be led by forward-thinking insight. You can’t let ingrained procedures or your own tunnel vision bog you down. Clients, producers, authorities, and other players responded, formally and informally. These reactions convinced me that together, as growers and staff, we took the correct path. The road is still long, and there are still many problems ahead. But, it is at times like these that a cooperative approach can make all the difference - the cooperative and its members and companies and their employees. We are now getting used to the ‘new normal’. Three-quarters of our office staff alternate working from home. We would never have imagined that possible before. However, I can only be proud of how our administrative and salespeople have made the obligatory switch to teleworking. And in a

manner that minimally affected our service provision and strength. It was a blessing in disguise that all this happened at the start of the season. Production was still relatively limited. The entirely disrupted market situation forced us to adopt a new commercial strategy. Results have been promising so far, but the real test - exports starting up - is yet to come. Then it is crucial to know who your clients are. We are now seeing how beneficial our broad sales are on the domestic market. We simply moved along with the switch from the hospitality industry to the retail sector. But, we must be honest and not blame everything on the pandemic. Certain products would have struggled anyway. What is the long-term impact? The corona crisis has laid bare many things that are taken for granted that should not be, at all. Is it not time to remove the unnecessary bobbles from the chain that don’t contribute to the ultimate task - ensuring healthy, fresh, safe food? I think everyone can name a few of these. But that is a job for after the crisis. The question is how consumer behavior, as the link in the chain, will develop further? It certainly affects e-commerce, home deliveries, and the fourth range. This situation has proved how important it is for an organization to know its clients and sales markets. If you don’t, you can’t respond either. It supports my call to bring knowledge and expertise inhouse. Then we can also assess such effects thoroughly. (IH)  info@hoogstraten.eu

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ADVERTORIAL

Advertorial

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Quality products from Jordan As a supplier of fresh fruit and vegetables, Jordan is in a better position than its competitors. This is because of the long production season in the Jordan Valley and its proximity to Europe. At the moment, CBI is supporting 34 Jordanian companies to export their products to EU, regional and international markets. Most of these companies produce or trade a variety of quality fruit and vegetables. They include tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, peaches, watermelons, melons, plums and strawberries. The main focus of the companies that CBI has selected is on the premium Medjool date variety. CBI also works with the Jordan Exporters and Producers Association For Fruit and Vegetables (JEPA). This partnership has led to improved services for the sector. Export promotion activities such as trade fair participation and trade missions are examples of these. JEPA is the leading sector association and a true supporter of the entire Jordanian fruit and vegetable sector. By the end of April, JEPA expects to launch its brand new website. This will include a ‘Jordan Excellence Platform’ to bring excellent exporters from Jordan into contact with international buyers. In June, there will be a virtual B2B event for dates producers from the CBI programme in Jordan that want to sell to the UK market. CBI will announce more information on its website (www.cbi.eu/ events) soon. Would you like to know more? Contact Melanie van der Baaren-Haga, mhaga@cbi.eu

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Moldova, taste makes the difference! Moldova is a fertile country with a long tradition of fruit production. Fruits grown in this country include apples, cherries, grapes, peaches, pears, plums and other stone fruits. 11 of these produce fresh fruit. In Moldova, CBI works with the local Fruit Producers and Exporters Association of Moldova, Moldova Fruct. This sector association wants to promote the Moldovan fruit sector to international buyers and help build fruitful business relationships. CBI’s partner Moldova Fruct has created a way to virtually visit some of Moldova’s fruit producers and exporters. Thanks to spatial and video technologies, you can take a virtual farm tour. This way, you can step into the orchards, vineyards and post-harvest facilities of Moldova’s companies. Visit the fruit producers from Moldova here by taking a self-guided virtual tour: https:// moldovafruct.md/en/map/ Would you like to know more? Contact Afke van der Woude, awoude@cbi.eu

Central American suppliers ready for the European market Central American countries offer year-round products and seasonal products such as mango and limes. This is due to their rich volcanic soils and microclimates. Companies from Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama are ready to enter the European market. One of their products is okra from Honduras with a longer shelf-life. Cassava and sweet potatoes offer new opportunities for farmers in Costa Rica. As for fruit, there is mango from Guatemala at the perfect time of the year for Europe. Nicaragua produces dragon fruit with a positive social and environmental impact. There are also extra-large papayas the whole year round from Panama. The Connecting Central America Programme that these companies take part in is co-financed by the European Union and coordinated by SIECA. CBI can set up a virtual B2B meeting with these companies for you. Would you like to know more? Contact Nicky Buizer, nbuizer@cbi.eu

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CBI prepares the carefully selected companies with the skills and knowledge they need to enter the European market. Are you interested in doing business with the suppliers that CBI has selected? You can find more information about the participating companies on our website: https://www.cbi.eu/ events

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FreshPlaza is a global trade media platform for the fresh produce industry, providing its readers with the latest information about market developments and trends. A team of writers and editors sources news globally and every weekday an e-newsletter is sent out with dedicated editions for North America, Latin America, Europe, Asia, Oceania and Africa. What we can do for you FreshPlaza by nature is an interactive concept, relying greatly on the participation of its readers. Included in our news are editorials, press releases, and photo reports. Having gained interest from the global fresh produce industry over the past 15+ years, readers are encouraged to utilize our platform to their advantage. We welcome requests from readers to have information published and the following services are offered free of charge: Daily e-newsletter • Publishing of press releases (500 words or less) by sending an email to info@ freshplaza.com • Job offers

History After significant success with the digital concept in the Dutch market through the website www.agf.nl, it was decided to venture globally by creating FreshPlaza. Ever since the start of the English platform in 2005, e-newsletter subscriber numbers and annual pageviews for the website have continued to grow steadily. After establishing the English platform, websites in four more languages have been added over the years. March 2005: English edition www.freshplaza.com April 2007: Italian edition www.freshplaza.it September 2007: Spanish edition www.freshplaza.es June 2015: German edition www.freshplaza.de January 2016: Chinese edition www.freshplaza.cn October 2018: French edition www.freshplaza.fr

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Editorial staff: Marjet Lubbers-Bruijnse, Martine van der Wekken, Izak Heijboer, Thijmen Tiersma, Jobke den Hertog, Sharon de Ridder, Liesbeth Stikkelman, Colinda van Hemert, Hugo Huijbers, Luisa Heim, Ning Fang, Marieke Hemmes, Marine Inghirami-Benaroch Sales: Andries Gunter, T. +31 (0)166 698232 - andries@agfprimeur.nl Design: Viola van den Hoven, Martijn van Nijnatten Copying all or part of the content without the written consent of the publisher is prohibited. The editors are not responsible for any shortcomings.


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