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Independent magazine for the fruit and vegetable trade • Since 1986

FRUIT LOGISTICA 2018 English Edition





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4 “First loss is often the best loss” Bram Troost

16 “Trade is still too much fun to quit” Dammis van der Staaij

50 “Supplying custom fruit globally” Ed Heijnen

„Seventy-five per cent of Dutch don’t eat avocados” Fred van Heyningen und Adriëlle Dankier



“The message has to be sent out” Jan-Willem Kaslander

94 “Trade needs to take a more coordinated approach to new markets” Michiel Gerritsen


“Say what you do and do what you say” Ben de Groot



“Fresh produce brands don’t have an impressive track record” Koen Hazewinkel

“BelOrta isn’t a lonely bride” Filip Fontaine

Table of Contents


“Quality and service, it all starts with that” Achiel De Witte

78 "Lifting Flandria to a higher level with own brands" Rita Demaré

128 “GMO recognition requirements are out-of-date” Richard Schouten


Banana sector up in arms against dreaded TR4


Swedish consumers choose local and online


“Fair Produce has international ambitions” Uli Schnier


“New suppliers emerging due to increasing global demand” John Anderson


Southern European cultivators choose seedless grapes


New export markets in theMiddle East and Asia for Azerbaijan


“We need to work together to protect the Cavendish” Andrew Biles


Seeds lift potato cultivation to higher level


More shelf space for pears at US retailers Kevin Moffit


“New standard of supermarkets offers space for fairtrade banana” Mike Port


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Organic: Healthy, but in moderation


“In 2025 we’ll be in the cosmetics department” Jules Klerken


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The rise of IT players in the fresh produce sector


Taste more important than seedless in grape market


Design & production: Martijn van Nijnatten

Illuminated production gaining more and more ground


Biggest competitor in top fruit trees is Italy


“When the harvest drowns every other year, it’ll soon be over” Leon van Meir


AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2018


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Bram Troost:

“First loss is often the best loss”

Trade company Lehmann & Troost is specialised in day and contract trading. The company consciously doesn’t choose long-lasting contracts or contracts ‘far in advance.’ The fickleness of the market, both regarding production and consumption, and the resulting observance of the contracted (“which quite often leaves something to be desired because of that fickleness”) are the reasons not to work with long-lasting contracts or contracts in advance. Bram Troost recognises that it’s difficult to find new salespeople who understand the trade and can ‘read’ the market. He soberly looks at the global developments, after all, how large is the Chinese market in actuality? And how much impact will Brexit have in the end? 4

AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2018


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AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2018



Lehmann & Troost mostly focuses on day trading and short-term contracts, why? “We were founded in 1958. During these nearly 60 years, we’ve seen many changes. The number of producers with direct contracts has increased. This has no added value for the trade. Long-term contracts are only useful in the sector in which cost price of the fresh product isn’t the main part of the cost price of the final product, unless you enjoy gambling. So what is the function of the trade? Some focus on packing or convenience to guarantee their position. We asked ourselves whether that makes sense, and which long-term continuity it would result in, in part due to the investments needed, and the commitments the buyers of the final product are willing to make.”

“We recognise that production and consumption are subject to weather influences, and that the market is therefore often very irregular and unpredictable. This leads to irregularities in sales and in production, which has to be got rid off or supplemented. This is where trade has its function, and which we focus on.” “Moreover, we conclude that the cooperation with retail comes with many specifically retail-related requirements (sizing, packing, labelling, supply, billing, certifications, and more), and that meeting these requirements has a considerable impact on an organisation. This results in time and attention for futures being lost, as well as for finding the right answers to irregularities between production and consumption.” 6

AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2018

Does this mean the share of contracts won’t change for you? “We recognise that the share of contracts takes up a large part of the market. However, we only supply based on contracts if we can come to agreements based on: price, period, quantity and specification. These four aspects are inseparable in our opinion, after all, what else can be contracted? Besides, we only do short-term contracts. It’s only possible to make fair and realistic predictions about supply and demand in the short term. It’s possible to make a fair prediction about how large supply will be, and how the market will probably continue to develop one or two weeks in advance. This is impossible for moments far in the future. We often see similar contracts based on historical data, but this data is never the same two years in a row.” What is the biggest challenge for day trading? “Maintaining good commercial expertise. It’s not just a challenge for day trading, but for trading in general. There’s a lack of influx of youths who understand how day trading works, and who are willing to give an interpretation to this. Naturally there are many people active in our branch, young people as well, but most only fill a limited commercial role. For all contract trading it concerns a one-time commercial action followed by a series of administrative actions to handle that which has been contracted, and that is what most people are working on. When I say commercial expertise, I mean: the people who have a knack for

trading, who can make good analyses, who know what’s going on in the trade, and who, based on all this information, know how to go in the right directions, while meeting the interests of both the customer and the shipping agent. We see many older salespeople with much knowledge leaving the trade. It’s difficult to find new people with enough knowledge of trade for these positions.” Is that also where the sector can find a part to play to better profile itself in, for example, training for salespeople and thus attracting young people? “Because of the fresh element our sector differs from other sectors, it can’t be standardised. Sometimes decisions have to be made that are incomprehensible to outsiders, because in their consideration the fresh element isn’t taken into account. We can only go home if what has to be sold is sold, once again because of the fresh element. For the old familiars of the sector that makes sense, but for outsiders and supporters of the new economy this is difficult to understand. You can’t offer someone a job with fixed hours from nine to five and a mobile that can only be reached when it suits the employee. We see the group willing to do this job decreasing.” “Besides, the sector has become so specific with such an enormous amount of details that all have to be taken into account, it’ll take years before you have plenty of knowledge and experience of the products, markets, legislature and certification. That’s not what young people want, they want to

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start a position ad hoc, and score quickly. That makes it even more tricky to find suitable candidates.”

Does that mean there’s no future in day trading? “Day trading will always be needed to even out irregularities on the market, but the group that can perform that trick is decreasing. Only if all the irregularities would be removed from the market, everything would be streamlined enough that supply and demand would be completely in balance, only then would day trading no longer be needed. But that isn’t the case. This isn’t the case for any product. Not for non-perishable goods either: What do you think the Action shop chain owes its existence to? Or why there are Outlet Shopping Centres?” The market is quickly changing, supermarkets are doing their own importing, sales offices are being opened in Europe and traders travel the world. Has this changed the role of importers? “The role of importers has changed enormously. Every foreigner can establish themselves here and open a sales office. If they don’t require physical attendance, they can be fiscally represented by a logistical service provider. Supermarkets have their own import programmes. Transport units have become smaller. While you needed to charter an entire boat to import from certain regions in the past, every corner of the world is now accessible through a container. Because of all of this, it’s become possible for everyone, regardless of their means, to start an import project. Importing has changed enormously because of this.” 8

AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2018

“I have learned that the question has arisen in political corridors as to whether the goal people had in mind has been achieved through fiscal representation. I think that question is justified. After all, what’s the use if a company is fiscally represented here, makes (nearly) no payments of any kind, with the exception of the import rights (which begs the question which values are used to this end), and then make complete use of all the facilities offered by the Netherlands and/or Europe?”

“Suppliers from all over the world with their own sales office have a wonderful entry into retail that wants to buy directly from them. But what if sales stagnate? What happens (or doesn’t happen) when overseas apples sell for half the price they had at the start of the season? What are the circumstances a producer can’t or won’t foresee? If a producer starts working as a salesperson, it still results in problems, especially if this is done from a distance. That might make sense, because a producer looks at their product differently than a trader. He takes different values into consideration when making decisions compared to a trader. In trade, your first loss is often your best loss. However, it requires insight and daring to come to this decision. Mind you, all following solutions are often (in hindsight) poorer solutions and no longer free but forced choices dictated by the remaining limited shelf life of the product.” “For a producer, own control often feels nicer, but it doesn’t lead to the right commercial decisions. We also see that people, because of the wish for own control, loss sight of the costs. What was compensation

to the importer (whose service went much further than just logistical services, and included pre-financing, marketing, default risk, among other things) compared to what people pay nowadays to their logistical service providers plus the costs of maintenance of their own sales organisation? Last but not least, due to the financial involvement of the importer at the time, timely decisions were made more often then, so that total disasters could be prevented.”

Could you give an example of that? “We were approached in October last year: a batch of 300 pallets of lemons was imported into Europe by a supplier from South America late May/early June. During the period the lemons were on the market, the market moved from prices around 22 - 23 euro per box to gradually lower levels. For reasons unknown to us, that batch remained unsold during that entire time. Only after four or five months did people decide to do something. But the product was four or five months old now, and the market for a similar product (in part due to the emergence of new harvest European production) had dropped to a dramatic low. The reason why this batch was left untouched for four or five months is unknown to us, although we do know much money was lost. This is only one of the examples we can give.” How can a producer absorb this? “By maintaining free trade besides retail. Respect and discipline are of great importance for that. It doesn’t work and isn’t respectful if retail gets everything and free trade nothing when demand is good and vice versa when demand is bad. Naturally it’s appealing to sell everything in one pro-

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gramme at once when the market is good. However, you then damage your contacts with free trade, and you might need that same free trade later when the market’s bad. It requires discipline to always maintain a good balance in that. If you do favours in the good times, you can ask for favours in the bad times. After all, free trade offers more opportunities to clear when sales aren’t going as expected.”

Is this also the case in times of scarcity? “A different example: in the past there were two or three types of tomatoes; beefsteak, loose and vine. We now have many more: beefsteak, loose, vine, plum, cherry or mini cherry, low-priced ones or flavourful ones loose or vine, in various colours and so on. Everyone is trying to be distinctive. They’re all tomatoes but at the same time they’re also separate products with separate markets. Following all of these different markets has become a very intense process. Especially when you consider a similar analysis shouldn’t just be made of the Netherlands, but of abroad as well. Abroad doesn’t just produce to meet their own needs nowadays, but they have also become players of importance on the international markets, and they also all produce these various types.” “Producers commit themselves to retail to supply a certain variety. If production doesn’t develop parallel to demand, it leads to surpluses that have to be got rid off, or shortages that have to be supplemented. Because of the large diversity it’s quite a job to know what is going on and how to respond to that. It requires much attention. You need an entire team to test and filter 10

AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2018

the available information, a team that can remove just the core that matters so that they can set a course according to it.”

“There’s a lot of non-information on the market. The German discounters are major players. When they place a large order, the entire market moves. It’s up to the trade surrounding it to interpret what this means. What are a customer’s risks and in the end, what should a product’s return be in shops? That’s the information you need, because if the market changes, you need to be prepared for it.” You also have Dutch products in your assortment. Do these things also apply in this market? “Yes, or perhaps I should say, this market in particular. Clocks are manipulated every day to put the competitor on the wrong track and to remain one step ahead of them. The bizarre thing is that the few clocks still around don’t even show the numbers representative to the market, the sales prices of these numbers are manipulated (which everyone knows), and yet the results of the clock are used by a large part of the branch as indicator of the market.” We hear a lot about new markets, China, for example. Does that keep you occupied as well? “We have been active with import in various parts of China since 1990. I hear a lot of rumours about this market, but how much volume is actually being sent there? I don’t think it’s a market where a tonne of European product is sold. Of course it’s a large country and if it would open its borders there would be many opportunities,

but how much has really been exported to China up till now? You mustn’t forget that China, like Europe, is in the Northern Hemisphere, so we have the same seasons. For countries such as Chile, Peru, South Africa and others it would make a difference, because they have opposite seasons.”

Russia and the consequences of the boycott are also still felt on the market. Some traders continue to hope for an opening of this market. How do you feel about this? “Russia is never coming back. At least not in the way in which it was lost, not when looking at the high speed in which investments are made in greenhouses and production there. I feel that a small group close to politics gives substance to the striving for self-sufficiency through these major investments. If you ask me, that market will remain closed, and there won’t be room for competition from outside their borders, so that the investors can earn back their investments. The EU acted very tough, but they shot themselves in the foot. As soon as own production is lost due to the coming winter, the border will gradually be opened, as is now the case for Turkish tomatoes. However, I predict that the border will close again as soon as the season starts again and has to be protected against cheap product from abroad.” “Within Europe, we have seen an enormous increase in production in roughly the 20 past years. An increase that came from a growing market. East Germany, Poland, (then) Czechoslovakia, Hungary and so on, and to cap it all, Russia. This last one is now no longer a customer for European prod-




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AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2018


Opinion uct, and there’s no alternative. Where do all of these products have to go? When looking at a global map, it becomes clear some destinations are too far away, and some countries don’t have money to buy products. It’s easy for politics to talk about new destinations, but what are they actually thinking? That trade didn’t map the world? That opportunities are left untouched? It’s their job! Of course exporters are open to new markets, but what is new? Where can we go? We’ll have to make do with what we have.”

You have a subsidiary in the UK. Is Brexit positive or negative for you? “Who knows? The Brits live on an island, and the fact is that they have to import. Of course they now get fewer imported goods for their money, but they’ll still have to eat. For our company in the UK it has now become more appealing to pack over there than on the European mainland. Besides, we see a struggle going on with all sorts of appealing tax alternatives to attract international companies. We don’t know who will

win this struggle, but what we do know is that people will always have to eat.”

The exchange rate is an uncertain factor. How do you deal with it? “As long as the changes aren’t too ad hoc, it’s fairly easy to deal with it by taking up positions. If you ask me, the markets are too connected to each other to have enormous results, and when this does happen, measures will follow that bring the irregularities closer together again. The exchange rate is naturally





AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2018

important to the fresh produce trade, but by making calculations with a slightly higher rate, and by taking positions, this can be dealt with fairly well. In trade it’s about bridging five or six weeks, the time between supply and payment. It’s a different story when it comes to investments.”

How does the future look for Lehmann & Troost? Where will you be in five to ten years? “After this interview it should be clear how we see the market, where we see weaknesses and scarcities, but also where we think the opportunities are. By means of a small, flexible team, a low overhead, respect for the perishability of the product, and by staying grounded we hope to continue to meet these opportunities.” “We have seen major changes in the past 60 years of our existence, we are convinced that major changes are still to happen as well. The entire financial market is currently being manipulated to keep it at an affordable level. We don’t know how long governments will be able to pull this off. It seems to us that the current manipulation can’t last forever, it has already gone much too far. As soon as it ends, and actual economical laws can govern unmanipulated again it will have major consequences, for our branch as well, and changes are opportunities.” 


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Resistant varieties, soil research and containment

Banana sector up in arms against dreaded TR4 TR4, two letters and a number, has the banana sector in its thrall. The feared fungus has wreaked havoc in the sector in Asia for some decades now, but some years ago, TR4 took a trip to the Middle East and Africa. That was the moment the sector started taking notice. Despite much research, much is still unknown about the fungus. An added problem is the limited genetic variation among bananas.


f the global banana production, 46 per cent is of the Cavendish variety, 15 per cent is plantains and 12 per cent consists of cooking bananas. Within these three categories, however, hardly any distinction can be made on a genetic level. “Is that a problem?” Inge van den Bergh from Promusa wonders out loud. “History teaches us it’s a problem,” she answers her own question. In this connection she refers to the Irish famine of 1845 and 1850, when the potato harvest was lost due to phytophthora. “Only one variety was grown, and because of that, the disease wiped out the complete potato production.” The banana sector has its own example: TR1 – also known as Panama Disease – wiped the banana production of Gros Michel of the map in the 1950s. “Depending on just one variety makes the system vulnerable,” Inge says.

GLOBAL PROBLEM The vulnerability is now in the news again due to the rise of TR4. The fungus was found in an growing number of countries. Although the fungus has been a threat to the banana sector in Asia since the 1990s, the global sector started taking notice around 2013, when TR4 was found on plantations in the Middle East and Africa. It seemed like a local problem, but turned out to be a threat to the global production. One solution used by growers when TR4 is found on plantations, is leaving the site and starting again elsewhere. This results in deforestation. When it comes to sustainability, the banana sector doesn’t do well. “Approximately 40 kilos of pesticides are used per hectare,” 14

AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2018

Inge explains. “People spray against Black Sigatoka every week. The banana production has the most intensive use of pesticides of all tropical fruit. Fertilisers are also often used.” A large part of the means are sprayed over the plantations by small aeroplanes. A disadvantage of this is that a large share is lost and doesn’t end up on the bananas, but elsewhere in the ecosystem.

“There are many challenges, but also many chances,” Inge continues. She mentions three, which are also mentioned during the World Banana Forum by others. The first is the soil, which is an important factor. Not enough research has been done to find out which part the soil plays regarding spreading and containing TR4. Diversity within banana varieties should be expanded. A first step would be to test which banana varieties are resistant and which are not. A third challenge is preventing the fungus from spreading. BANANA A SOURCE OF FOOD In the search for resistance in varieties, it’s important to test existing varieties. It has now been shown that Cavendish has no resistance. “There are no known varieties yet that are resistant,” says Stewart Lindsay of the Australian Ministry of Agriculture and Fishing. “There are some resistant cooking banana varieties, but no resistant dessert bananas.” The fungus has been active in Australia for some years now. The research mostly focuses on the prevention of spreading. “Cavendish and Gros Michel are still grown in the infected areas, but the production

systems used are different,” Stewart says. TR4 causes a major shift in the plantation model. Crop rotation can limit the damage, and generally, production costs are higher. “Just in Africa 100 million people depend on bananas for their daily meal. If these people lose their most important source of food, the consequences will be enormous.” To prevent spreading, it’s necessary all parties in the supply chain work together. A large plantation owner can do everything possible to keep the disease out, but if a small grower next to this plantation doesn’t take the same measures both would be at risk. The problem is that small growers often lack the financial capacity to make necessary investments. This is also the case at a higher level, for that matter. “If our neighbouring countries don’t take measures we are still at risk,” says Jorge Sandoval from CORBANA. MORE INFORMATION FOR GROWERS “Much is still unknown about TR4, the people have to be better informed,” warns Luud Clercx of Agrofair. “Growers, governments, retailers and traders aren’t prepared for an outbreak of the fungus.” Many regions don’t have surveillance systems, and no samples are taken of the soil. Luud knows these things are important. “It’s necessary to find the fungus as soon as possible. Sometimes TR4 is present on a plantation for two years before it becomes visible in the banana plants.” In Australia, among other places, the fungus had been present on plantations for years before it was reported. “The people have to know what they should be looking for on plantations to see the contamination,” Stewart adds. Therein lies the problem. How can all those involved be well-informed within a sector as large as the banana production? Not just the large plantations should have this knowledge, small growers are important as well. “We have to work together with the workers on plantations, and not just with the growers,” Jorge warns. “They work

with the bananas. This is where we’re failing. The protocols are unfamiliar within the sector.”

SOIL SOLUTION? Altus Viljoen from the University of Stellenbosch is involved in the research into the spreading of TR4. For example, he researched how the fungus ended up on plantations in Laos and Vietnam. It turned out the Chinese investor used infected tools from contaminated plantations in China. In Africa and Asia, investments in the production of bananas are made in a number of countries, but there’s not much knowledge. That’s why knowledge is imported, from contaminated areas as well. “We have to set up a good system to find out where people and plant material are coming from,” Altus says. “In Mozambique it’s just a matter of time before the fungus starts spreading and it will be found at small growers’ or abroad.” In some cases, it’s uncertain how the fungus got started. For plantations in Jordan, for instance, it’s unknown whether the contamination was brought in by people or by contaminated plant material.

“The soil will save us,” reassures Korunda Apuzen from Farmcoop. Five years ago, the Filipino banana grower invested in a piece of land of which he knew TR4 was in the soil. He planted bananas, although he decided to have a mixed production. Other types of fruit were planted among the banana plants. “The fungus is in the soil, but we don’t actually know anything about the soil. The soil is the source of a healthy plant. The balance in the soil was lost because of the intensive use of fertilisers and pesticides. The short-term profit is paid for in the long term.” Within the Farmcoop cooperative, 13 growers are focused on export. Three of those grow organic bananas. “In the past 12 years, we’ve seen no cases of TR4 whatsoever with our organic growers,” says Korunda. Of the conventional plantations, four are now contaminated. There are also

examples from other countries where the organic plantations are less or not affected by the fungus. A Chinese banana grower has his plantation surrounded by infected plantations. This organic grower isn’t affected by TR4. “We have to do more research into what’s happening in the soil, we have to understand that change,” people are saying. CHIQUITA SEEKS COOPERATION No matter how the problem is approached, in nearly all cases it requires more research. This requires quite a bit of capital. Andrew Biles, CEO of Chiquita, tries to work with the seven largest banana companies to that end. “It is noticeable that senior management isn’t present during the World

Banana Forum,” he starts. “We as the most important players on the market have to be the catalyst. That’s why I’m talking to CEOs from other major companies to start an association to finance further research.” For capital, he’s planning to contact the World Bank. Is the threat from TR4 really that large? And what are the consequences for trade? The figures presented by Fazil Dusunceli of FAO show a perspective for the future. In the estimates, about 1.6 million hectares would be infected with TR4 by 2040. That amounts to 36 million tonnes of bananas, or a value of 10 billion dollar.  AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2018



Dammis van der Staaij:

“Trade is still too much fun to quit” “I still have enough ideas for the next 60 years,” said Dammis van der Staaij in Primeur’s Christmas edition five years ago. And that became apparent. In the following years, new distribution centres for the Staay Food Group sprung up in Papendrecht, Dronten and Venlo, all in the Netherlands. A candid interview with the 65-year-old, who, like his brother Ad (70), cannot yet let go of the fresh produce trade. “Every morning I make my rounds through the warehouse around 6 AM. Everything just has to look outstanding.” Don’t you miss the trade centre in Barendrecht? “Never. Over the years we have grown from a traditional wholesaler into the company we are today. When we moved from the Spaanse Polder to Barendrecht in 1984, the trade centre was the place to be for us.We started supplying supermarkets, and the building’s loading docks alone were a relief because of that. Besides citrus, many fruit and vegetables were traded in Barendrecht at the time. When my brother Ad left for Spain to start production company Savasun, the import flows only increased. After the Eastern Bloc opened up, a score of new markets were opened besides the traditional markets, which resulted in much 16

AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2018

additional trade for Barendrecht. Much trade happened on site due to that, which was delivered by lorries and trailers. In the end, this was such a limited part of returns that it didn’t matter much where the main location was, in my opinion. We even made plans to build in Barendrecht, but it took so long we decided to build next to the existing location of Staay-Export. We had capacity there after the Russian boycott. We had just built 2,500 m2, so that made the decision to move even simpler. And it’s not like Papendrecht is as far away as Schiermonnikoog. Besides, facilities here are very advantageous. When I arrive here on Monday morning, dozens of lorries are sometimes queueing nicely. In Barendrecht,

they started phoning if just eight cars were parked, waiting. We had a fine time, but we never once regretted moving here. I’ve never even taken a wrong turn, after 32 years in Barendrecht!”

Are you still much affected by the Russian boycott? “We were very much affected by that in any case. We were one of the larger exporters to Russia. On the day the boycott was implemented, we had 48 cars on the road to Russia. We still do overseas trade with Russia, but that export has dropped by 75 per cent. That had a significant impact. Yet I still don’t think we were too focused on the Russian market. This export was never more than 20-25 per cent of our returns. Is that much? In the past, Dutch exporters sent as much as 95 per cent of their trade to Germany, and that has now also changed. We worked with customers who paid well, we had an experienced team on Russia, and we had started supplying directly to supermarkets. But those times are over and won’t soon return. Importers over there have now started looking elsewhere and local production has increased enormously. Dutch greenhouse builders and suppliers have had good jobs


Opinion in recent years. And wonderful products are also grown in nearby countries such as Kazakhstan and Afghanistan. Even if the boycott is lifted, the question remains how much the market would recover. That’s why we continue to actively look for alternatives and spreading risks.”

Fortunately you can still play a part in that with Astana Fresh… “In November 2016 we started a joint venture with Almex to develop projects in Kazakhstan. At first in cooperation with local growers for the distribution of fresh fruit and vegetables in Kazakhstan and neighbouring countries. The plan was to continue doing market research into building greenhouses, wholesaler and distribution centres and processing companies. But for now, there are still some hurdles in our way.”

With the takeovers of Alexport, Hispa, Van Rijn, Frupaks, Vernooij and Timmermans you have shown quite the urge for expansionism in recent years. Can we expect any more takeovers? “I would definitely not rule that out. For that matter, the takeovers of vegetable processing companies Dekker Frissland in Uden and Hoeve in Dronten, banana ripening plant Kosterman in The Hague and of Eussifruit in Limburg precede these. Due to changes within the world of retail, we had a period of reorganisations. I wanted a growth plan, but if you want to autonomously grow ten per cent per year, quite a lot has to happen. I thought it all went a bit too slow, so I told Rien Panneman: we’re going to look into our strong points and which activities we’re missing. Besides, we wanted to take up a stronger position in Dutch top fruit. That resulted in the takeovers of Frupaks, Vernooij and Timmermans. In Spain we already had a better position than Hispa, but the overseas activities were interesting to us. Nowadays we import a good range of melons and pineapples from our own production companies , and in addition, Hispa had more customers in the Eastern Bloc than us. The takeover of Alexport boosted our export to Eastern Europe even more. And the acquisition of Van Rijn in Venlo was the result of earlier talks. They had a wonderfully large building with extra capacity and we didn’t have enough space. 18

AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2018

We had no overlap in customers, and I was convinced we’d be a good combined player. The plan didn’t go through at the time, but when Van Rijn went bankrupt, Aad van der Windt told the curator that if he wanted to sell quickly, he’d have to ring Van der Staaij. He was right about that.” You’re all about switching quickly, in any case… “We’re not much for having meetings, it’s true. Perhaps sometimes a quick one, but if we see an opportunity somewhere, we can quickly make a decision. My brother Ad is like that as well. When I call him to ask if we should take over a factory, he’ll say: if you see an opportunity, you should do it. On the other hand, I don’t get involved in his daily business in Spain either. The only dif-

ference between him and me is that I enjoy going to Spain and he would rather avoid the Netherlands.”

Talking about factories, you have quite the plan in Dronten… “The convenience market is nowhere near ready to stop growing in our own opinion. That’s true for the Netherlands, but even more so for our neighbouring countries. If you see how many salads come from the factory every day, it’s amazing to think all of them are bought. I saw that potential when we took over Dekker Frissland in 1998, although that came about quite coincidentally. Back then I still had the illusion we could use vegetable processing as an outlet, but we soon found out it didn’t work like that. More and more meal salads can be found in refrigerated sections in supermar-

kets. I think we can easily double our sales in this field. We’re also processing fruit on an increasingly larger scale.” Do you think Fresh Care will eventually represent the largest share of your sales? “That could be possible. Right now we’re achieving about 500 million euro turnover, and Fresh Care already accounts for more than 20 per cent of that.”

Be honest, growing lettuce in a factory, doesn’t that go against your Rijsoordse background? “I have to be honest, I wasn’t a supporter of these plans at first. Men like Rien Panneman saw opportunities in this much sooner, but I gradually became enthusiastic about this. When I think about lettuce, I think of the large heads that were grown and sold here on my native soil, but the world is changing. When Delissen came to us years ago with their lettuce, I thought they were worthless little plants at first, but the sales of that Saladtrio is quite serious now. The plans to organise the lettuce production in the factory in Dronten, have now been abandoned. We have plenty of space on site and are going to organise the production next to the processing factory. We’ll start building 1,500-2,000 m2 and we’ll expand if there’s demand for it. To achieve this indoor farming, years of research with, among others, Rijk Zwaan, Certhon and Philips Lighting, were conducted. That was a costly business, but we are now far enough along that we can actually start. If it results in what we expect of it, we’ll further roll out this production technique, both regionally and internationally. There are many places that lack the space to grow products in this world. The production is naturally expensive for Dutch standards, but if you know that 80 grammes of lettuce goes into a meal salad, the cost changes.”

Is there still space for pure trade in future, or do you think of yourself as service provider for supermarkets more and more? “I think both functions will become increasingly important in coming years, although in a slightly different form. Retail’s requirements are becoming ever higher, and to be

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AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2018



distinctive you need to be able to offer more than in the past. You need good agreements with supermarkets to distribute your volumes, besides, day trading is also needed in our sector, and it’s more important than people might think as well. It has been a bit of a supposititious child in recent years. It sometimes seems as if free trade hardly exists any more, but that’s not the case for the wholesalers in Paris, Frankfurt or Barcelona. I enjoy visiting those for a night or a day, and I see dozens of lorries standing around, in which drivers are sleeping who have unloaded their trade. A considerable volume has to arrive and be traded every night / day. That shows free trade is more, and necessary as well. Supplying tailor-made products to supermarkets also requires volumes, so these two things can only go hand in hand. Free trade is often capable to respond to price fluctuations quicker as well, thus getting rid of a larger volume. In Italy and Belgium the wholesaler’s markets are more important than for us as well. Besides, greengrocers are also returning to high streets more often. One problem is that we don’t have enough old-fashioned workers for these shops.” Your brother is 70, you’re 65. How long will you stay at the helm of the Staay Food Group? “Everyone’s asking that, even the king and queen asked during their working visit to Dronten. For now we just think the work is still too much fun. However, we are realis20

AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2018

ing that our time is coming to an end, which is why we have recently been working expressly on our succession. For example, we recently called all of our children to discuss this. I think it would be wonderful if the company remained in the family, but

that doesn’t have to mean daily management is in the hands of a Van Staaij. My children aren’t interested in that in any case. Ad does have two children in the business. The future will show who will lead the company next. Our father founded the company, we were able to grow the company, and I hope our company will have a good future after us as well. Whether it’s owned by our family or not.” Have you changed over the years? “I became a bit calmer. In the past, I arranged all of our Spanish and other programmes myself. These required quite a number of cars on a weekly basis. I can

hardly imagine doing that now. I do my rounds at the company every day, and am still very much active, but I nowadays also take the time to read the newspaper or go out for a bit. For example, I recently visited our factory in Dronten with Ben van der Waal and some friends for an afternoon, and in the evening we went into town for a bite to eat. I never used to make time to do things like that in the past.”

How do you bond with employees when you’re this big? “On the one hand you might not be able to bond with people, but on the other hand, we have people who have worked here for a very long time now. That shows we’ve always taken the right decisions, and we are proud of that. I think we have good employees. We have 700 employees just in the Netherlands, and we need each and every one of them, from warehouse workers to drivers, commerce and the management: Together we are the goodwill of the company. I immediately take action if I see something goes wrong, but I also give people a lot of freedom. I think Ad and I are like our father in that respect. We weren’t told off if we made mistakes, but we weren’t showered with compliments if we did something right either. I was never really one for brooding, but I think about my father more and more. I guess I’m turning into an old man after all, although I still have plenty of ideas!” 

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Swedish consumers choose local and online Scandinavian countries are mostly dependent on the import of fruit and vegetables, yet the domestic production has a good position on the market, although growers have to choose varieties that aren’t competing with imported products. Swedish consumers have also discovered buying groceries online. Online sales are rapidly growing, and fruit and vegetables are a part of this trend.


f you were to pick Sweden up and flip it around so that the northern-most tip would point southwards, you’d be very close to Rome. This is a much-heard comparison used by Swedish traders to explain the challenges they face within their country. The enormous distance is reflected, for instance, in transport costs necessary to reach supermarkets in the north of the country. Bananas for supermarkets in the north aren’t fully ripened either. During the two-day transport, the fruit continues ripening, Johan Andersson from Kalundbladh explains. “MECCA OF FRESH PRODUCE” It’s therefore good that half of the ten million inhabitants can be found in the south of the country. That’s also where most of


AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2018

the large cities are. Near the west coast of the country, at the level of Copenhagen and the Kattegat, the fruit and vegetable centre of the country can be found. “The Mecca of fresh produce,” according to one Swedish trader. For the import, the traders have a network within Europe. Many importers have direct lines to Spain, Italy, the Netherlands and Belgium. Products from the Southern Hemisphere are usually imported via the Netherlands. The port of Helsingborg, the second port in the country, annually handles about 280,000 TEU of seaborne freight, and another 170,000 TEU of land freight. For the slightly more northern port of Gothenburg, no exact figures are available, but on its website, the largest port of the country

claims to handle 60 per cent of container transport.

LOCAL PRODUCT ON THE RISE Despite the Scandinavian climate, with its mild summers, cold nights and a winter that becomes darker the further north you go, there are growers who brave the elements and grow fruit and vegetables. The northern-most growers can be found around the polar circle, but most of the production can be found in the south. These local products are very popular. “Local is the new organic,” says Lars Persson of the cooperative SydGrönt. Demand for local products is quickly increasing. This is seen in, for example, the investments made by the cooperative in the storage of cabbage. Because of this, cabbage can be supplied year-round. “Before this, cabbage was imported from Germany, but a large supermarket chain wants domestic cabbage,” Lars explains.

SydGrönt is one of the largest cooperatives in the country, and markets the lion’s share of the products based on contracts. The producers’ organisation was founded 25 years ago, after the bankruptcy of the

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Swedish trade not unnerved by Lidl Last spring, Lidl opened its first branch in the US. Now other American supermarkets are taking their first steps towards a price war. In Sweden, the emergence of the German discounter couldn’t disrupt the market, and more than ten years after the opening of Lidl’s first branch in Sweden, Swedish traders are still keeping a cool head. Lidl opened its first branch in the Scandinavian country in 2003. They now have more than 170 shops, from Trelleborg in the south to Skellefteå in the north. All traders admit Lidl does well. They make a profit and are growing, but their market share remains limited. Lidl is only a small player, and only has a market share of 3 to 3.5 per cent. Market leader

old cooperative. The affiliated members fell apart into two groups. Members who preferred a contract price continued with SydGrönt. “This results in more stability for growers and customers,” Lars says. Growers who preferred auctions came together in Odlarlaget, another large cooperative. CUCUMBERS AND STRAWBERRIES Every working day at three o’clock in the afternoon, the cucumber auction of Odlarlaget starts. Although the number of visitors of the auction can be counted on one hand, the cucumber day price is decided here. In a short period, 50 tonnes of cucumbers is marketed. Not all buyers take the trouble to visit the auction, because the auction can also be followed online. “It’s a good way to sell a large volume of product in a short period,” says Peter Horvath from Odlarlaget. In the days before midsummer’s night, demand for strawberries is at its peak. “We start importing from Belgium around St Valentine’s Day,” says Niclas Johansson of Elsanta. “We switch to Swedish production as soon as possible.” Elsanta, owned by LTV for 51 per cent, functions as a hub in the Swedish strawberry trade.The company imports large volumes that are quickly sold to various customers. The strawberries are mostly grown outdoor. Tunnels are used to extend the season, but demand peaks in June and July. Most growers also offer their fruit alongside roads. Various varieties are grown. Johan explains: “Rumba tastes good when it’s ripe and has a dark-red colour, but if the strawberry’s picked too soon, this variety has no flavour. Sonata is not grown much, because of the 24

AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2018

ICA has a market share of more than 40 per cent.Compared to other countries, prices in supermarkets are high. Yet there

risk of grey mould. Late Malvina is flavourful, but doesn’t have a high yield.”

Growers consciously choose certain varieties. Top fruit growers mostly have varieties that aren’t grown in other countries. With these special varieties, growers can control the market. Top fruit growers planted Conference for pollination, but they can’t actually compete with the Netherlands and Belgium with the pears. The Swedish tomato price is decided by the situation in

wasn’t a real price war after Lidl entered the market. Johan Andersson: “Swedish supermarkets have high prices, but they also have high costs. We have the amount of square metres of supermarket for a country with 50 million inhabitants, and supermarkets have long opening hours, which is also expensive.” Others mention the small market share of Lidl, so that it can’t disrupt the market. Finally, Lidl also adjusts its strategy. “They’re becoming more high-profile. Lidl also sells Swedish products,and adjusts itself to the domestic market,” according to one trader. “That makes them stronger.”

the Netherlands. Domestic production also follows the price of Dutch tomatoes.

ORGANIC MOSTLY FOR BANANAS It’s remarkable that local products are hardly promoted. While large flags of the country are printed on packaging in other countries, this isn’t the case for Swedish products. Some packs have a small flag printed on them. “At first we didn’t do much about branding, we left that up to supermarkets,” Lars explains. “Perhaps

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this wasn’t all that smart.” Two years ago, a project was started to make Swedish products more recognisable on shelves. “Swedish people tend to keep a low profile. We’re a bit like the Dutch in that regard, they don’t really promote local products either.”

Demand for local products appears to be increasing faster than demand for organic products. Organic mostly plays a part on the banana market. Practically every banana in Swedish supermarkets is organic, there’s hardly any room for conventional bananas. This is due to reports in Swedish media a few years ago, which explained how many pesticides are used in the production. According to media, at least seven products are used that could be harmful to public health. Swedish consumers embraced organic bananas overnight.

MORE SWEDISH CONSUMERS BUY ONLINE In addition to local products, online sales are also on the rise. Two online shops, mat. se and, are becoming increas-

ingly larger. Returns of the latter amounts to one billion SEK (155 million euro). “The market isn’t as large as supermarkets yet, but it’s growing quickly,” explains Magnus Sundén of Hebes Frukt&Grönt. “In supermarkets, most fruit and vegetables are offered per kilo, but customers can buy product singly online.”

and vegetables are sold online, and fewer snacks. Yet one trader admits that these new initiatives are also a bit alarming. That is because of the impact online can have on various links in the supply chain.

MORE FRUIT AND VEGETABLES ONLINE “For us it’s an opportunity to sell more fruit and vegetables. Customers who buy online, focus on healthy food more,” says a trader. Multiple traders know relatively more fruit

NOT ENOUGH ROOM FOR CONVENIENCE While Swedish consumers appear to be leaders in online shopping, the market is falling behind regarding convenience. Dole Fresh Cuts regularly presents new products, but there’s hardly any room for them on the shelves. “We don’t have the room in shops to increase the assortment,” says Anette Dremo. “Some retailers might have ten metres of refrigerated shelves, but dressings and sprout vegetables are also offered on these shelves.” Supermarkets are starting to create more space for convenience products.

“Consumers buy much more fruit and vegetables online than in shops,” says Johan Bengtsson of Ewerman. This importer has also seen the online market growing. Seventy per cent of online consumers buys fruit or vegetables.In shops, that percentage is much lower. “ has a good position to grow in future,” says Daniel Mansson, category manager fresh produce for Dagab, part of Axfood. “They’re growing quickly, but they don’t supply everywhere in Sweden.”

ICA’s supermarkets are also dedicated to this online market. ICA is the largest supermarket chain in the country. Each shop is owned by a shop manager. These shop managers can choose if they want groceries ordered online to be delivered to the consumers’ homes, or to set up a pick-up point. “We offer them the online platform,” says Mario Wieloch, senior category manager fruit and vegetables. “On average, our customers spend more in online shops than in physical shops. In recent years, this market doubled every two years, and ICA is growing faster than the market.”

That there is room for these products is shown by the market’s quick transition to cleaned baby leaves. “It started with one supermarket chain that switched from uncleaned to cleaned baby leaves,” says Fredrik Pettersson of Dole. “That market increased by 40 per cent in a very short time. That was a major change.” 


AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2018


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AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2018



Fred van Heyningen und Adriëlle Dankier from Nature’s Pride:

„Seventy-five per cent of

On 1 September, Shawn Harris left Nature’s Pride after 16 years, and she handed daily responsibility to CEO Fred van Heyningen and commercial manager Adriëlle Dankier. In this interview, the exotics giant’s new management — last year’s turnover amounted to 360 million euro — give their opinions. “It’s our task to keep hold of this lead in the coming years.” To get straight to the point, what is Nature’s Pride without Shawn Harris? Adriëlle: “Shawn has naturally been the undisputed driving force of Nature’s Pride in the past sixteen years. The efforts she made for the company, but also for the sector, have fortunately also been noticed outside the company. It was the reason she was made an officer in the Order of Orange-Nassau at her farewell. Besides, she will remain linked to Nature’s Pride as a commissioner. Fortunately, that will leave 399 people with much knowledge and experience. A company like this can’t rest on just one person, although Shawn was the great inspiration of the organisation. But she would never have taken this step if the company wasn’t ready. Of course we’ll miss her, because she 28

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has a sharp eye and clear vision. Fortunately, she will remain active on the management board as ‘founding father,’ and that way, she’ll remain involved in the further development of Nature’s Pride.” Fred: “Furthermore, Adriëlle has also been a driving force in the past 16 years. When I joined Nature’s Pride on behalf of the bank, Shawn and Adriëlle were already inseparable. She knows the company like no one else does. Because of that, it’s guaranteed that Nature’s Pride’s DNA will be kept intact.” Fred, last year you as banker were appointed manager of this import and export company in exotic fruit and vegetables, berries and off-season products. How did you experience this?

“From Dutch bank Rabobank we always enjoyed coming here, because much positivity could be seen and heard here when things weren’t going well economically. Of course there was quite a transition coming from the world of banking into the import and export of fruit and vegetables. The speed of operations and decision-making is a lot of fun for me, and it energises me enormously. It was becoming more difficult to make speed in banking due to regulations. Because of this, you could be less focused on customers. Here you can really do what your good at for your growers and customers, without getting distracted by other matters.” Are there things you still have to get used to? “Yes, I might be a senior with much experience in some fields, but in other fields I’m still as green as anything, and I had much to learn. For example, about growing avocados and the logistical processes. However, before I went into banking, I worked for a plant nursery in the agrarian sector, and

Fred van Heyningen

"A battle for the continents is happening in order to have enough product available. "

Dutch don’t eat avocados” especially during my days at Rabobank I saw many companies, and I have always been involved in the Food & Agri-sectors. It might have been 30 years since I worked at the plant nursery, but I still remember things from that time. When I joined the order pickers for a day, they thought it was surprising I knew how to drive a forklift truck. When I was at the Fruit Logistica in Berlin for the first time on behalf of Nature’s Pride in February, I had to get used to it a bit, but by approaching people, I quickly entered into good conversations, while at the same time learning a lot.” Adriëlle: “Don’t forget you contribute a lot in the field of human knowledge. Last year, Shawn rang me after she talked to Fred during a horticultural congress in China, and I immediately said: ‘That could be our general manager.’ I think we complement each other. We’re a family company, both towards our growers and our customers. We grew into the company we now are together, and we share our values and culture. Partnerships, that’s what it’s all about. Our three core values — pioneering, pas-

sion and together — are embraced by all employees. I always say: you have to be a little bit in love with Nature’s Pride.” Fred: “Together we will lay the foundation for the coming five to ten years for Nature’s Pride. We continue to build a good team, to drive processes and to optimise and anticipate changing markets and supply chains. My interests have always been in that. With our large shareholder, Norwegian purchasing combination Bama Gruppen, we have built a strong position on the market. We expect to continue that growth.”

Does Bama have a firm hold on the reins? Adriëlle: “They have a more Scandinavian model of long-term thinking. We know what we can do for each other. A relevant share of our sales go to Bama. It has been like that since the start. In Norway, they’re far ahead in the consumption of fruit and vegetables. It’s quite a feat what they can manage with ‘just’ 5.1 million inhabitants. Quite a few countries could take a page from their book.”

Fred: “Only now that I work here I realise how cleverly they’ve safeguarded Norwegian food supply by working in closed supply chains.”

Nature’s Pride has built itself an enormous market position. Has competition been standing still? Adriëlle: “They’ve definitely not been standing still. They did look at us, but they thought we might not make it. We dared going for something, and we always believed in it. But we also had to follow the rules every company has to follow, without knowing what would happen. Because of this, we managed to build ourselves a prominent position. And we want to continue being prominent, and grow with our partners. With our experience and data, we have a lead that we have to manage to retain.”

AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2018



Adriëlle Dankier

"I always say: you have to be a little bit in love with Nature’s Pride." From which corner do you expect the most competition? From current Dutch players, overseas producers starting a sales office here, or a retailer starting to do his own ripening? Fred: “We closely follow above-mentioned developments, and it’s obvious much is happening around us. On the other hand, we’ve noticed such consumption increases in our products that there’s also room for competition. The economy is starting to do better and better. We need each other in Europe. A battle for the continents is happening in order to have enough product available. Asia is growing to five billion inhabitants, who will also have more to spend, consumption in the US continues developing, and besides, exotics import in Europe also continues to be considerable. The Netherlands plays an important part in this. It’s naturally a phenomenal feat that we as the Netherlands are the second avocado importer in the world.” Have you never considered starting Nature’s Pride China? Adriëlle: “Not once. We believe in focus and an entire world can still be gained for our products in Europe. We shouldn’t think we’re finished yet either. Only 26 per cent of the Dutch eat avocados. That means they still have to be introduced to the other 74 per cent. If we focus on this, we expect avocados will experience an enormous increase.” 30

AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2018

Are you still good in the new building for now? Fred: “The building has fortunately been built in such a way we don’t have to move for now. Employees are becoming more creative in efficiently using the space as

well, but the growth continues and at some point we will no longer have enough space. We’ve already anticipated this, and bought the plot next to this building.”

Is it becoming more difficult to fill vacancies? Fred: “Recruiting staff is one of our spearheads. We have filled a great many vacancies in the past year, but we’ll continue to need people due to our growth. The Polish

economy is doing well, and we have many Polish employees. The question is whether we’ll be able to continue recruiting them. We don’t have our own recruitment department for no reason, but so we can find people with the same Nature’s Pride-heart. We make considerably investments in training. We recently followed a management development training with 54 people from all layers of the company.” Adriëlle: “Besides, it also results in the necessity of automation and robotisation. In the past, we had one Aweta sorting line, now we have five. But you personally have to feed information in sorting machines like that. We’re working hard on implementing big data and using algorithms to optimise processes.” You require ripening plants, commercial and logistical employees. Which vacancies are most difficult to fill? Adriëlle: “We currently have a vacancy for a senior purchaser, and that’s a tricky one. It’s a very cool job, but also a demanding one. Someone like that has to have much knowledge of the product, but they also have to keep in mind the logistic processes, and they have to work with growers to really get the best possible product. This also involves partnerships. You have to work together. Category management is also becoming an increasing part of our employees’ jobs. Our employees have to be entrepreneurs. We offer great facilities for employees, including a company restaurant


with our own chef, a bootcamp site, yoga, and of course fresh fruit and smoothies, but we expect something in return as well.”

You prefer clarity, in any case… Fred: “We are very open and direct within the company, but we don’t make it personal. We play the ball, not the man. Company interests come first.”

Is that an American style? Adriëlle: “The American and Westland cultures are very well-suited to each other. The style is therefore a combination of both cultures. But to keep to football terms, we’re not playing in the Premier League, we’re playing in the Champion’s League. That is also reflected in the quality of our products. Our products always have to be flavourful. We don’t want to make concessions to quality, even though the climate proved costly for the growing conditions of avocados and mangoes in recent years. Sticking to the concept is therefore essential. And sometimes when you don’t have enough product, we have to supply less instead of supplying unripened product. Ready-to-eat has to be ready-to-eat. That’s why we confirm that by giving the product the ‘EAT ME’ label. Consumers makes repeat purchases based on flavour.” Fred: “In other sectors, like retail, it can be seen what happens to a company if concessions to quality are made. It’ll take years to rebuild your good reputation. We’ve always been dedicated to the combination 32

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of healthy, flavourful and convenience. That turned out to be a golden combination to persuade consumers to eat more fruit and vegetables.”

How do you guarantee ‘social responsibility’ if volumes are becoming so large? Adriëlle: “It’s in our genes. Back in 2006, before every retailer started asking for it, we drew up our own ethical trade agreement. We have four people working on

Fred: “This year, Adriëlle and I visited three suppliers in Peru and Chile, and I was very impressed. These growers are highly-educated, well-traveled, and they know exactly what’s happening on the market. Regarding level, these growers are not below the best Dutch growers.” Adriëlle: “However, we do think there should be one SocialGAP, like GlobalGAP. Awareness of the necessity to guarantee social conditions exists on the market by now.”

‘Sustainable Business,’ who are dedicated to labour conditions, but also growing conditions of the growers. That’s how we encourage growers to responsibly use soil and water. Through the Nature’s Pride Foundation we fund, among other things, education, and we work on health care and better living conditions.”

Is organic an issue for you? Adriëlle: “We have a limited organic range. I definitely believe there’s room for organic on the market, but we’re in a different segment and will not become a dominant player. We can’t feed the world by just growing organic food. We’re doing everything to

How is the relation between wholesaler and retail for you? Adriëlle: “We have a healthy spread between these customer groups. Now that our products have become more like commodities, growth in retail is happening faster, but we’re just as proud that wholesalers grow with us. Our goal is to grow sales towards retail, wholesalers and exporters proportionally. We won’t forget how we started 16 years ago. We are grateful to Dutch exporters who bring our exotics to markets on which we’re not strongly represented. All customers are equally important to us.”


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combat the use of chemical pesticides, but it’s also important that the playing field is even. MRL requirements for imported products are often stricter than for European products. An authorised MRL of a certain substance on a strawberry can be much higher than the authorised value of that same substance on a pomegranate. It would be good if Brussels paid more attention to that.”

Is it becoming more difficult for you to guarantee product availability? Adriëlle: “The climate has been of great influence on supply of our products this year. Look at the cold front in Spain earlier this year, the heat wave in Chile, and the rain in Peru. That has an enormous impact on our trade, but we’re also not making concessions to our quality. At times like that, we unfortunately have less product for our customers at our disposal. You can’t sell lost product. Prices rise because of increasing demand and production falling

behind. That puts pressure on consumption in the long term, and that’s why profitability is an issue. We encourage our growers to increase production responsibly.”

How is your berry department? We don’t hear much about that. Adriëlle: “After some years, we made the decision to integrate Nature’s Berries into Nature’s Pride. The berry category is very important to us. Two of those products are even in our top five, which consists of avocados, strawberries, blueberries, mangoes and asparagus. Berries are all about flavour, and that fits who we are as Nature’s Pride. We expect a significant increase in the soft fruit category because of future strategic cooperations.”

Many of your products come from far. Couldn’t you do more with Dutch product? Fred: “We work with Dutch product for our berries a lot. We also sell many peppers

during the Dutch season. When possible, we look into it, but many of the products we work with aren’t suitable for it. But we’re definitely interested. Dutch growers of exotic products can definitely report for duty.” The growth experienced by the avocado market is a success story. Yet some noise can also be heard about the extreme water usage. What’s your opinion about that? Adriëlle: “It’s an important point of interest for us. We hired an agronomist who focuses on improvements in the fields of cultivation, water usage and soil fertility fulltime. In recent years, some of our growers already managed to decrease water usage from 1,000 to 350 litres per kilo. There are indeed areas affected by water shortage, but we consciously don’t buy avocados from those areas. But the discussion should obviously be held. A cultivation area in Chile, that indeed has a water shortage, but where only four per cent of Chilean avocados are grown, is sometimes considered to be the entire Chilean avocado production. Compare avocados to meat, for which 15,000 litres are needed for one kilo. Avocados are rightly superfoods, healthy, versatile and easy to use.” What will the ‘next avocado’ be? Adriëlle: “That will be kept a secret a while longer!” 


AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2018


Uli Schnier:

“Fair Produce has international ambitions” In earlier interviews, Uli Schnier, chairman of Fair Produce, indicated it was his goal to abolish the certificate as soon as possible. After all, it would be better if the sector itself maintained the standard. “I changed my mind about that now,” Uli admits. Indeed, according to him, the Fair Produce label is still current, and with the integration of GRASP standards in the quality mark, they are also covertly looking at expansion into other sectors. With project manager Gerlof Roubos he talks about the ambitions of the quality mark.


he origin of the label marks a black page in the mushroom sector’s history. Between 2007 and 2010, the inspection of the Dutch Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment (SZW) discovered abuses at more than a quarter of the inspected companies. There were cases of underpayment, illegal employment and fiscal violations. To handle these abuses, the Fair Produce certificate was set up. “Mushrooms are a labour-intensive product, of which 40 per cent of costs consists of labour costs,” Uli explains. “Price is important on a market with a standard product, so you have an advantage when labour costs can be lowered.” These low prices result in a low profit capacity in the sector, so that little budget was left over for marketing and promotions. By now, about 90 per cent of the sector has been certified, and Uli and Gerlof noticed profit margins have improved.

STILL A LARGE RISK The sector is still somewhat regularly confronted by the situation of about ten years ago. The reports by SZW’s inspection and verdicts in lawsuits are still being published, even though these are about the period before the label was created. Fair 36

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are possible within the law, but that are very undesirable because these open the door to competition on terms of employment. The Dutch law to approach scheme arrangements (Wet Aanpak Schijnconstructies, or WAS), for example, says nothing about harvest assumptions or the use of freelancers,” Gerlof explains. WAS does state companies are responsible for the temp agency paying correct wages. “That’s why we certify temp agencies in addition to cultivation and mercantile businesses. By only using certified temp agencies, the risk of liability is decreased.” By now, the sector has stabilised. “Underpayment has been dealt with and is no longer a danger. That’s worth much for the sector,” Gerlof says. Uli adds: “Research among mushroom growers in the Netherlands shows that there’s much risk for new abuses. We can prevent this with Fair Produce.” In recent years, the label made a name for itself in the sector. When a company loses its certificate, they try to earn it back as soon as possible, Gerlof knows. “When we withdraw a certificate, retail immediately rings the company to ask what’s going on.”

Produce is relevant, among other things, because the inspection of SZW often needs much time to reach a verdict and this can be contested, according to Gerlof. “Besides, Fair Produce also deals with short cuts that

INTERNATIONAL AMBITIONS Although Fair Produce’s roots are in the Dutch mushroom sector, the market rapidly continued developing. Poland is emerging as a production country, but internationally, the certificate is less well-known. Less, because people are working hard to put Fair Produce on the international map as well. There are contacts with international retailers who are discovering the certificate. Gerlof cannot yet announce which

supermarkets are involved. To make Fair Produce better-known internationally, cooperation with GlobalGAP and GRASP has also been looked for.

“We sometimes hear GRASP is an alternative to Fair Produce,” Uli says. “This is incorrect. Because Fair Produce took over requirements of GRASP, it became a ‘GRASP plus.’” Gerlof explains there’s a major difference between the two assessments: “GRASP is the social component of GlobalGAP, but it’s not a certificate. It’s an assessment. An assessment is conducted which inspects a number of points. Even when you don’t meet any of the points, you’ve been GRASP assessed. For Fair Produce, you have to meet all requirements.” CERTIFYING TEMP AGENCIES Via the GlobalGAP database, international retailers can also check if suppliers have a Fair Produce certificate. Because of that, the certificate becomes more visible for international retail. There’s an increased interest from GlobalGAP to work with national labels. For that, GlobalGAP sets up general basic standards, and the requirements can

be supplemented per country to fit the situation in said country. Some requirements of GRASP, don’t apply to the Netherlands. Gerlof gives the example that GRASP requires underage children of employees to receive an elementary education. “That is matterof-course in the Netherlands, and therefore not an issue.”

Besides an international expansion, there are also plans to broaden the certificate. “We now also certify temp agencies, relieving much administrative pressure from cultivation and mercantile companies,” Gerlof says. “An additional advantage is that we can compare the administration of temp agencies to the data of the growers.” By now, Uli and Gerlof have also seen growers from other sectors ask temp agencies for Fair Produce certificates. “The Fair Produce label is an addition to the existing, basic SNA certification of temp agencies.”

pilot in the chicory sector, which is actually comparable to the mushroom cultivation,” Gerlof explains. “These growers think it’s convenient a label is ready, but don’t think it’s necessary to implement now.”

The asparagus and strawberry cultivation are two sectors that have also been investigated. “The asparagus sector has a seasonal character, and that causes problems in practice, because temporary employees are used more often,” Uli says. Besides, there are legal requirements for which the inspection sometimes turns a blind eye, for example, when working overtime during a sudden heatwave. “How to translate that into a certification method?” Uli wonders out loud. Fair Produce’s statutes mention it’s a certification for the entire vegetable sector. Because of that, there are plenty of opportunities to broaden it. 

OTHER SECTORS INTERESTED AND WAITING Most sectors are still hesitant, but they have seen the advantage that Fair Produce’s model is shelved in case it’s needed. “We had a

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Achiel De Witte (r):

“Quality and service, it all starts with that”

For decades, Achiel de Witte has been a welcome guest in the Belgian sector. He once started as a worker in a local supermarket, and over the course of some dozens of years he built his own trade company into a large empire. Recently he has put much energy in the latest project he started: Fresh market Criée in Antwerp.


he Criée was still being refurbished when we meet Achiel de Witte in the centre of Antwerp during the first week of June. Walls and ceiling have been broken away, new walls have been placed. Among the construction workers are the desks of the workers. The building is located on the shopping street, at walking distance from the Antwerp Zoo and the beautiful Central Station. “Everything is being spruced up,” says David Magnus, branch manager of the shop, about the changes in the building. “But the atmosphere of a market has to be retained.” Nowadays, Achiel de Witte is no longer at the Criée for more than two hours per day.


AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2018

In time it is intended that he will only come by twice a week at most. He now mostly invests a lot of time in building up the crew of workers. A soon as a good crew is set up, he’ll withdraw. “A flying bird catches more than a sitting bird,” he jokes.

Why did you invest in the Criée in Antwerp? With this move, I went back to my roots. I once started in a supermarket. Fresh market Criée in Antwerp consisted of a number of butchers, a poulterer and a central shop. We have now brought these together into one whole. The specialist’s shops will continue to exist, but they have one direction. That direction is under management

of Group A. de Witte. David Magnus is in charge of the shop. He has quite a bit of experience in the sector, and he is the right man in the right place. Much is being renovated right now, when should it be finished and how will it look? When we reopen in the fourth week of September, it will look completely different. The butchers are now still spread out over three places in the shop, but they’ll be placed together when we reopen. Emphasis for Criée is on fresh. Besides meat, there’s a lot of room for, for instance, bread, but the fruit and vegetables department will also be top-notch. That will continue to be our core business, and Criée will be our flagship. The way we’ll present everything there, that’s how we would also prefer doing it in a fresh produce specialist’s shop… Above the shop floor, on the first floor, will be a tasting room where everything can be tasted. There will be a restaurant at

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the front of the building. On the other side of the shop, on the first floor, will be the workshop of the butcher’s. Everything will be made of glass, so customers can see the butchers working. It will be a modern fresh market. Fresh products will be delivered every day, and twice a week we’ll drive to Rungis in Paris to buy quality meat.

Why will this Fresh market in Antwerp be successful? We are convinced it’ll work. We have visited other fresh markets in Spain and the UK. Right now, we have 2,000 paying customers per day, but we have noticed they don’t get the entire range from us. That’s why we decided to change the Spar supermarket into an AD Delhaize, because the assortment is slightly better thought-of. That way, we hope to be able to completely fill the shopping baskets of our customers. Antwerp is a test case, but if it is successful, we’ll also try it in other large Belgian cities. Is it a new step for the group, from wholesaler’s/importer to retailer? I think both go well together. In the past, a shopkeeper bought products from five different suppliers, but because of changes, total suppliers are necessary. In the past 10 to 15 years, supermarkets have become more and more important, and we have seen competitive pressure increasing for 40

AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2018

wholesalers because of discounters like Lidl and Aldi.

Do wholesalers still have a future? Looking at the first six months of this year, we grew by 8 to 10 per cent in our sales, so there is a future. I think Liège is the best example, where our two-hectare site had a turnover of between 300,000 and 500,000 euro when we first took it over. That has grown into a turnover of 1.8 million euro per month by now. Turnover is also increasing in Mechelen, and we see our clientele increasing. Quality and service, it all starts with that. But that’s what can make a difference for us. Are there product groups that are underrepresented within the group? We want to be in control of everything, and offer the complete range. I think there aren’t many products we don’t have. For example, in cities, multicultural societies are a fact. You can tell that ginger, sweet potato and similar products now have impressive volumes.

By taking over a cutting plant in Sint-Truiden we also want to take this segment under our own control. Seventy to 80 per cent of the fourth range is now supplied by suppliers. Once we’ve dotted all of the i’s and crossed all the t’s, we’ll be able to

do much more ourselves. That’s what we mean when we talk about vertical integration, which is one of our strongest trump cards. Within the Group, we do practically everything in consultation. For example, import from new countries cannot be set up without the management. We have four importers within the group who each have their own strength in certain products. We want to continue building on that. It used to be unthinkable that we would import ginger from China ourselves, but that is normal now. How do you get synergy from the group? That’s very simple actually. By combining strengths and coupling logistics. We have about 60 semitrailers, so that all of our transport can be taken care of in-house again. If the products can be gathered, it becomes advantageous. We can also make our position stronger by, for example, buying products together. In the past, each auction had its own buyer. Now we buy everything together, because the volume is larger when combined. It’s distributed afterwards. A wholesaler also needs to have bananas every week. By coupling the buying, we have a larger volume, and we can do our own importing under brand name CEBON from Colombia and Brazil.

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Do you have any more acquisition plans for the coming time? Towards the end of the year, October/ November, I foresee a few more take-overs and mergers in places where we can still grow in volume. We’re also working on a French and a Dutch company, but the result of that will be seen later in the year. The French company supplies to many French supermarkets, and is quite the opportunity for us. Which requirements should a company meet before Group A. de Witte becomes interested? The knowledge of employees is important, there should be a decent base and the company has to meet the most modern hygienic and food safety standards. Sometimes weak players can work together and combine forces to function better. However, the crew of people is the most important. Within the Group, I can count on loyal and skilled people. Without a person like David, I wouldn’t have started Criée, for example. The customer is critical and is becoming more critical. You have to keep up quality and freshness to survive.

How is the group’s export doing? About 10 to 15 per cent of sales is made from export, especially to Scandinavia, the UK and France. The volume of strawberries, under our own brand CEBON, that we move towards these countries is enormous. 42

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How do you explain the difference between the major Dutch export and the relatively small Belgian export? The Netherlands does much more re-export, we are less dedicated to that. Through Fresh Concept in Breda, the Netherlands, we want to become more dedicated to export to existing markets. The Netherlands has a lot of own production, and is strong in re-export. France, Scandinavia and the UK are the only good options.

We believe we can hold on to the growth of seven to ten per cent in coming years. Scaling-up offers opportunities. We will not be doing horizontal integration, it’s too risky in our opinion. You gain a volume of fixed assets and personnel, but I don’t know if that would help us. We already have 615 workers on our payroll. That’s an option for a quoted company, but it’s too risky for us. That’s why we are fully devoted to vertical integration: products, but especially services as well, that we can add to our organisation to complete the picture. The cutting plant in Sint-Truiden is a great example of that.

Have you ever considered flotation? No. We have had offers, also to form alliances, but we are convinced it’s 100 per cent better to do it on your own strengths.

How do you feel about Brexit? I was skeptical at first, but we’ll have to wait and see what’ll happen. It’s like reading tea-leaves for us, and it’ll take some years before it’s finalised. We are not going to take hasty decisions now. Has the growth in the Belgian market regarding that stopped yet? No, there’s still room to grow in Belgium.

Is having an own brand important? We have the labels Cibel and Cebon, and we want to limit ourselves to these two. All companies in the group use these labels. These brands are becoming stronger every day: the increase in CIBEL-citrus can be called very impressive, but the various new products under the CEBON flag are doing fantastic as well. Take CEBON bananas. For quality and continuity we import from Brazil and Colombia so that we can shift when there’s rain or storm. If you are able to import thoughtful-

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ly and have a nice product, it can’t actually go wrong. When we start a new product, we first do so under the label of the grower or the cooperative. When results are good, we change that into our own labels, and try to create an added value by doing so. Is it becoming more difficult to import because of growing demand in Asia? Price fixing is strong in Asia, and because demand is growing, that affects our pricing. That means products from New Zealand, South Africa and Latin America won’t become any cheaper, at any rate, but that minimum prices will increase by a few per cent every year.

Isn’t it difficult to explain these price rises to customers? No, it isn’t. Take Pink Lady, for example. Besides multinationals, three other companies offer this apple in Belgium, but they are all dealing with the same conditions. We are therefore starting out on an even playing field. But you can see you’ll be punished if quality isn’t good, or when Pink Lady doesn’t have enough colour or firmness, for example.

started sourcing further away, from countries such as Kenya and Peru. That’s all air freight, and it’s more difficult to agree to programmes. We’ve seen many shifts in the past fifteen years. Kiwi fruit and mango are no longer exotics. The volume of ready-toeat mango and avocado has risen impressively, and the same is true for soft fruit. 

Are supermarkets that start importing a threat? We used to import different products from France and Spain, but that import has now been taken over by retail. We personally

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Company news

John Anderson:

“New suppliers emerging due to increasing global demand” Forty-two years ago he started as a warehouse worker for Oppy. Over the years, he climbed the company’s ladder all the way to the top. That way, he got to know the company, but also the sector, on every level. John Anderson, Oppy’s CEO, knows every detail. How does he look at the sector? In an exclusive interview, he speaks freely about the company and the challenges facing the sector.


y experience within the company has served me well,” John states. “I started in the warehouse, and then I spent about ten years working in various departments, including operations, sales and marketing. Because of that, I gained a deep knowledge of the company.” These years turned out to be a good preparation for his current position as chairman, president and CEO. “Through my experience, I understand what it takes to get the job done at every level, and as a result have so much appreciation for the hard work done by everyone within Oppy.” OPPY, T&G GLOBAL AND TOTAL PRODUCE With a history going back to 1858, when four brothers decided to follow the Gold Rush, the company boasts a long history. The brothers weren’t engaged by the gold rush, but they became the suppliers of the fortune-hunters. They supported the adventurers with food and other materials.


AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2018

That trade also turned out to be a gold mine. In the following decades, the four brothers opened multiple shops and warehouses. David Oppenheimer, one of the brothers, even became mayor of Vancouver.

Nowadays, Oppy is a well-known name on the international market. The company has been coupled to Total Produce and T&G Global through ownership of shares. These two multinationals each owns a percentage of Oppy. “The model we created has many advantages. We can profit from each other’s strength and our combined expertise,” John explains. “Each company can retain its own, unique culture, which is a key to sustained success.” Last year, Oppy bought 50 percent of Delica North America, a T&G Global operating company. An “exciting step.” Oppy has exported through Delica for some years. “We have now integrated even more, so that we can expand our trade, and ship a larger assortment to more destinations.”

YEAR-ROUND LOCAL PRODUCT IMPOSSIBLE The best yields will always be the deciding factor. “The US and Canada will have to compete with developing economies to retain their share of supply,” John predicts. “We see new suppliers emerging due to increasing global demand.” He mentions, among other countries, Peru, which expanded their supply and which has managed to get a good range of products, including grapes, avocados, mangoes and citrus. “Regarding local cultivation, local growers and production are a strong marketing tool for retailers and those products have definitely found their place. Demand, however, is year-round, and that simply can’t be met with just local product.” “Our growers are our lifeblood,” John says. The company works with the growers in various ways, varying from marketing the products to exclusive contracts and joint ventures. “We are flexible and willing to work with the growers in the way that works for them.” John mentions some companies for which Oppy does the exclusive sales: Divemex, Oceanside Pole, Orchard View Cherries, Ocean Spray and SunSelect. The company has set up a joint venture with the Californian strawberry grower family Hasegawa. “We put our growers first by offering various marketing formats, and

by finding the best place to market their products.”

URBAN FARMING FOR FOODIES “We have a geographically diverse group of growers, which helps us limit the risks,” John continues. He means, for example, the risks of extreme weather, such as earlier this year in South America. “This has considerable consequences for the supply chain, which results in difficult circumstances for the growers in particular.” The urban farms that are on the rise especially in American cities are a good way to teach consumers more about food. “Urban farming is a wonderful idea that creates communities and teaches generations about food production,” John says. “It’s a solution for foodies who want to grow their own products but don’t have large gardening space available in their urban settings.” Although interest in this is increasing, John doesn’t expect it’ll have much impact. “We encourage it, because there’s no downside to it. It won’t have an effect on the sector, except perhaps on the way consumers spend their money in certain periods of the year.” As an example he mentions consumers who grow tomatoes, and may choose to spend their produce dollars on cherries or other, more expensive, summer fruit. HARD DISCOUNTERS The American landscape is changing in sales. In Europe, hard discounters Aldi and Lidl are setting the retail landscape. Now that Lidl is also going across the pond, the question is how the American market will respond to them. John is unconcerned but always monitoring the landscape. “We can

supply the full breadth of retail, so we aren’t very worried about the discounters entering the American market. We expect they’ll create more competition and increase the pressure on price margins.” Although both the Americans and the Canadians are sensitive about prices, John also indicates other aspects that play their parts. “Both consumer groups look for the best quality, flavour, appearance and general consumption experience for their dollar. Canadians might be a bit more price sensitive because of the unfavourable exchange rate with the US dollar, which causes retail prices for import products to increase.” However, the consumers are more willing to pay for certain products, such as cherries, premium

apples, gold kiwifruit, and berries in the winter months. However, that isn’t the only trend on the American market. Convenience, Fairtrade, organic and ready-to-eat are also advancing. “All these trends challenge us to supply

products that meet these demands. We have seen how the convenience trend changed the citrus sector, which saw shelf space for traditional varieties decreasing in favour of the seedless and easy-peel varieties.” A similar image was seen on the ready-to-eat market, and demand for organic products also continues to increase. “We recently hired an organic category manager,” John says. “Chris Ford will help us to build this segment within Oppy. We have also noticed the organic supply at conventional retailers is growing significantly. Fairtrade and other socially responsible products are also preferred in certain retail formats and geographic regions. There are many opportunities to capitalize on these trends.”

During Oppy’s long history, the company was a frontrunner in the produce industry multiple times. In 1891, the company imported the first Japanese mandarins to Canada. In 1956, the first Granny Smiths were imported from New Zealand, and four years later the first kiwifruit followed to the Canadian market. The company was also one of the first to set up an import flow of grapes, stone fruit and other summer fruit from Chile. With that, year-round supply was created. How does John see the future of the sector? “Demographic shifts can be seen, and the way consumers buy their fruit and vegetables is changing. Online sales are increasing, as is in-store technology. Demand for a more diverse supply is rising. These developments will shape the Oppy of the future.” 

AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2018



Cotton Candy, Sugar Crisp, Sweet celebration, Sweet sapphire

Southern European cultivators choose seedless grapes The advance of seedless grape varieties is continuing unabated. Despite the fact that there is still a market for seeded grapes from countries including Italy, the seedless grape is also gaining more and more ground in Southern Europe. It is therefore not surprising that breeding stations have also entered this market. “We only have one seeded variety in our assortment,” says Tersia Marcos from International Fruit Genetics (IFG). “Growers and traders obviously prefer seedless varieties.”


tatistics do not always show how large the share of seedless grapes is on the market by now. Figures do not distinguish between the various types of grape. The European Union is one of the market leaders on the international grape market. Within the EU, Italy, Greece and Spain are the largest grape countries by far, with a combined share of 93 per cent in the total European production. Estimates talk of an expected harvest of 1.7 million tonnes for the 2016/17 season. Italy is at the lonely top with approximately one million tonnes. Spain and Greece follow with 290,000 and 281,030 tonnes, according to estimates.

SEEDLESS IN SOUTHERN EUROPE After a dramatic free fall in the past ten years, the European grape cultivation remains under pressure. High production costs, low profitability and increasing competition are a dangerous cocktail for the sector. Cultivators are investing in seedless grapes due to the increasing demand for these varieties. A gradual transition can be seen in Italy, and the seedless grapes have a market share of about 30 per cent in Spain by now. IFG, founded in 2001, is one of the young players on the market. But the company has grown considerably, and is active in 14 countries by now, including in Southern Europe. “We have a good position in Spain, Italy, Greece and looking at further expansion in the region,” Marcos says. “Spain makes its presence felt most on the market, 48

AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2018

but we also have much demand for seedless grapes from Italy and Greece.” The impression that growers appear to miss the boat in these countries is therefore incorrect, according to her. “Everyone is interested in these strains. Right now, we have more demand for plant material of our seedless grape varieties than we have supply,” Marcos explains. SMALL CULTIVATORS The thing that makes the transition to seedless grapes slightly more difficult is the large number of small grape growers in this region. Only in Spain do we have some large growers. “Countries like Italy and Greece are definitely more complex for us to license new varieties in, than for example, Peru, California, Mexico or Chile,” Marcos says. That is because of the smaller areas and the large number of growers. “Last year, we appointed separate Regional Managers for all the major territories, including Spain, Portugal, Italy and Greece to improve our service levels to our licensees.”

Investing in new strains and joining in with the popularity of seedless grapes is relatively expensive for these small cultivators. “On the other hand, if they do not invest in the long term, they will disappear,” Marcos warns. The seedless grape is appreciated by an ever-growing group of consumers. “Definitely,” Marcos confirms and illustrates: “As a child, I never ate grapes, because they were seeded.”

END OF THE LINE FOR THOMPSON SEEDLESS? Yet there are also small growers, often united within a cooperative or coupled to a different sales organisation, who are interested in new varieties. “New varieties should have higher returns and be less labour-intensive,” Marcos says. We already see diminishing volumes of Thompson Seedless in certain countries, because production costs for the variety are too high. “We aim to release varieties with a better return back to the farm.” MORE CANDY VARIETIES Furthermore, the varying climate zones globally are also taken into account. “We personally research where certain variety selections can and cannot be cultivated, but we always recommend growers to start a trial field to see how the selection does under their conditions.” Climatic conditions, Soil structure and water quality are two important factors for the success of a variety, but these are also factors that can be very different per location. “The benefit of grapes is that they are less sensitive to microclimates than, for example, cherries, another crop we breed,” Marcos explains. Besides the fact that a variety needs to be grower friendly, it is also important to know what the consumers think of the grapes. “We have a range of early to late varieties in all three segments (white, red and black). In recent years, the market for red grapes grew extensively, but white grapes still have a very large market share.” However, we see the market share growing for some of our more flavoured types. Our first big success on the flavoured varieties had been Cotton Candy. According to Marcos, IFG has a further range of new flavoured grape varieties in the pipeline. 

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Ed Heijnen, Jaguar:

“Supplying custom fruit globally”

Six months ago, Jaguar moved from the Handelsweg in Ridderkerk, the Netherlands, to the other side of the site in Barendrecht. “Maximum focus on our core business,” says manager Ed Heijnen. In this interview, he’ll give his vision on sustainability, the potential of China and the power of social media. “I expect we’ll be able to sell considerable volumes of fruit through social media concepts!” Did moving fulfil a wish? You could say that, we were looking forward to it for a long time.We needed to upgrade our logistical and warehouse management systems, but for a long time were unable to because we had ongoing agreements with various parties. Now that we have moved into the Kivits-Goes building, we have outsourced our logistical and warehouse activities, and that turned out to be a good decision. Looking at the speed with which logistical service providers are developing in our branch, it’s important to focus on your own core business. In the last building, we were already in contact with Rob van Opzeeland, who took care of the domestic (retail) transport and overflow for us, and after a benchmark, he turned out to be the best logistical partner. He and the 50

AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2018

Goes family now satisfactorily take care of the complete logistical side of things.

Was it a must to remain at the trade centre? It wasn’t a must, but we are aware of the function of Barendrecht as the fresh produce cross-dock centre of Europe. From a purely logistical standpoint, Duisburg would have been the best location, but such a move is quite an undertaking. Besides, the Dutch market is still very important to us, with a share of 40-45 per cent of sales. Venlo is an interesting junction with a beautiful site with great companies, but it doesn’t really suit our roots. We also looked at locations in Breda, Moerdijk and the Westland, but in the end, we ended up in Barendrecht. The number of transport movements

off-warehouse is still quite large, and as I said before, Barendrecht is still dominant in the European fruit trade. Furthermore, our cooperation with Europe Retail Packing Barendrecht was part of the deal, so that we now have the extensive packing facilities of the Kivits-Goes location at our disposal.

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AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2018



What, actually, is your core business? That’s still the international trade in fruit and vegetables. With that, we are active on all continents by now. Ten years ago, we switched from being a generalist to being a specialist. For example, we are dominant in citrus and grapes, and besides, we’ve seen a stormy development on the blueberry market. For us, the growth is in production countries such as Egypt, India, South Africa and Peru. Additionally, we are a true Spain specialist, which also very much suits the activities at the site.

Are import streams from overseas countries to Europe under pressure? I don’t see that threat. The production availability is only an issue when you don’t add value in the supply chain. As long as you add value, there will always be product available. Overseas producers naturally look towards different markets increasingly often, but that isn’t that bad. Instead of an annual oversupply, the import volume suits the need on the market more often. A country such as South Africa might send more product to other destinations and they might profit from the global growth market, but it isn’t at the expense of Europe in volume. After all, people in Europe are also scaling-up production considerably, and in many cases this area isn’t even in full production yet. The companies, which are looking for customers purely from their position of stocks, will get into trouble. They don’t add value for supermarkets, food service or consumers. Freshness will become an increasingly important factor in our trade. 52

AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2018

You have been working on social responsibility for years. How’s that going? We took the lead in that, and we want to remain in that leading position. We were the first to achieve the Dutch Milieukeur certification mark with our producers for our oranges and grapes in South Africa. Besides, we were one of the boosters of IDH (Initiative Sustainable Trade) to make the import of fruit and vegetables from Africa, Asia and South America completely sustainable by 2020. We are also on schedule with that. Sustainability is in our nature and is included by all Jaguar purchasers during the sourcing of our products. That also means we support our suppliers where possible, with knowledge and audits, for example. Does all this result in a few extra cents or a preferred position in retail? No, that is certainly not the case with the price fighters on the market. But it’s not a goal in itself for us either. We do business sustainably because we think it’s important and not because we want to make a profit. For retailers, it’s still very important to buy certain types of fruit Fairtrade or Milieukeur year-round, because they then also want the guarantee that they can have these products at their disposal year-round, and that’s an even bigger obstacle than price. Isn’t organic an interesting market for you? It could definitely be an interesting market for us. I did some research into the organic market six years ago, and I’m convinced it would fit Jaguar like a glove, but we are cur-

rently not active in it at all. That is because it requires quite a bit of attention and expertise. But it is certain that the organic market has much potential. Consumers are ready for organic, and I think the organic trade will increase exponentially. There are more snags on the side of growers than on the side of trade, but I see increasingly better solutions in that because of new varieties and cultivation techniques. How important is the Chinese market in your future strategy? Just like the Middle East and Africa, China’s potential is enormous. In 2013 I personally visited the Asia Fruit Logistica in Hong Kong for the first time, with the idea of supplying the Asian market from there. To be honest, I thought the fair was a bit disappointing, and I put the plans on hold, but that itch returned later that winter. I was fortunate enough to participate in an exchange programme with a Chinese university, for which I could personally select the students to carry out an assignment for Jaguar. Together we did extensive market research and took the first steps on the large Chinese market. How did the Chinese adventure start? You have to start somewhere, and that’s what we did at the international port of Ningbo, a city with 12 million inhabitants south of Shanghai. In 2014, we started with a small desk in the office of the Rotterdam Commercial Representative Office (RCRO) under the name of Jaguar. We could receive customers here, but we wanted more control over things, so we started our own

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office closer to the market. Over the years, I’ve been to China many times, visiting many customers within (online) retail and on the wholesalers markets to gain their trust. We’ve been committed to quality, sustainability, food safety and our brand Jaguar. Our brand stands for luxury for everyone, is of above-average quality, but despite the luxurious appearance, it doesn’t have a premium price, and is very popular in China. People appreciate our well-known boxes with golden print. The Chinese are very loyal to brands, and we have definitely profited from that with our Jaguar brand. Contrary to Europe, you can charge 10-15 per cent more for a strong brand of fresh produce in China. The advantage is that the Chinese like buying from Europeans. Demand has grown considerably and our Chinese branch became a completely independent company called Leopard Fruit Trading in the past year. It’s an advantage to be able to work in local currency to find a connection with the market. In coming years, we will expand the Chinese activities by positioning our brand even more and further penetrating the market. The market has so much potential. Looking at how many people you can reach with online promotions, it’s unprecedented and sometimes unreal for European standards. Which products do you mostly sell in China? Citrus is our principal product there too. It’s 54

AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2018

special that we can now ask a South African or Egyptian grower whether he wants to supply the Chinese or the European market, so we sometimes experience external competition. We in the Northern Hemisphere often don’t even realise which options overseas growers have. Furthermore, the Dutch Conference pear is the apple of our

eye. We were the first to pack the pears in the American way – as a present, including cover sheet, stickers and CA bags – and that was so popular quite a few competitors started doing that as well. We’re very satisfied with the sales of Conference pears, but it’s a long-winded process. But we in Europe sometimes forget how long it took for overseas citrus to become successful here. In the Netherlands, we want everything to be done quickly, and that's possi-

ble, but you need an enormous budget for that. The same is now true for bell peppers. It could become quite successful, but you shouldn’t think you can conquer the entire market with three shipments. Perhaps our government can be more supportive. Blueberries from Peru, which had high expectations, had quite a bit of difficulty on the Chinese market at first as well. And Maroc oranges, which are popular in Russia, the UK and Scandinavia, were not successfully received in China either, while the tougher Egyptian oranges are accepted. I don’t think the bronzed look of the Conference pears scares the Chinese. The product is now still unknown on the market, but if the flavour experience is good, the Chinese will eventually start buying Conference pears. It’s an adjustment process. The Belgians have been sending large volumes of pears for some years now. The potential is just there, and experience has taught us the Chinese like the pears. But the cooled supply chain is an important point of interest. In China it’s quite common that the pears are sent from market to market, and Conference isn’t up to that. That’s also why it’s important to be locally active. They don’t work like they do in the Port of Rotterdam, they don’t send someone down from the KCB to inspect shipments. You’ll personally have to ensure a good treatment at the destination port. It’s well nigh impossible to do proper quality inspections on the markets. But at the same time, people expect the best of the

trade. The availability of product suitable for the Chinese market can sometimes be an issue during certain periods.

Do you also want to play a part with local Chinese product? We don’t intend to provide China with local product, it doesn’t have an added value for us. On the import markets local product is also separate, because not all growers have been certified, while food safety is very important in our vision. We have started lines with some growers to export garlic, ginger, pomelos and Fuji apples to Europe.

Do you actually see yourself as a fruit trader? To be honest, purely trading never attracted me as a student or school-leaver. From the time I was a child – my parents had an agrarian company – I always thought the products, distribution and the people were much more interesting than that fight for a few cents more. That’s also why I enjoy focusing on innovating new markets and concepts. I truly believe that effects from trends such as blurring, new shop concepts, food boxes and internet sales will play a large role in future, and I see it as a fantastic challenge to respond to that with market-oriented concepts. I’m convinced that an innovation of five per cent to an unprocessed product can ensure a 50-per cent change on your market field. Which role do you think social media will play in that? Nowadays, social media is already very dominant in marketing, sales and communication, and I also see this role for the fresh produce trade, I’m convinced much more trade will occur outside of traditional channels in future. We are already trying

to distinctively position ourselves on social media such as LinkedIn. I’m convinced the new generation of selling food lovers won’t sell fruit over the phone, but through social media. We are getting our company and our people ready for this.

Is it difficult to get the old guard of your team to do this? Of course it’s difficult, but I don’t believe you should even try this. Those boys have meant so much for Jaguar during the past few decades, and with their personal approach they realised a wonderful growth with their customers and suppliers, so that was a healthy balance. Technical developments will continue to occur, but the power of a personal relationship is still the basis of many sales successes. It’s up to the young guard, the so-called food lovers, to present them in their way and with the latest communication means. The ‘Ed Heijnens’ of this world shouldn’t be doing that anymore.

us, which says much about his faith in me and the management team. But he’s still strategically involved in the business. We are currently researching how to participate in overseas cultivations, and I therefore have much contact with Kees and we travel together often. His experience in this field is of great value to me and Jaguar.

What’s the dot on the horizon for Ed Heijnen? To be honest I think I’ve already reached that dot, but my horizon will always move a bit further. I work with a fantastic group of people, with which we are now importing and exporting on all continents as of this year. I’m mostly striving for that dot to become a rising sun, and we want to continue supplying custom fruit globally, preferably under our own brand Jaguar. 

How do you work on a strong team? When we interview people, we select for talent, passion, knowledge and discipline. We talk to each other about that, I’m not a fan of job descriptions and performance interviews at all. We don’t have department heads either. Our ultimate goal is that everyone can optimally develop their talent, and work together based on clear norms and (core) values. It’s working for us, because we have a fantastic team of professionals by now.

Is Kees Rijnhout still in the office often? By now, Kees has pretty much let go of the operational side of Jaguar. It will always be his baby, but he doesn’t worry about the day-to-day anymore. This year was the first time he didn’t go to the fair in Berlin with AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2018


To p f r u i t

European standards for production in the Caucasus

New export markets in theMiddle East and Asia for Azerbaijan Due to the devaluation of the Azerbaijani manat and the hefty incentives from the government, the country’s exports to Europe, the Middle East and Asia have increased. More and more companies are focusing on the international market, where European standards are applied. Double digit growth figures are no exception when looking at the growth of exports.


alfway through last year, the management decided to strive for the diversification of our markets," explains Ogtay Huseyni, of the Azerbaijani company DAD. Russia has traditionally been the most important export market for the company, but it is now looking further into markets in the Middle East and the Far East, where "we have a logistical advantage over Europe, the US, South Africa and Latin America," explains Ogtay. "Shipping via Iran, it takes our products between ten and fourteen days to travel from orchard to the destination market."

Murad Ramazanov, of the export business Agrarco, also sees the importance of exports. "We are an export-oriented company with a continuous growth," he explains. "For this season, we are keeping an eye on the global and local market trends, prices and other news. We are always open to new ideas and suggestions." The company specialises in the marketing of hazelnuts and 56

AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2018

apples grown on its own plantations. The production of hazelnuts stands at 2,000 tonnes. "We harvest the hazelnuts from our own orchards, of which we have more than 2,000 hectares, and we buy nuts in the shell from local growers." For the apples, Agrarco

has an acreage totalling 250 hectares which yield some 4,500 tonnes.

COMPETITION AGAINST TURKEY The 500 hectares of orchards cultivated by DAD are located in the Guba region. This region lies in the north of the country, near the Caspian Sea, bordering Russia. Thus, the region has a maritime climate, but also benefits from the influence of the foothills of the Caucasus. "We are investing in expanding the acreage," continues Ogtay. "Last year, we harvested 14,000 tonnes of fruit." Most of the range consists of apples. The company also markets cherries, nectarines, peaches, plums and pears.

The low price of oil has also taken a toll on Azerbaijan's economy and led to tougher conditions in the domestic market. "The economy is not performing as it used to, so we have to sell our volume elsewhere. Previously, we could fall back on the domestic market, but because of the lower disposable income of Azerbaijanis, we are more or less forced to export." "For the cherries we see great potential in destinations in the Far East, such as Hong Kong," states Ogtay. No other Azerbaijani company has explored the possibility to export. The season for most products overlaps with that of Turkey. "We com-



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AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2018


To p f r u i t EUROPEAN STANDARD IN THE CAUCASUS DAD is a pioneer in the export to markets in the Middle East and the Far East. "We started in the United Arab Emirates, where we sell to large wholesalers, such as Barakat, but also to hypermarkets like Lulu Hypermarkets," states Ogtay. Lulu Hypermarkets is the largest retail chain in the Middle East. "We also get orders from the Maldives and we are working on markets in Africa. Kenya has become a good market. Russia will remain the main market because of its convenience."

pete directly against Turkey, but we have an advantage when it comes to price and logistics. I am confident that we’ll be able to obtain a good turnover from exports in the coming years."

EXPLOSIVE GROWTH OF FRUIT PRODUCTION For the elaboration of statistics, Azerbaijan is divided into ten economic regions. GubaKhachmaz, in the north of the country, where DAD is based, tops the ranking of the largest fruit producers. Last year, the region accounted for more than 252,000 tonnes of fruit, while the Aran region, slightly further south, accounted for more than 236,000 tonnes. These two regions are considered as the fruit orchard of Azerbaijan; in total, they harvested about 888,416 tonnes of fruit in 2015. Since the early 2000’s, the fruit production has been recording increases of a few percentage figures every year. Over the last fifteen years, the ones for which figures are available, the production has increased by 86 percent. Over the last five years, the growth rate has stood at 22 percent. Within this category, apples are the most representative product, accounting for a production of over 256,000 tonnes in 2015. Second are pomegranates, accounting for over 158,000 tonnes. The Aran region, with 125,527 tonnes, accounts for almost the entire pomegranate production. The bulk of the melon production, which is listed separately in the statistics, can also be found in this region, with a volume totalling more than 373,000 tonnes of a total of 484,510 tonnes, making it the largest producer by far. GROWTH IN GREENHOUSE CULTIVATION The Azerbaijani vegetable production last year amounted to nearly 1.3 million tonnes. This sector has grown considerably since the start of the millennium. In 2000, the production still stood at 780,836 tonnes, so there has been an increase of 63 percent. 58

AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2018

After a rapid growth in the first half of the decade, the growth rate has slowed down. Between 2010 and 2015, the production increased by about seven percent.

In addition to a substantial potato production, amounting to 839,795 tonnes, there is also a considerable production of tomatoes (515,160 tonnes) and cucumbers (230,747 tonnes). The figures for these products don’t make the distinction between greenhouse and open ground crops. "There are various companies, including those devoted to greenhouse tomato cultivation, which are making investments to ensure they get the processes right," affirms Ogtay. "There are many greenhouses in Azerbaijan." Traditionally, Russia is the main market, not only for tomatoes, but also for DAD’s apples and cherries. Another reason to invest in the search for new markets is the political developments. In recent years, Russia has introduced boycotts on the EU and Turkey, which resulted in huge losses. With that in mind, exporters aim to reduce risk and keep multiple options open. GOVERNMENT ENCOURAGES EXPORTS "In a year or two, I expect that the export of other vegetables and soft fruit will perhaps also become possible," predicts Ogtay; "not specifically for our company, but looking at Azerbaijan as a whole." The government is investing in the development of exports, "making great efforts to increase them. Besides oil, fruits and vegetables are a competitive export product. "

The export of fruits and vegetables has increased rapidly over the past twenty years. In 1994, the total revenue generated from the export of vegetables stood at $ 10 million, while fruit shipments generated $ 1.3 million. This is in sharp contrast to the 91.6 million dollars generated from the export of vegetables in 2015. For fruit exports, the difference is even greater. In 2015, Azerbaijan exported fruits worth $ 220.2 million.

Imports have also increased, but at a much slower pace. A lot of apples used to be imported from France and Italy, but the flow of trade has virtually dried up. "We no longer need those imports," said Ogtay. "We have the same trees as in Europe and we work according to European standards. We even have a Dutch sorting machine."

BUILDING A NETWORK "I doubt that Europe is an attractive market for us," continues Ogtay. "The logistics process is more complex and countries like Poland and Macedonia are much closer. It will be difficult to compete with them. For us, the Middle East, India and China are attractive destinations. We are working on access to those markets. "These markets have the capacity to absorb the products, so for now it won’t be necessary to look to Europe for our exports.

In any case, Europe is an attractive market for certain products. Agrarco’s hazelnuts, for example, have found their way to Italy, France and Germany. "For the coming season, we are looking at the Middle East and North Africa for export, alongside our traditional markets," explains Murad. "We export ninety percent of the hazelnuts and thirty percent of the apples." For the latter category, Russia is the main market, but we’ll also look for opportunities in the Middle East and North Africa. "Azerbaijan is a relatively new player and it takes a while to get to know the market. In China, and especially Hong Kong, we see that American products are doing well. They have been available for years, so consumers are familiar with them. "That is also reflected in the prices. Ogtay illustrates this with an example that he saw during a visit to the metropolis. US Red Delicious apples cost 22 dollars per box, while the price of better quality European Galas stood at $ 17 per box. 


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abbGrowers launches new blueberry trademark b-berry®

Healthy snacking everywhere with b-berry® On the Go The exposure of the soft fruit shelf will become much more attractive in the coming period if it’s up to the growers from abbGrowers. With the launch of b-berry® the blueberry packaging now has a tempting appearance for customers. Next to this, b-berry® also appeals with the introduction of new smallpacks also to the needs of these customers for To Go snacking and the convience market. The standard punnets are equipped with the printed film design of the Blueby icon. Printed film reduces the use of plastics with 50% and is therefore more environmental friendly and more cost effective. The Blueby icon symbolizes with the use of printed film a considerable contribution to sustainability. To Go market With the launch of three smallpacks blueberry the abbGrowers appeal to one of the most important developments in the consumer food market, snacking. The reclosable punnets are easy to use and firm in order to protect the soft fruit once in the bag and lunchbox. The Go Berry with 55 grams blueberries is a sweet and healthy snack for children during the breaks at school, the Fruit Snack with 120 grams blueberries eats away nicely at the office. Convenience For breakfast and dessert abbGrowers introduce the Fresh Topping with 220 grams of fresh blueberries, in a convenient reclosable punnet. No more loose berries in the fridge and handy to dose in the yoghurt or desserts. Premium b-berry® The b-berry® range contains next to fresh blueberries also shelf-stable blueberry products as blueberry marmelade, blueberries in cider and blueberry on sirup. For these products the abbGrowers grow a special blueberry variety, the berries are processed based on a traditional recepture. There are no artificial additives needed with this recepture, so the pure and honest taste of blueberry can be experienced. The b-berry® label b-berry® is a world wide protected label and as a premium label available for customers who sell b-berry® directly to the consumer. In this way, abbGrowers can support her customers through co-operation actively with promotions in blueberries. Providing the shortest supply chain increases profitability of the soft fruit. Another contribution to profitability is the level of quality control that can be achieved in a controlled supply chain. This quality control enables the reduction of waste in the shelf actively, with support of abbGrowers. abbGrowers is happy to invite you for meeting the team and the growers on the Fruit Logistica. You can find us in hall 3.2, stand B.09


Jan-Willem Kaslander, Total Produce:

“The message has to be sent out” Fruit importer Total Produce BV has the Rotterdam mentality of ‘cutting the bull and getting down to work.’ But the overseas importer of fruit is now also going to talk about the major added value of Total Produce as a partner, according to Jan-Willem Kaslander, commercial director, who started his job this year, after coming from the frozen fresh sector. What kind of background do you have? The past 8.5 years I worked as commercial manager for Ardo, a large private label and brand producer of frozen fruit, vegetables and herbs. An important supplier in frozen for all major retailers, foodservice suppliers and industrial customers. The Netherlands was initially my area of responsibility, but that became the entire Benelux in 2014. Before that, I was sales and marketing manager of Maître Paul, which was then part of Nestlé.

Were you tired of the frozen sector? I always enjoyed my job, but I was ready for a new boost in my career. That didn’t necessarily have to be in the frozen sector. On the other hand, I couldn’t just work in any sector, it should be a sector that I've got common ground with. At Ardo we did an increasing volume of frozen fruit in addition to vegetables and herbs, not the volumes that arrive here of course, but fruit 62

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did become interesting to me. Fruit is a beautiful product segment, and of course, Rotterdam plays a very important role in re-export from all the global production areas. When I was approached for this function, I didn’t have to think long about it. Total Produce BV is one of Europe's largest fruit importers and makes sure its product has the highest quality, combined with the right product and market knowledge. That was the challenge I was looking for. Is the frozen sector very different? Definitely, in the frozen sector we firstly work on the basis of long-term agreements. The opportunism of the fresh produce trade regularly amazes me. Daily trade still plays an important part and there are many links in the supply chain. That will change over time, we estimate. I was even more surprised by the lack of regular structure. I think many processes are still identical to years ago, while customers continue to

develop. The trade itself has changed less than the world around fresh produce. In the frozen sector you see people innovating proactively, and they develop innovations at customer level, suited to consumer trends. These innovations pull existing business into sales and attract new buyers as well. What were you given for the assignment? In 2016, Total Produce made a strategic policy plan that looks to 2020 and even to 2025. We will become even more professionalised in the coming years, internally, but also externally. Category management, transparency, innovations and creating value will be important pillars for that. The days of just pushing around boxes are over, as far as we’re concerned. As an authority in overseas import, we are a beacon of knowledge, and that should be the message we put out. For example, we know everything there is to know about melons. Customers should therefore expect that we take them along in our vision for the future and the trends for this product. What sort of innovations are you thinking of? That could be in concepts, in packaging,

since 1963 SEAFRIGO will be present at Fruit Logistica in Berlin from 7 to 9 February, Hall 23 - Booth F11. Come discover our logistic and transportation services and meet our international sales teams. For more information please visit our website:



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HALL 6.2 | B-06 AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2018



but also on product level from the triangle of grower - Total Produce - seed improver. It might not be simple to innovate, but it’s definitely possible. We’ve proven that with our miniature watermelons, among other things, which are selling very well. Young consumers are quick to lose interest and want to be continually surprised, to reach them we must innovate constantly and at a faster pace.

Do you believe in own brands in the fresh produce sector? I personally think about developing products and concepts with an added value more often. A retailer wants to be able to be distinctive with their products. I don’t think we’ll see brands introduced on a large scale in this sector. Fresh is a margin rich segment within the supermarket, and they prefer keeping that under their private label. But brands such as Tommies and Tasty Tom prove that it is possible. Is your strategy purely focused on retail? Supermarkets are indeed our biggest sales channel, and this is an important spearhead, but not the only one. Especially in the Nordics, Germany, France, the Benelux, but also in the Central and Eastern European markets we’re much represented at the wholesalers’. Our strength is also that we’re capable of selling our product to var64

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ious channels. When you have a continual and stable flow of products, you also need multiple sales channels to fill in your permanent programmes. But I have noticed that more intermediaries are active in other categories. I don’t believe this many links will persist. The daily price fight will still be around, but I expect more programmes will be agreed upon in the long term. Regarding transparency towards customers, this will be an important development.

Will you choose forward or backward integration? It’s almost impossible to integrate even further backwards. We’ve worked closely with most growers for years. Factually, we are the source. We don’t often grow our own produce, but we’ve been working with several large producers for dozens of years now. For that, being a large-scale company is a condition for us. As I always say: ‘Elephants dance with elephants.’ These parties often have more knowledge and strength as well. To introduce innovations on a large scale, you actually can’t work with small parties. That’s why we focus on forward supply chain development towards final sellers. Do you think product availability is liable to be pushed aside due to the rise of new markets (Asia), and how would

you respond to that? These are developments everyone has to deal with, but because we source globally, I don’t think product availability will be pushed aside. We’ve been importing a considerable range of garlic and ginger from China for years. For now, I don’t really see a big part for us in exporting to Asia. We still have many interesting options closer to home. What are your biggest challenges? Exchange rates, weather conditions or phytosanitary regulations? Phytosanitary issues, such as the false codling moth in citrus recently, can have major consequences, but I consider that to be more of a sector-wide challenge. The same is true for exchange rates and weather conditions. As long as everyone has an even playing field, every problem will have a solution. For ourselves, I think getting our message clearly across is challenging. Total Produce always remained modest about its capabilities, undeservedly. We have a lot of added value, and we will be open about that from now on. We are looking forward in the supply chain, and will fill in category management for customers tailor made. Our team of experienced and young people is going to do that, and it’s my job to make sure it is done in an organised manner.

How do you respond to developments such as e-commerce? The estimates for the potential of online sales vary, but it’s clear that it still has enormous growth potential. Fresh produce has an increasing importance in this field. That’s positive, because it shows consumers have so much confidence in the quality of the fresh produce that they’ll also buy it without having seen it first. I definitely believe these products will be bought through online channels more in future, but that product experience will also remain central. Regarding online sales, we’ve already joined programmes from retailers, and we also supply stand-alone online retailers. But the rise of, for example, meal boxes will also result in new opportunities to fill in the supply chain.

In 2014, Total Produce committed to the IDH covenant for a 100% sustainable import of fruit from Africa, Asia and South America in 2020. Are you on course for that? We are definitely on course. With this, we emphasise that we think it’s important to import fair and sustainable products, and we started various projects to reach an even cultivation with a minimum use of pesticides.Sustainability is one of our spearheads, and this should also be the case for the rest of the sector.

Why not take it one step further to fairtrade or organic? Fair trade shouldn’t be an issue. Customers should be able to assume that their suppliers guarantee fair trade. Organic is a sector that is getting larger and larger. We already have a limited volume of organic, and we’re definitely going to expand this. We have demand from our customers for this. Do you foresee major changes in your range? Not so much in width as in depth. For example, exotics are also taking flight for us and this will continue to grow. I’m amazed at the amount of new varieties that we’re getting, especially in grapes. I wonder if the consumer understands all of it. I think they just want a tasty and good product, and we appear to be forgetful of that sometimes. It’s about taste and quality. Varieties that are truly distinctive, must be marketed conceptually. Of course, preferably on an exclusive basis, but you should then also be able to get rid of the volumes.

duce Group, we’ll definitely look into it.

How do you feel about the new year? We remain dependent on the weather in our production countries. For example, the first supply of grapefruit was delayed this year, but we had an abundant supply of grapes. In general, prospects are good right now, and last year was also good for us. We will move to Cool Port Rotterdam in April, and that also provides us with additional opportunities. For instance, we will completely outsource our logistics to Kloosterboer, but our packing activities will be done at Cool Port, so that we can be even more flexible for our customers. Moreover, with options via road, water and train we offer the shortest routes to, for example, our Scandinavian and British customers. Customers will hardly be able to find fresher produce. 

The Total Produce Group participates in various Dutch trade companies. Is that where you get your synergy? I’m purely focused on Total Produce BV, which is specialised in marketing overseas fruit. When opportunities arise to work with other subsidiaries of the Total ProAGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2018



Andrew Biles:

“We need to work together to protect the Cavendish” In 2014, Brazil's Cutrale Safra bought the American banana giant Chiquita. The multinational thus ended up in private hands. Andrew Biles was appointed by the new owner as CEO and President of the company. With him, we look back on the years since the acquisition and the challenges that the sector is facing, including, for example, that of TR4. What has changed since the takeover by Cutrale Safra? "Chiquita was removed from the public domain and came into private hands. As a result, we now have shareholders who understand the business, because they have personal experience with the cultivation and logistics of citrus. We can set out a strategy for the long term, and also carry it out in a simpler way, because shareholders look more at the long term. That is not only good for business, but also for the entire 66

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Since the takeover, the European branches have all fallen under Chiquita Europe. Why have they been merged? "That has to do with several factors, including changes in legislation in Europe, such as the tax laws. It is also an efficient way to work, and customers expect us to operate as efficiently as possible. It also has advantages, for example, for the ICT. It is

not something that exceptional. Many large pan-European companies have their offices merged. It's a natural development." What is Chiquita's position in the sector? "I see our firm as one of the leading companies. We are still one of the largest exporters, but in total only a small share of the global production is intended for export.

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India and Brazil are the largest banana producers, but they hardly export. Their bananas are sold in the domestic market. Moreover, bananas are an essential food item in many countries. "

But there are also many challenges for the sector, if we look for example at the Panama Disease. "The banana sector has challenges just like any other agricultural sector. Incidentally, I do not like the name Panama Disease; why do we need to link the disease to a country? And the disease has not hit Panama yet. I prefer talking about TR4. It is a serious threat to the sector and a problem we need to tackle, and Chiquita now wants to play a leading role in this regard. We are working together with, for example, the FAO and the World Banana Forum in order to take appropriate preventive measures before the disease strikes. At Chiquita, we aim to become a catalyst in this process." What is being done to tackle TR4? "A task force has been set up to try leading the industry into adopting any measures necessary to tackle sector-wide challenges. TR4 is one of them. That Chiquita wants to play a leading role in this is part of the company’s long term strategy. Whatever we achieve as regards TR4, both in terms of prevention and in new varieties, we want to make available to the whole sector. That is what we consider good citizenship. All measures must be available to the entire sector. We cannot sit and watch other companies get stricken by TR4; we have to protect the Cavendish together. We believe that we, as a sector, must work together to find a solution." Will we still be able to buy bananas in the supermarket in ten years? "I don’t think bananas will disappear in ten years. I am optimistic. There are several initiatives to find a solution, but finding solu68

AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2018

tions requires a great co-ordinated effort. Chiquita is ready to do its part and bring the sector together to find short- and medium-term solutions. At Fruit Logistica, I have talked with several CEOs of other banana companies regarding this issue."

In the Netherlands and other countries bananas are offered at low prices in the supermarket. Have you noticed that? "The low prices are primarily a strategy from retailers; however, we see that the demand for bananas is fairly inelastic, which means that selling them for a lower price doesn’t necessarily entail better sales, and selling them for a more expensive price doesn’t necessarily result in lower sales. Furthermore, the EU aims to encourage competitive pricing to ensure attractive prices for consumers. We play our role in this and we try to minimise the costs for each product. In this regard, efficiency in the supply chain is important."

Retailers are also relying more on direct, private imports. Will there still be a role for multinationals like Chiquita? "Healthy competition is a good thing. Direct sourcing has always been an option and it is up to the major players in the sector to market the products in the most proper way. That may be done under either a private label or the retailer’s own label. We see that the Chiquita label is much more than a label. The story behind the brand also matters. What is going on in the producing countries? What does the supply chain look like? And is it sustainable? How do you deal with the employees? As a large firm, you can get things done that others cannot. Moreover, we can source from different countries." One of the topics you mention is the working conditions. In recent years, Chiquita has also addressed such matters. What's up with that?

"We seek to work proactively for our growers and workers. There are always some issues at play, but we aim to resolve them before they escalate to, for example, strikes. Our HR director, for instance, is also responsible for sustainability. That shows that this is really part of our strategy. A company is only as good as the people who work in it. We want to continue standing by that idea. We are committed, for example, to women's rights and social issues. To this end, we work closely with the IUF. We pay more than the minimum wage and the majority of our employees are members of a trade union." In recent years, Chiquita has chosen to ship the bananas via Vlissingen and not via Antwerp and Bremerhaven. What was the reason? "Vlissingen is an efficient and effective port. They offer a good service at an attractive price. Chiquita uses many ports and from time to time we make changes." Did the transit time play a role? For example, reaching Antwerp from the North Sea takes seven hours more than Vlissingen. "That could be an aspect, but with a journey time of two weeks from Latin America to Europe, seven hours more or less don’t really matter."

Lastly, Fyffes has been taken over by Japan's Sumitomo. Will that affect the market? "The effect of this will be limited. Fyffes is now part of a group and I think that's positive. That will turn out well for the longterm strategy. For us, it doesn’t make much of a difference. We were satisfied with the situation as it was and we are happy with the new situation. It's not better or worse." 

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AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2018



Ben de Groot:

“Say what you do and do what you say” Usually it’s waste of time asking Ben de Groot, general manager of the De groot Fresh Group, for an interview, but thankfully, he decided to make an exception for the banana special of Primeur. And it appears to be a good time for it. With a specialised range of fruit and vegetables, De Groot International has been characterising itself as partner for trade and retail since the 1930s. The company imports fruit and vegetables from about 50 countries, exports to approximately 30 countries, and has four conditioned locations in the Netherlands and the UK at its disposal, amounting to about 40,000 square metres of floor area. In 2014, De Groot Bananas was founded, and the building of the headquarters in Hedel was expanded with an ultra modern banana ripening facility. “I was always more interested in long term business,” says Ben. How did you end up in this trade? I was given the number 13 and just started sweeping the warehouse. My father was a pure trader, but in the short time in which I got my work experience, I worked for companies that made all the difference. For example, while I worked in construction, I worked for a contractor who was ahead of his time and worked with cordless 70

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drills and tower wagons. During my time with Harmsen & De Groot, I saw people who worked for Aartsenfruit, which had a computer system that had no equal. I was intrigued by that. I wanted to make a difference as well. One of the first things we therefore did, was going to Aartsen to buy the computer system. That cost a lot of money, but we never regretted it.

Did you clash with your father over that? First of all, my dad was my employer, my companion, my friend and my everything. He shouldered his backpack and traveled the world, even though he was of the generation that went hawking with a dogcart through Brabant. At the time, the big boys called him a ‘peasant,’ but he built the busi-

ness. My father was a true commercialiser. My brother William is also very much a man of the field. He is an expert in sourcing, speaks multiple languages, and can easily work for 24 hours straight. I was always more of the long-term thinking. Suburban bliss, the family and the business in the long term. On average, commercial people think differently about that. Sometimes, the fresh produce world is just like an artistic world. And how many artists have the luxury to remain normal in the long term? I can say that I’ve always followed my own policy. Imitations should be left to Steve Coogan, and copying doesn’t work. Were you given the space for that policy? My dad was always on the road, and when my brother had to sit at home for eight months because he skied into a tree, I was on my own. I then completely went for supermarkets, and that was really my thing. Nowadays, the business is divided into the wholesaler’s with cash & carry, the trading department with import and export activities, the retail branch and our banana business. Focus has become more prominent especially for those last two branches. That doesn’t mean I’d ever want to get rid of the wholesaler’s, which does good busi-

ness. That’s what made the business what it is today.

And about those bananas… My father did a lot with Ecuador bananas, which were good for trade, but not for supermarkets. Especially when you supply retail, you need to have a feel for the customer. With the take-over of Van Dommele we acquired the licences in 1998 as well. That was in the time we were selling our share in Hortim Czech to Fyffes, and started focusing more on the Dutch market. The take-overs of Borgers and Kooij followed after that. One of our conditions is to continue working with large volumes. In that respect, it’s just as with transport: if the cars aren’t filled properly, you can’t make a profit. We have to makes sure the returns end up with the customer. We carry many banana brands, but we also supply bananas under our own brand, Don Mario, in countries including Germany, Scandinavia, France and the UK. Furthermore, we sell a lot of product from overseas directly to Asia and the Middle East. We never had the ambition to focus on production, but we want to provide an added value. My son Maik now does the bananas, and he is advised by René van Dommele. We invest-

 Gekoelde  Gekoelde opslag opslag  Gekoelde opslag  Douaneformaliteiten  Douaneformaliteiten  Douaneformaliteiten  Kwaliteitsbeheersing  Kwaliteitsbeheersing  Kwaliteitsbeheersing  added Value logistics added logistics  Value  Value added logistics (rijpen,omen verpak, labeling) (rijpen,omen verpak, labeling) Cold storage (rijpen,om- en verpak, labeling)  Customs formalities Containertransport  Containertransport  Containertransport  Quality control  Dagelijks groupagetransport  Dagelijks groupagetransport  Value Added logistics  Dagelijks groupagetransport (ripening, repackaging and packaging, labelling)

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ed considerably in our ripening capacity in Hedel and Breda. What I care about is that our customers sell more and that we add value. That’s why we don’t ripen for five days, which is usual, but seven days and that is good for the product. Because of this, the customers’ returns increase considerably. It is our job to explain the difference to the customers. And for that, countries often decide the quality. Bananas from Ecuador are often too large for the Netherlands, but they’re fine for Germany. The UK prefers mid-sized bananas. You have multiple banana brands, but all from the Cavendish variety. Isn’t it time for a new variety? We also have cooking bananas, mini-bananas and red bananas, but I would like to introduce a new variety soon. And whether this would be a blue banana or a vanilla or chocolate-flavoured one, or one with a different shape, wouldn’t really matter to me. An expansion of the banana range would be good for the entire sector. A similar banana wouldn’t become a volume product, but we do know that a shortage occurs when the introduction is successful. We don’t want to carry the broadest assortment, but we do want to be the best at what we do.

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AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2018



Can you work well with supermarkets? For us, each customer is equally important, no matter how small or large. We have customers and suppliers we have worked with for more than 25 years. Trust makes or breaks everything. It’s okay to have rough patches occasionally, as long as you can blindly trust each other. How compatible are you, and what is the value added? I think in terms of partnerships, and I believe in dedicated work, without becoming too intimate. After all, I want to run my own business at all times, but I also want to decide in consultation with my customers which goals to achieve.

How do you think food retail will continue developing? Personally, I think it’s a shame that supermarkets are very price-focused in general. Because of this, all value added is taken from the products without anyone wondering how that’s possible. Everyone now buys from Action or other major discounters. That was unimaginable 15 years ago. On the other hand, experience is becoming increasingly important. Not the formulas, but the products are becoming more and more centralised. All retailers focus on


AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2018

food. It’s healthy and hip, and I think the prices of basic products should increase rather decrease. The big question is how internet sales will develop. That share is still low now, but will gradually start increasing. Moreover, the fresh produce share is highest for online sales. When that is properly rolled out, we’ll see a new kind of retail sales. A lot will happen in that field in the coming years. Customers who aren’t even born yet, might be the biggest competition in future. But you still cannot act on that now, even though you have to follow the developments. We also have several food service customers who started out as yuppies with ten boxes per week a few years ago, but they now buy one thousand boxes from us. The world is changing rapidly. Take construction, I expect that 20 per cent of houses will be built prefab in factories within ten years. You have to be prepared for similar trends as a contractor or manufacturer, just as in fresh produce. In 2011 you bought back all the shares from investment company GIMV. Will you remain a family company? First of all, I should say the cooperation with GIMV was good for both the familiar

and the business aspect. We look back on that fondly. The passion for being independent entrepreneurs settled it for my brother and me in the end, because we want to decide the direction of our company ourselves. And that gives us a lot of satisfaction. I work for the company day and night, and I’m proud of our team. You’re only as good as your people. If they’re against you, they bring you nothing but misery, but if they’re on your side, they’ll go through fire for you. Can we expect any extravagances in the near future? The only exception to that is the participation of our team in the Dakar Rally. Wonderful to be cut off from the world for two weeks under the most extreme circumstances. Professionally, we like to remain in the background. I sometimes say I don’t want to be in first, second or third place. Because they are often only around for a few years. I’d prefer to be in fourth place for life. Plenty of windbags are saying things they won’t actually live by. My motto is: ‘say what you do and do what you say.’ 

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AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2018 17/01/17 10:46



Seeds lift potato cultivation to higher level Late blight affected the Irish potato cultivation between 1845 and 1850. One million people died because of the famine caused by this, and another million people decided to find their fortune on the other side of the ocean. The disease, now known as Phytophtora, also showed itself last year. The consequences weren’t as large, but there’s still no solution. With potato seeds, a resistant variety could be refined. Solynta has been working on developing potato seeds for ten years, because cultivation from seeds has more advantages than simply disease resistance.


rowing from seed has two important advantages,” says Hein Kruyt, CEO of Solynta. “The first is a logistical advantage. There’s quite a difference between shipping 25 grammes of seed or 2,500 kilogram of seed potatoes (the amount needed to plant a hectare). Additionally, with seed it’s easier to increase in size. With seed, you make 25 million descendants per year, while with seed potatoes you only have ten descendants per year.” The second advantage mentioned by Hein, is the improving of the seed. “A new variety can be developed about every two years. With seed potatoes, this takes about 12 years, and new varieties can actually not be developed.” NEW POTATO VARIETIES To exemplify how difficult it is to get a good new variety with seed potatoes, he mentions Bintje. The strain entered the mar-


AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2018

ket in 1905, and is still a major variety in Europe. Yet in the past 100 years, nothing has changed, he explains. In 2006, Solynta took the reins and started a study into potato seeds. “There were many traditional potato traders who had objections, but by working persistently, we have shown that it is possible,” Hein says.

Right now, they are working on a new potato variety that should be on the market from 2021. Yet Hein doesn’t think the seed potatoes will disappear in the short term. Especially in the Netherlands the seed potatoes will continue to play their part. Frost slows the introduction of seed in the Dutch cultivation. “Right now, the seed isn’t frostproof yet. I don’t know how the market will look in 20 years, but I don’t see any changes in the coming ten years.” What does change, however, is the way the seed is obtained.

According to Hein, this will come from cultivation of the seed, which will always result in first generation ‘super healthy seedlings.’

WISH LISTS The research institute doesn’t have its own land to test the seeds in the Netherlands, which is why the company is contacting growers. “The first time we visit, most growers are skeptical. When they see the harvest by the end of the season, I often hear yields are better than those of the commercial variety they’re growing.” That enthusiasm is infectious.

It’s therefore no surprise Hein is handed wish lists from various directions. Growers would like to have a resistant variety. Crisps manufacturers prefer a nice round potato, while chips factories actually prefer a more rectangular potato. With the seeds, doors to improvement are opened to develop potatoes that meet these desires. Whether that’s possible in practice, remains an unanswered question, but Hein emphasises the answer is ever closer. DOUBLED SALES For overseas regions, however, the seeds are an appealing alternative. The research also focused on these areas, where there’s a need for nutritious food. The growing global population and the changing climate


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are challenging. In summary, more food has to be produced on less land, and with less water and fewer pesticides. The potato offers a good alternative to, for example, rice, Hein explains. “The potato cultivation uses less water than rice or the cultivation of grain. The yields are higher, and the crop is much more nutritious than rice,” he sums up. Night frost, which is in the way of cultivation from seeds in the Netherlands, is a fairly unknown phenomenon in Africa. Besides, the potato cultivation can use some support in many of the continent’s countries. An ideal location for a test. “With



AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2018

the help of partners, we now want to test the seed in six countries: Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Ethiopia,” Hein says. In these countries, potatoes are an important part of daily diets. In the past 20 years, the potato production in East Africa more than doubled.

just enough to live off, but also enough to pay tuition for the children, to make a profit, and to be able to make investments. Hein was also surprised by this result. “We are now going to try to market the seed earlier.” With these results, it would be disgraceful not to try, according to him. 

The results in Congo were a world of difference compared to the traditional yield. On average, a potato field yields 8,000 kilograms per hectare there. That is just about enough for the grower to live off. However, with the seed, a yield of between 28,000 and 30,000 kilograms was realised. Not

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Rita Demaré:

"Lifting Flandria to a higher level with own brands" Rita Demaré has been chairwoman of the REO Veiling for nearly 12 years. She has also been chairwoman of the VBT for years now. In addition to that, she is a mayor, and she grows lettuce with her husband. You have been a member of the board of REO Veiling since 2001. What has been the most important milestone since then? “When I started as chairwoman in 2005, the people of our auction had just heard a speech by Roger Saenen from the Boerenbond. He made us think about the sector and about the horticultural cooperatives. We from REO Veiling used that moment to enrich and phrase our policy vision concretely. One of the matters that came from that was the need for a more active commercial policy from the cooperative itself. That is why we, after formulating the new policy vision, started our own commercial service within REO Veiling. That was a serious change for how the auction operates. Nowadays, both growers and buyers are happy that decision was made back then.”

Does this mean the auction wasn’t commercial in the years before that decision was made? “There was a clock, products were supplied and divided into quality classes, and offered to the market. Producers could ask for guidance, but there was indeed no commer78

AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2018

cial follow-up from REO Veiling. Through external guidance a process was started in which cultivation guidance was changed into product management, and market management and a commercial inside service were started. This was the start of REO Veiling’s own commercial service, an exciting moment.”

How did buyers/exporters react? “During that period, I was at the Fruit Logistica Berlin as chairwoman, and I noticed buyers were very worried and they wondered what the actual plans of the REO Veiling were. Exporters thought we would bypass them. We then explained that we meant to market our product with their help, and that we would support and promote our products more. The end goal was to clearly inform and guide the final buyers about what REO Veiling could mean to them. Our traditional buyers continue to market the product and take care of logistics. That is still the case now. As an auction, we ensure that relationships between final buyers and suppliers are developed. That’s why it’s important to be in contact with the

final buyers, and to develop new markets. Moreover, it is important to send the right messages in a transparent market, from producer to consumer.”

Does that mean you work with the buyers? “We always respect the existing market parties, as long as they also show respect for the producer and his cooperative. But in Flanders, in comparison to the Netherlands, retail has been buying directly at auction for a long time, and they are supplied by horticultural cooperatives. Retail buys directly from us, but because of the transparency, the same rules apply to everyone. ‘Going to the market together’ has therefore been the theme throughout the 75 years of REO Veiling. Over the past 12 years, the focus has clearly been put more on cooperation within the supply chain. How can we strengthen our buyers by dedicating ourselves to the market together?”

How is REO’s relationship with its buyers now? “Fine, in general. A buyer or exporter who has good intentions towards the producer can see that the auction offers an added value. Also in the transparent contact with its buyers. Recently, a buyer held an event for his customers. We picked that up together, and this resulted in an added value for both the producer, REO Veiling and the buyer.

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As partners, we clearly gain more from our efforts.” Does the auction always make the best match between buyer and grower? “REO Veiling is a playmaker between producer and the market, in any case. When selling at auction, the match between producer and buyer is decided by the formation of the bloc (quality, sorting, production manner), and the auction purchase of the buyer. With other purchases, the auction acts as matchmaker between producer and buyer. Optimum logistics or interpretation can be striven for with this, however, this is always within the collective and therefore cooperative chalk marks. All producers who can meet a demand, are always given the chance. For two years now, we have also been working with sustainable cooperations, established in charters, within the auction. We have about 20-group producers who have worked out a similar charter of cooperation. One example of such a cooperation is the Fine Fleur butterhead lettuce. This lettuce is only traded during the season, and is harvested in the morning before daybreak, sold at auction in the meantime, and supplied to the customer before noon that same day, cooled. Producers who want to work together according to these strict guidelines, could engage by signing the cooperation charter. There are 80

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strict requirements especially in the field of quality. In order to supply the best quality, growers have to be motivated from within. It is important that producers take professional pride in their product.”

Has that focus on quality increased in recent years? “We’ve always had that focus, but it has changed. More than 20 years ago, Flandria started as a quality label and ensured dynamics as regards quality. We have now discovered that a quality assessment that only starts at the inspection table is too late in some cases. The change in previous years has been devotion to the quality of the source, right from the start of the production. This, combined with the professional pride of our growers and their daily involvement with our cooperative operation, makes all the difference. In that way, REO Veiling and its producers ensure the difference in quality. We, as growers, know the product best, and are responsible for it. During the harvest, we know if today was better or worse than yesterday. Every grower should have that honesty. This is the added value of working together in small collaborations within a larger cooperative. If everyone did it, the buyer could buy blind. We open our local market for European buyers. By the way, the most important auction room for REO product

is the people buying from home nowadays. More than 70 per cent of REO sales were realised by buyers not present at the REO Veiling in 2016!”

Does the auction also have growers who are less involved? “Today, the REO Veiling has 1,000 growers. Various activities in the past year show that at least half of these producers are actively involved with the REO Veiling one way or another. By the way, during the previous year, all of REO’s producers participated in the sustainability questionnaire, and that more than 535 producers participated in the producer’s survey about the way the auction operates. This means more than 53 per cent of our active producers. But we also have growers who just supply to our auction, and I have all due respect for that as well.” Is there also a threat that more producers will start taking care of their own sales? “I don’t think that it’s a very large threat. A cucumber grower who joined REO, once said: ‘This is the difference with a Dutch cucumber grower: When I get up in the morning, I know I can keep busy growing cucumbers. I don’t have to worry about sales. My Dutch colleagues, who are not linked to a cooperative, first have to wonder

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AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2018


Opinion how they’ll sell the cucumbers.’ I hope that this will coninue to be e the case and that our growers will continue to focus on production with professional seriousness and pride. The auction will continue to support growers in many different ways. Marketing the products is a part of that, but support during certification is as well. All of that combined is the added value, both for buyer and producer.” So the cooperative model will continue to offer an added value for now? “Definitely. I was born into it, and I hope to also die in it. I think it’s a wonderful model. My father was also part of a cooperative. Everyone being equal is wonderful, whether they’re large or small. Not just the large growers and the large products are interesting to buyers, he also wants to buy the small niche products to expand his product range.”

Should anything change in the model to keep it future-proof? “The alertness we have now means we are constantly thinking about what we’re doing and in which direction we are headed. I believe we should continue doing things in this manner. This is about matters such as concentrating supply, the brand policy, the producer’s responsibility and expanding our market opportunities. This is what we’ll continue doing.” Has the importance of Flandria decreased? “No, but Flandria’s role has changed. Flandria is definitely still important, about 80 per cent of our products is sold under this label. Flandria has slightly different accents, and over the years it has become more general and Belgian. We want to be distinctive with brands such as Fine Fleur and Tomabel, and make the quality aspect more dynamic, and offer an added value. We want to realise the upgrade of Flandria with our own brands. It’s not that our own brands


AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2018

high with our Flandria vegetables, and we do that together. The marketing specialists of the auctions are also in talks with VLAM and LAVA, to discuss it together and work all of this out.” How is the mutual atmosphere after all the mergers? “Not bad, I even think it has become simpler now that there are fewer parties. Looking at vegetables, there are three important auctions in Flanders. These three parties will continue to work together within LAVA, and they’ll respect each other’s individuality.”

are better, but the distinction could also be made with the added service and reliability. All products have to meet Flandria’s basic requirements. And we take it one step further with Fine Fleur and Tomabel.”

What is LAVA’s function? “They are the umbrella of various cooperatives, which together carry a common European programme. LAVA takes care of, for example, the common Flandria specifications and is responsible for the promotion of our Flandria products. The latter in close consultation with VLAM.” Is mutual competition increasing for Belgian auctions with all of these own brands? “We don’t have a great many auctions, so I think it’s not too bad. Once everyone starts promoting their own brands, it doesn’t have to be dangerous, necessarily. Every auction has had the brands for years, but Flandria is still the theme. We are competitive colleagues, and have to take care not to underbid each other. On the other hand, we each have our own focus markets, and we continue to work together in various fields. In the export world we still collectively score

Did you never have merger plans? “We were one of the first to realise a merger, with the vegetable auction in Wetteren, but that was in the previous century. If we were to consider a merger today our only motive should be the added value for the grower. Besides, personal matters shouldn’t hold us back.”

Did Veiling Haspengouw also come to REO for help? “No, they didn’t. Although I think we might’ve been able to help each other out. We had experience in similar situations with the merger of Veiling Produco. Of course, we don’t have that much fruit, but a collaboration with a fruit auction could have ensured an added value for our producers and buyers. However, maintaining the operation of the local cooperative is important for us.” With leeks and other vegetables it often happens that there’s a price difference between the Belgian and Dutch product in Belgium’s favour. Does this mean you are better? “As regards leeks, we in West-Flanders are an important European supplier. That means we can be a price-fixer. Besides, REO has managed to sell more leeks through the auction by being stricter in the delivery obligation and by rigorously ensuring

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Opinion product quality. I think these two factors ensure an added value for producers to a considerable extent. Underbidding in price and quality is always deadly to a sector and its producers. If a customer is looking for reliable quality, and can only find that in one place, you can do nothing besides offering the right price. If we have better prices, it is because of the belief in cooperating for our producers, and thanks to that, and our rigorous quality policy, it means a better product.”

You often work with France. Is there a reason why this isn’t done with the Netherlands as well? “France is an important market, and they prefer domestic product. That’s why we are very active in France. Some growers have even ‘moved.’ They also still have room for new products. The Netherlands already has a lot of production, and there’s less room for us because of that. By the way, we once offered to work together in the field of leeks, in order to also centralise the leek supply in the Netherlands and market them together. Apparently this is a difficult step for the Netherlands, or perhaps it’s too big. Nevertheless, I am convinced a cooperation here would be profitable for pricing.”

larger the percentage with which we can go to the market.”

Is working together more often a dream of yours? “In future, working together more often will remain a theme for the cooperatives. The more collaborations, the better. And this means everyone respects everyone else. The Belgian production is four per cent of the European production, that is precious little. The more we can work together, the

The consumption of fresh produce is not really increasing. What should be done about that? “We should continue to do promotions in order to increase consumption. People choose convenience, and it is therefore important to educate people that it doesn’t take much time to prepare vegetables. But it is quite a job to convince people of that every single day. We can do nothing besides being constantly vigilant for a consumption that doesn’t increase. We should pay more attention to the fact that vegetables are delicious. The messages ‘It’s an obligation’ or ‘It’s healthy’ often come across as quite negative. Vegetables are tasty and can be presented on plates quite nicely. Positive communication is therefore key! Vegetables are indeed ‘fun,’ as one of our Belgian colleagues expressed it.” 


FMI Foodhandling from Uden and JFPT B.V. from Zwolle, also known under the brand name foodlife, joined their forces. Since January 1st 2018 the companies merged with each other. This merger was announced at the end of December 2017 by Rene de Keijzer, CEO of FMI and Patrick Jansen, CEO and owner of JFPT B.V.

The rapidly growing FMI is mainly known as a producer of components, assemblies and systems for the manufacturing industry. With the acquisition of the Irmato group earlier this year, FMI has also acquired a strong position as supplier of robotized production lines, including for the food processing industry.

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AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2018

JFPT B.V./foodlife is an internationally operating, Dutch company that develops innovative machinery and processing solutions for the food processing industry. The integration with foodlife is a deliberate and strategic move from FMI. Activities of foodlife will be merged with those of FMI Foodhandling from Uden. “JFPT B.V. is an incredible company with a strong brand name and commercial capabilities, together we can really achieve synergy”, says René de Keijzer from FMI. “Moreover, the technology, knowledge and machines of foodlife seamlessly match with what FMI Foodhandling offers. By joining forces, we can serve the global market much better and jointly develop new machines and production lines”, says De Keijzer. For foodlife it’s also a great opportunity, given its international aspirations.

As Patrick Jansen of JFPT B.V. phrases it: “With the FMI concern, we have found a partner that, in terms of size and entrepreneurial approach, is the umbrella for us under which we can realize our growth ambitions. Foodlife and FMI Foodhandling will continue under the company name foodlife, an FMI company. The foodlife location in Zwolle will continue as sales office and maintenance location. Foodlife remains a proud dealer of GKS Packaging, FAM N.V. and Tenrit Foodtec Maschinenbau. Foodlife will continue to provide you with service and spareparts for these brands. The office in SchipholRijk (nearby Amsterdam) will continue as R&D location. The engineering and production of own machines will take place at the FMI plant in Uden.

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AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2018


To p f r u i t

Kevin Moffit, CEO USA Pears

More shelf space for pears at US retailers In the US, supermarkets have an average of four to five different pear varieties on their shelves. When in season, there can be up to eight different varieties. How did the US sector managed to get as much retail space? Kevin Moffitt, CEO of USA Pears, talks about the situation in the United States, where the pear market is also facing some challenges.


big difference with Europe is that US supermarkets have large fresh produce sections," explains Kevin. The fresh produce departments are also the ones with the most rapid growth in floor space. "In new stores, more room is devoted to different fruit varieties." Just like apples, the pear season takes place in the autumn. In the months of September and October, supermarkets can offer up to eight different pear varieties. "The Green Anjou, Bartlett and Bosc are the main varieties; these are available almost all year round. Next in importance are the Red Anjou and Comice." When in season, the Starkrimson is added to the range. "Supermarkets aim to offer pears in different colours." IMPORTS TO KEEP RANGE AVAILABLE USA Pears acts as a representative for growers in the North Western states of Oregon and Washington, which together account for 84 percent of the US pear production; about 380,000 tonnes per year. California cultivates 15 percent of the pears, about


AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2018

12,000 tonnes, but most of this production is intended for processing. The remaining one percent is grown on the East Coast.

Pears are available almost all year round. The Green Anjou, which has the longest season, is available from September to July and the peak is reached between November and February/March, although in December there is a slight drop in demand. "It's the holidays. In that period, consumers are more interested in chocolate than in pears," laughs Kevin. In the off-season, the pears are imported. From mid-February, Argentina hits the market. At that point in the season there are mainly Bartlett, Bosc and some small volumes of Green Anjou available. EUROPE UNSUCCESSFUL IN THE US Imported pears have roughly a 15 percent share of the US market. Californian pears represent another 15 percent. The states of Oregon and Washington account for the remaining 70 percent of the pears.

Although Europe was given access to the US market, the impact of European pears is barely visible. "So far, imports have not been very successful," explains Kevin, "probably because the pears are not distinctive enough." The US retail does not expect yet another green pear on the shelf. According to Kevin, European pears have a greater chance for success on the Canadian market. "Canadian retailers often have six to eight pear varieties. Canadian consumers also eat more fruit than those in the US, and for Dutch and Belgian exporters, the Canadian east coast is relatively close." COMPETITION IN ASIA Exports are important for the sector. Some 40 percent of pears are traded across borders. "These are large volumes for the growers. We need exports." In recent years, there have been many changes in the international market. Russia was the third market for US pears, only preceded by Mexico and Canada. With the boycott in 2014, the US lost a buyer for half a million 20 kilo boxes. That took its toll, but the impact was somewhat mitigated by the smaller harvests that followed. The stronger dollar is also not beneficial for exports. In Asia, Americans are increasingly dealing with European competitors who are also looking for new markets after the intro-


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duction of the Russian boycott. China and India are promising markets, with a capacity for 120,000 and 300,000 boxes (of 20 kilos) each. The Middle East, and specifically the United Arab Emirates, is also an "interesting destination." The Emirates re-export 45 percent of their pear imports to countries in the region, including Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Afghanistan and CIS countries.

POPULAR BANANAS TAKE A TOLL ON PEARS The election of Donald Trump and the harsh words he had for international trade has created uncertainty. A wall on the border with Mexico, changes in NAFTA… "I hope it's just a negotiating strategy," states Kevin. "Much is uncertain and markets do not like uncertainty." And there is another problem. For the harvest of apples and pears, producers depend on Mexican workers, who pick the fruit by hand. Since the pear trees are on steep slopes and the trees are tall, automation is hardly possible. "Our biggest competitor in terms of shelf space is apples," continued the American. USA Pears is committed to promoting changes in the layout 88

AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2018

of supermarket shelves. Ideally, Kevin believes that pears should be on the head of the aisle. "That is where bananas are often placed, but consumers will buy that fruit anyway. Pears are much more an impulse purchase." The popular bananas also take a toll on pears even earlier in the chain, in the ripening rooms. "It is not always clear if a pear is ripe," affirms Kevin. "Only the Bartlett changes from green to yellow." READY-TO-EAT AND CONVENIENCE Consumers are often looking for a pear that is ripe and ready to eat. "That is the biggest hurdle for the sector: the pears’ ripeness." Because of this, USA Pears has organised the campaign: “Check the neck.” If the pulp at the neck resists slightly when pressed, the pear is ripe. Moreover, tests have been carried out with the ripening of pears. "We can ripen pears in exactly the same way as bananas," continues Kevin. The temperature and amount of ethylene needed are similar to those in banana ripening program, "but bananas are so popular that nobody wants to free some space for pears in ripening rooms."


INTEGRITY The advantage of pears is that once the ripening has been 'triggered', the fruit can be refrigerated for transportation. The process then only continues when the fruit arrives to the store shelf. "Only big chains, such as The Kroger and Walmart, have ripened pears on the shelf." The ready-to-eat trend is thus not favourable for pears, but the convenience trend also has a big impact. "We have tested it with pear segments, but transport to New Jersey or New York takes five days." Convenience means the pears are ripe, but the fruit needs to be firm enough to withstand the transport process. This causes headaches in the organization. "That may be a key to boost consumption. We need to find the way to supply ripe pears to the consumer."

CONSUMPTION GROWTH Incidentally, cutting pears has more downsides. In addition to transport, there is plenty of loss due to the fruit’s shape. "It is labour intensive to introduce the pears properly in the machine and prevent the loss of a large part of the pear. With apples, it is easier." Transporting the fruit in bulk to the

east coast, where many pears are consumed, and cutting it there is possible, but fresh cut companies are not interested. "Pears do not offer them enough potential. It is a difficult product."

All in all, pears enjoy a loyal following. Studies show that 15 percent of consumers buy 80 percent of the pears. "That means there is still a lot of potential to increase consumption, but in order to achieve that we have to overcome some hurdles." Also among Millennials is there still room for growth; they perceive pears as authentic. By putting the fruit on the map also via restaurants, USA Pears hopes to continue boosting consumption. Perhaps new club varieties will make it easier to overcome the hurdles that prevent consumption growth. Kevin is optimistic about the QTee. "The combination of Asian and European pear varieties results in a pear with an interesting flavour profile that remains crunchy. I think this one’s a winner." 



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Mike Port:

“New standard of supermarkets offers space for fairtrade banana” The market for organic and Fairtrade bananas is developing very quickly. Since Port International started with the import of this category, the company’s volume of organic Fairtrade bananas has surpassed that of conventional bananas. Mike Port states that demand for Fairtrade bananas is on the rise across Europe. This creates opportunities, also for conventional Fairtrade bananas.


ith short breaks caused by the two World Wars, the German Port family has been importing bananas since 1912; the family was thus one of the pioneers in the import of this exotic fruit. In the 60’s, the company started importing exclusively for Dole via the new company Eurobana. At the end of the decade came its own label: Golden B. In 2001, banana imports were taken over by a new company owned by the family: Port International Bananas for the conventional bananas and Port International Organics for the organic and fairtrade bananas. FIRST ORGANIC FAIRTRADE BANANAS Port International imports bananas from


AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2018

countries such as Colombia, Ecuador, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua. Its relationship with the latter dates back to the 80’s, when the then US President Ronald Reagan imposed an import ban on the Central American country. "At the time, we were importing ships full of bananas from Nicaragua via the port of Ghent," explains Mike. "Those were interesting years."

In 1997, the company started importing Fairtrade bananas and, in 2000, the first organic and organic fairtrade bananas were imported. "We started with a couple of pallets. Everyone laughed at us," recalls Mike. The market for organic products was

much smaller than today. Moreover, it was claimed that organic bananas were impossible to produce because of the humid climate in the growing countries. It was believed that there would always be a need for pesticides. Especially Peru, the Ecuadorian province of El Oro and the Dominican Republic, have a drier climate, which makes organic cultivation possible in those areas. SMALL GROWERS, GREAT KNOWLEDGE "Many companies are specialised in the trade of conventional bananas and do so in large volumes. We chose to be strong in organic and Fairtrade bananas. "That was a good choice. In the years that followed, the volume of organic Fairtrade bananas

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Opinion became increasingly important. "We could see that our customers in Western Europe had many questions about the combination of organic and Fairtrade," says the importer. "In Eastern Europe, there is particular demand for organic bananas." This has partly to do with the lower disposable income in these countries.

Trading with organic Fairtrade bananas is challenging. "You need a lot of knowledge. It's a very different market than that of conventional bananas. "In Peru, in a valley around the Chira River where most bananas are grown, there are around 4,000 growers. Most of them own lands that are

no larger than 1 hectare. "We help the growers with financing, technical support, quality control, packaging… basically all the steps necessary for shipping." The German importer has nine employees who provide permanent support to the growers. EFFICIENCY AND SOCIAL PROJECTS Most of the growers are affiliated to one of the twelve cooperatives and associations in the region with which Port International cooperates. Each cooperative or association has between 200 and 400 members. "We also fund projects to improve their efficiency. Since there are so many small growers, we also help them to get certificates, such as Global GAP and Fairtrade. We are working on a long-term relationship with the growers."

With this in mind, Port International supports several projects each year to help local communities. Last year, for example, we invested in new housing after an earthquake in Ecuador made many families homeless. Since 2015 we have been 92

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supporting a football project in Peru. This project aims to provide children with good leisure facilities and prevent them from just hanging around the streets.

PROJECT HAITI Two years ago, Mike Port started importing bananas from Haiti. The project has since been halted for some time due to political unrest in the country, but he hopes to take it up again this year. "The new president, who was sworn in in early February, supports banana production and agriculture in general. He is committed to developing the export of agricultural products," explains Mike. "We believe there is a market for those

bananas and that we’ll thereby improve the living standards of the population. It is not an easy project, but it's worth it." An advantage is that many Haitians work on banana plantations in the neighbouring Dominican Republic. "The knowledge is there; they know how to work with bananas," continues Mike. "We are ready to give the project a second chance. It's a big challenge, but there is also a lot of potential. " NEW STANDARD FOR SUPERMARKETS There is certainly a lot of competition in the conventional banana market. Furthermore, Mike sees that there is an increasing emphasis on quality. This is reflected in the number of certificates required. Besides Global GAP, we are now seeing a trend in which grocery stores also want a Rainforest Alliance certification. "That seems to be the new standard for supermarkets." Because of the higher standards, the German importer argues that there is room in the market for conventional Fairtrade bananas. "In the Netherlands, the United

Kingdom and Switzerland there is a supply of Fairtrade bananas, but many countries don’t have access to them yet." In Germany only very small volumes of conventional Fairtrade bananas are sold. "There is room for a supermarket that specialises in Fairtrade bananas to be the first in certain countries. You can build a name with Fairtrade bananas." The difference in price compared to conventional bananas that are Global GAP and Rainforest Alliance certified is marginal. Mike does not consider retailers which are exploring the possibility of importing directly as a threat. "It is important to be

able to offer added value," he argues. As an example he cites the import of organic Fairtrade bananas. Port International handles around 70 containers per week. If there is a problem in a production area, a shortage could be completed with products from other production areas. "If a retailer imports a smaller volume and something happens, that supermarket will immediately have a problem." The flexibility that the company has is partly due to its structure. Port International imports bananas, but has no ripening facilities. As a result, it is able to provide whatever service its customers need. "We work in partnership with some good ripening firms, but if a retailer itself invests in ripening chambers, we can supply the bananas green. We have the freedom to make those decisions." 





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Michiel Gerritsen:

“Trade needs to take a more coordinated approach to new markets” Three-and-a-half years ago, Michiel Gerritsen took over the chairperson’s gavel of NFO from Johan van Haarlem. He is working hard for an equal playing field for fruit growers. There’s inequality in various fields, he says. Besides, he also looks to the future for the sector, while trying to stay grounded. You don’t come from a family of growers, is that an advantage or a disadvantage? “I’ve picked cherries and apples, planted and pruned trees, but it’s true that I don’t come from a family of growers. That is different. I think a grower would have a natural edge on me, because they’re from a fruit production company. That is appreciated by the sector. On the other hand, I have a network and experience in other fields that were welcomed by the NFO. I’m not an unknown in the sector. After completing my studies in Wageningen, I started at the NFO. 94

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After that I started the greenhouse horticultural department for LTO Netherlands, and I was secretary of the product department before I became chairperson of the NFO.”

The current top fruit season is difficult, how do you feel about that? “It’s not difficult per definition, but it is the most exceptional year. We started with an early spring that was above-averagely warm, followed by an unprecedented period of night frost in April and May. The flowering season was during a very cold

period. That doesn’t happen often on this scale, because this was the case throughout Northwestern Europe. The result is an extremely low apple harvest in all of Europe. It’s the lowest harvest in more than ten years, and it’ll probably become even lower now that Italy said less was harvested in August than expected.”

“You can’t generalise the entire sector. In the Netherlands, for example, the northern regions had much wind during the harvest, so those apples have quite a bit of wind damage. Some companies suffered damages of up to 100,000 euro because of wind during the harvest. This sector is influenced by weather more than other sectors. The trees are outside year-round. Production lasts six months, and the trees are outside for that entire period, which is why the

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Opinion weather has so much influence. That can also be positive, we had a good growing season this year. Besides, the pear growers in particular were affected by damages from tits. Other growers had hardly any harvest due to the cold spring, like in South Limburg and, to a lesser extent, Zeeland. Prices might be good, but if you don’t have any product, it doesn’t mean much. It’ll take until next year before you have an income again. It’s a very risky sector.” There are large differences per region, but are there also large differences per variety? “Pears were less affected than apples, although differences among apples are also considerable. Some varieties can hardly be marketed. Other varieties can better withstand the cold. Boskoop and Jonagold have been very affected, but Elstar, for example, much less so. I expect there will be plenty of supply in the Netherlands.”

Growers have various options to protect themselves against extreme weather and frost, for instance. What is the role of NFO in this decision? “All growers are thinking about this. They try to protect themselves as much as possible against these influences. They can do so in several ways. Some growers spread their company and grow at various locations, others use irrigation to prevent frost damages. However, the latter can’t be applied in all regions. In South Limburg in particular it’s always the question if enough water will be available. Some growers in that region are considering constructing a basin. We are looking into how we can facilitate these growers in their investment, for example, by talking to district water boards and municipalities. The challenge with a basin is that it has to fill up again in time. In Zeeland the water is too brackish to use for irrigation, and that results in a water quality problem.” “Another option is using wind mills. Some growers have good experiences with these. By mixing layers of air you can prevent frost. Then there are the so-called ‘frost busters,’ large heat cannons that blow warm air into the orchard. Finally, the traditional way, using torches. During the Kennisdag Fruitteelt (knowledge day for fruit production) on 16 November, we talked about,among other things, what works and what doesn’t 96

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when it comes to night frost protection.”

But there are other risks, hail for example. How do growers feel about covered production and hail insurance? “There are several options when it comes to covering production. A net can be stretched around the tree, but you could also build a sort of covering over the trees. Besides, some growers employ a hail cannon. The risks for growers are large, so they are working on this. As for hail insurance, the sector is still hurting from the high insurance taxes. More than half the growers has hail or weather insurance. Twenty-one per cent insurance tax has to be paid for that. On average, the premium is ten per cent of the value you want insured, so it can get quite expensive.”

agricultural VAT scheme provides sufficient room for compensation. We could then solve the problem within the sector and we would remain budget neutral.”

What about competition from Eastern European countries? “Poland is the largest competitor. In the past ten to twenty years an enormous apple production arose there, and this has had much effect on prices. The Dutch sector is affected by this quite a lot, because we have relatively high costs. We can’t blame Poland for that, but the way the production has been built with subsidies from the EU isn’t how we would have liked to see it.We’re pleading for subsidies for knowledge development and infrastructure, and not for production. That way, you move the production potential.” What can Dutch apple growers do to preserve their right to exist? “Three things. Firstly, choose an assortment that isn’t grown on a large scale in Poland. Secondly, be distinctive on quality. Finally, in the Netherlands we produce more sustainably than in Poland. We have an enormous skill within fruit production. We offer reliability to trade and retail with it.”

“This insurance measure was implemented in 2012, and an exception was made for insurances for calamities, such as export credit insurance. Hail and weather insurance aren’t part of that. We didn’t agree with this, and we still don’t: extreme weather is always a calamity in our opinion. We haven’t won the battle yet, but we haven’t admitted defeat either. It creates an uneven playing field, so we want the measure to be reversed. In other European countries the taxes on hail or weather insurance is 0 to 4 per cent. That’s a large difference compared to the Netherlands. It could never have been the intention that a small group is affected so much by this measure.”

“There should of course be cover for when the tax is repealed, we believe that the 22 million euro released by the repeal of the

as well.”

“Dutch growers can be distinctive on efficiency and added value, for example, product reliability. That is quite difficult and doesn’t always come into its own on the market, some trade parties choose the cheapest product. Entrepreneurs can also choose other types of fruit and company activities

Grubbing up orchards and planting new varieties isn’t really a short-term solution, is it? “Apple orchards are replanted after 10 to 15 years, so that happens relatively soon. You do have the flexibility of changing variety that way. It’s more difficult for pears, those orchards last 30 to 40 years. Elstar, for example, is difficult to grow in Poland, and Conference does well in our maritime climate, so these are some options. Growers are open to switching. The apple area decreased from 13,000 hectares to 7,000 hectares in 15 years. The pear area increased from 6,000 hectares to 9,000 hectares. It takes longer, but it is happening. About 80 to 90 per cent of the pear production in the Netherlands is Conference.

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Opinion Elstar is the apple variety planted most. Jonagold and club varieties are also planted, but to a lesser extent.”

Looking at small fruit, how is the situation in that production? “Small and soft fruit does fairly well. This segment is in a winning mood with a rising consumption for cherries, raspberries and blueberries. We can see an expansion in these. This is a global trend, so that also causes some worries. We have to continue looking at what is happening around us, and how it influences our competitive position. Dutch growers are masters in efficiency. The fact that this fruit has a short ‘time to market’ is also to the benefit of the Dutch production. On the other hand, we’ve noticed many investments are being made in Morocco and Portugal, and we’ve heard stories about Serbia, Bulgaria and Romania. These signs have to be taken seriously. But we shouldn’t accept that European subsidies are used to set up production in these countries. It will remain a sensitive point, which the Ministry of Economic Affairs and politicians in The Hague see differently, unfortunately.” The Russian boycott was started about three years ago. What is NFO’s stand and can you make a difference in the search for new markets? “The Russian boycott was a countermeasure of Russia against European sanctions. The consequences of this measure affect a limited group, the agricultural sector. We think that’s unfair. It’s too one-sided to make a small group of entrepreneurs suffer. It still hurts, there aren’t just problems in fruit production. We think the EU put this aside too easily with an intervention measure. The Dutch government has made an effort to open new markets, but that’s not a solution for the short term. New outlets were added, but growers still feel it’s unjust. In the Netherlands, the sensitivities surrounding MH17 are added to that as well, so that there’s even less political interest to deal with this. It’s a cold comfort that the entire EU is an even playing field, all countries are affected by this.” Can NFO play a part in entering new markets? “We are very actively involved in entering 98

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new markets, we help write workable protocols regarding phytosanitary fields. We try to implement the wishes of the recipient country in a workable way for the growers. North America, China and Vietnam were recently added, but these talks often last years before phytosanitary protocols are achieved.”

“Five or six countries were added, but trade could approach these markets more professionally and with more coordination. If everyone jumps on the chance to export to the country involved, it won’t be in the interest of the sector. Italy, Belgium and Poland approach countries in a more coordinated manner. They work together, rather than everyone only working for themselves. The Dutch bell pepper export

to China appears to become a good example, but we don’t see this happening yet in fruit production. The government has also given signs that the sector could be more coordinated in this manner, but it continues to be difficult in the sales of fruit. The NFO is always willing to join the talks. I know it’s difficult, because fruit growers are quite divided. But if we can play a part, we’d like to be involved.”

NFO is also working on the Ambition Plan Plant Health, what does that mean exactly? “In the Ambition Plan Plant Health we, as plant-based sectors, work with LTO Netherlands. The plan is intended to reach a production method as sustainable as possible

in the next 15 years, and the emphasis is on plant health and crop protection.”

Does this mean a move towards organic production? “Organic production could be one part of it, but it’s up to the grower to interpret the ambition plan as they see fit. For example, we’re also talking about the availability of plant strengthening agents, green crop protection means and less environmentally harmful production systems. This includes dry growing, for which crops are covered and only irrigated when the growers wants it. This considerably decreases the pressure of fungal diseases. Greenhouse production is the ultimate example of this. The Dutch climate means the use of crop protection means is necessary. We’re striving for an increase in robustness and resilience in production systems, but more than one road leads to Rome. New improvement techniques, for instance, can lead to large improvements relatively quickly. All six of the plant-based sectors are contributing to the plan, each making its own translation into the sector. Research and innovation are important for us to reach a solution to this question. We’re doing this by, for instance, having a fruit production experimental garden in Randwijk.” How do growers respond to this plan? “Growers wonder if the ambition is feasible, because it’s already quite difficult to realise effective crop protection with the means now available. It’s understandable that some growers have difficulty with the ambition plan, especially considering growers can’t predict the future. We as NFO want to be completely grounded, because without today, there wouldn’t be a tomorrow. The condition is that the government gives us time and helps us realise the transition. That would mean, for example, that progress must be made that allows the new green crop protection means, and that there will be support for research and innovation. We only have one Earth, and the global population continues to increase. If we want it to be maintained, we must focus on efficiency and sustainability, but we also need a level playing field for fruit production.”

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Opinion “The ambition plan is just that: a plan. It’s a dot on the horizon that we want to grow towards. We have to prevent it becoming an uphill battle. It’s a difficult and sensitive subject, especially in fruit production, because it’s difficult to remain within existing regulations. Growers are worried, and with good reason, about the disappearing of means without good alternatives being available. We have to look at it both in the long and in the short term, the two can’t exist without each other.”

Last summer, a number of supermarkets announced all fresh produce should have an ecolabel. How do you see this development, and how do you look back on these talks? “We were unpleasantly surprised by the announcement from a number of supermarket chains that all fresh produce has to be Milieukeur certified as of 2019. Milieukeur is a Dutch ecolabel. NFO made a stand against this. First of all, growers are already working very sustainably. Secondly, it’s an extra-statutory norm that is being set, and we believe that retailers must also take responsibility for maintaining a level playing field. Will this standard also be applied to imported fresh produce? Thirdly, we think there should be a certain appreciation in turn, because the growers are the ones taking risks and carrying the costs, which are both increasing more and more. That appreciation could be monetary, but it could also result in a better presentation on the shelves. These are points I think are lacking. I think it’s taking things too far, and we’re still talking to organisations from other sectors to try to reach a workable situation for the growers. After all, it requires a lot from the grower. As far as we’re concerned, retail channels place their worries and responsibilities on growers too often and too easily, leaving aside exceptions.” You’re actually saying retail has too much power. That complaint is also heard from trade. Should traders and growers work together more towards retail? “It is worth mentioning that trade and production in fresh produce aren’t obstacles, as is the case in other sectors. It’s a combined responsibility to prevent abuse of power 100

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of retail. Retail is powerful, in part because the landscape below it is fractured, and that is the reason there’s no room to go against it. That isn’t just seen in the production of fruit, but also in other sectors.” “It’s good to have ambitions, but the lesson is that we have to find each other more often, and that we have to approach problems differently. We have to enter into talks with each other to reach insights and solutions.”

instance, have specific regulations regarding seasonal work in horticulture, the Dutch approach is more rigid. This involves euros of difference in labour costs, that’s an enormous difference. The EU’s new rules to tackle differences in posting are insufficient. In the production of fruit, seconded personnel isn’t used. The best solution would be to even the regulations. The Polish workers come here to pick fruit, but this should also be tackled in Poland, where many employment permits are granted to cheaper workers from Ukraine, and this puts pressure on the cost price of Polish products.”

“The coalition agreement also has many positive points for agriculture and horticulture. Employers are given the option of offering a temporary contract for three years at most, instead of two, and the continued payment of wages when workers are ill will be reduced from two to one year, after which the collective takes over.”

Increasing the low VAT rate as is stated in the new coalition agreement is a current topic. What is the position of the NFO in this discussion? “We learned that the low VAT rate would increase from newspapers. I understand that if you want to implement tax reductions, the money has to be found somewhere else, but we think the tax on food, which is healthy per definition and helps fight obesity, should have a zero-rate. However, we leave it up to others to talk about this, because we are an interested party in this. With other organisations, such as GroentenFruit Huis, we chose to have the message conveyed by independent parties. We work together as interested parties in this, towards The Hague as well.” How do you see the new government and the other plans from the proposed coalition agreement? “We still see an uneven playing field when it comes to cost of labour. Nothing is done about that. Germany and Belgium, for

“Specifically for fruit production, the problems with insurance taxes aren’t resolved, and there are plans to make the transitional compensation for seasonal and harvest employees more expensive. We’re also against the fact that the Unemployment Insurance Act premium for temporary contracts will have to be paid from day one, even though most of the workers cannot claim it at all. It’s an artificial rule that makes short-term contracts more expensive. We are committed to a cost maker, cost carrier principle. For that matter, we follow the collective labour agreement in fruit production, and all employees, including economic migrants, are paid the same amount for the same work, and this isn’t a point of discussion either.” 

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Organic: Healthy, but in moderation Organically grown fruit and vegetables are regularly ascribed beneficial health effects. Is this assumption actually substantiated by thorough scientific research or rather the result of a smart marketing team? Primeur delved deeper into the literature and revealed two frequently submitted health claims.

Statement 1: organic is richer in important nutrients To the naked eye, the difference between organic and conventional vegetables is negligible. You cannot decide whether you’re dealing with an organic or conventional product based on smell or flavour. It’s more helpful to look at nutritional value as a starting point. In an episode of the Dutch TV show Broodje Gezond, which aired in May 2016, Wijnand Sukkel, researcher of biodynamic agriculture at the WUR, looked deeper into the question of whether organic vegetables are richer in health-promoting nutrients. According to the researcher, there definitely are differences in the amount of active plant substances. For example, he explains that organic vegetables contain more antioxidants. These antioxidants protect the human body against free radicals, harmful substances known to disrupt cell structure and cause tissue damage. The antioxidant properties of polyphenols are often associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease in the scientific literature, and are also thought to have anti-carcinogenic effects.

Earlier research also indicates a higher presence of important nutrients in organic vegetables. In March 2008, the American Organic Center published a report comparing research into the nutritional composition of organically and conventionally grown vegetables. The data used dates back to the early 1980s. In the study, 135 products were compared. In 62 per cent of the comparisons, the organic product scored higher in the field of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals than the conventional supply. However, the results appear to be strongly bound by product and region. By way of illustration, in that same year, a Danish publication also revealed that there was hardly any difference in minerals between conventional and organic cabbage, carrot, peas and potatoes. To some extent, the findings even spoke in favour of conventional cultivation.

The discussion regarding contaminants, or substances that end up in food inadvertently or unintentionally, focuses mostly on the presence of pesticides, fungal toxins and other environmental contaminants such as

heavy metals and nitrate. Both European and American research emphasises that people who consume organic fruit and vegetables have fewer (residues of) pesticides in their body. In an American study, 4,466

Food experts practically unanimously agree that organic vegetables contain up to 20 per cent more dry matter. Due to the lower moisture balance, the nutrients

are grouped more compactly in relation. On balance, organic vegetables are more nutritious than conventional ones. The fact remains that according to this reasoning, a 20 percent higher intake of conventional vegetables amounts to the same results. American scientists, affiliated with the University of New Jersey, warn that excesses are harmful and moreover, they say that a dose that’s too high could possibly contribute to liver failure. Science therefore suggests shifting the issue from the presence of health-promoting nutrients to finding an optimal balance . The dividing line for that is wafer-thin: a positive effect on human health can quickly turn into a negative one due to excessive use. That optimal balance — and whether organic and conventional can support each other — has been a problematic area in the scientific literature up to now.

Statement 2: organic contains fewer contaminants


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Americans were presented with a questionnaire that coupled their eating habits to the consumption of organic food. As a check, a urinary sample was taken from all respondents. On average, respondents with organ-

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ic food in their diet had 65 per cent fewer pesticides in their urine. These results were published in the scientific journal Environmental Health Perspectives. However, the same researchers emphasised that consumers who consume only conventional fruit and vegetables are not worse off. The observed residues in the study remained within the legal standards. The opinions are divided on the amount of nitrate in organic vegetables. On average, organic vegetables contain a lower amount of nitrate than conventional cultivation. But there are some peaks. A Dutch monitoring study from 2008 in the scientific journal Food Additives & Contaminants, for example, suggested that organic carrots had a higher nitrate content than conventional carrots. It has long been thought that organically grown vegetables have to create more anti-fungal substances to keep invaders at bay, because pesticides are out of the question, and they therefore have to rely on their ‘survival instinct.’ The Louis Bolk Institute indicates the contrary in the publication 106

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‘Food Quality, Safety and Health of Organic Products,’ and talks about ‘clear indications that organic products would more likely contain fewer rather than more fungal toxins compared to conventional products.’

A contributing factor is that crops with a natural low sensitivity to fungi are selected in organic cultivation more often. The researchers posit that climatological circumstances and cultivation region have more influence on the creation of mycotoxins than the cultivation method itself.

The same report is resolute in its claim about the presence or absence of environmental contaminants in organic potatoes and vegetables. “There are no indications that potatoes and vegetables contain more heavy metals. Lead levels sometimes appear to be slightly higher, but the quantities remain below the norm,” the finding concludes. However, in the Netherlands in August 2016, it was reported that there was excessive and unauthorised use of copper in organic potato farming. The question is

how much of that claim remains seen in that light.

The potato disease phytophthora infestans was very active last summer, which meant that several growers were forced to use copper oxichloride for fear of otherwise losing half their harvest. However, copper oxides can no longer be used as a pesticide since the turn of the century, only as leaf fertiliser, and then only to a very limited degree (6 kg per hectare). Supervisor Skal, however, noted that some growers used this substance under false pretences, and he even spoke of abuse. SOME NUANCE REQUIRED The health claims regarding organic fresh produce remain strongly dependent on product group, variety choice, fertilising strategy, harvesting moment and the conditions after harvesting. Environmental factors such as cultivation location, soil type and weather conditions are also of influence for the presence or absence of important nutrients or contaminants. 

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Koen Hazewinkel:

“Fresh produce brands don’t have an impressive track record” In recent months, the retail landscape has been shaken up considerably. In the US, Amazon took over supermarket chain Whole Foods, in the Netherlands, multiple chains made a bid on supermarket chain Emté, and the original hard discounters are profiling themselves more and more as service supermarkets. We talked to Koen Hazewinkel, the ‘retail fresh expert’ of EFMI, to talk about these developments.


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Before the summer, Amazon took over supermarket chain Whole Foods. That news was interpreted as online to offline, or as non-food retailer to food retailer. How should this development be seen? “All those comments made after the take over are all true, but it depends on how you look at this development. I think we should do justice to the scale of things. Yes, Amazon is a large party with large funds, and when they do something, it could have effects, but Whole Foods is a small player. The chain has roughly 400 branches, mostly in large cities, and is focused on consumers with a distinct pattern of living, the dominant tones being convenience and quality. Aldi, for example, has more branches in the US than Whole Foods, and Aldi is a small player on the market as well. Walmart and Kroger are the truly large players. You have to wonder if this takeover deserves the attention it’s been getting, and if the stock exchange should be responding the way it has. If Amazon had taken over a company like Walmart, panels would have really started shifting.” How should we then be looking at this development? “I think it should be seen more as ‘testing the water.’ Amazon is going to try, they want to learn about the world of supermarkets. There’s also something else to be said about that, because the price reductions Amazon implemented are not quite consistent with the image of carefully learning something new. In that respect, Amazon let loose nicely.”

Yet many people are saying Amazon as internet giant can change the online model of food. “That Amazon is successful in the non-food segment doesn’t mean the business model can be copied to food. Otherwise supermarkets, including AH, Rewe, Edeka and many others wouldn’t be struggling as much with the online concept. There’s a cost component in the online food trade that’s difficult to overcome. Besides, food has to be cooled, and the cooled products of Amazon are only a small part. As Alain Caparos, former senior man of Rewe, once said: ‘online is a train. We don’t know where it’s going or how fast it’s going. We only know we have to board it.’ I would like to add: it’s a shame the ticket’s so expensive.” Is HelloFresh an example of how difficult the online market is for food? The semiannual figures show the company suffers considerable losses. “Much money has to be added for HelloFresh, but Rocket Internet, HelloFresh’s owner, invests in startups with the aim of floating them or selling them. HelloFresh has estimate returns of 900 million in 2017. Of that, the Netherlands has a share of 26 per cent. The profitability was adjusted downwards in the Netherlands last year, and research shows 76 per cent of the Dutch definitely won’t buy from HelloFresh. Eighty-one per cent of the Dutch has even said they’ve never even considered ordering from HelloFresh. The flotation of HelloFresh has already failed three times. If it takes too long, you have nothing left to

offer except an alleged promise. That will become very expensive.”

Can this image of HelloFresh be applied to the entire meal box sector? “I think that’s too big a generalisation. However, I do see there’s much wishful thinking within online food retail. You have to carefully think about the business model to become profitable. Picnic did that very well.”

Boni recently announced they’re closing their online shop and they’ll start working with Picnic. What do you think of this news? “It’s not a very weird thought. Boni buys via Superunie, and facilitates the purchasing of Picnic. It just makes sense to also combine sales. Besides, the Van der Wal family, owner of Boni, also has an interest in Picnic. Not that long ago, Picnic received 100 million euro for investments. Why wouldn’t Superunie do their online sales through Picnic? Each of the Superunie members alone is too small to draw up a successful business model.” In the Netherlands, a number of bids were made on Emté, but the chain wasn’t sold. What does that say about the Dutch supermarket landscape? Is a takeover the only way to grow? “The Netherlands is a densely populated supermarket country. On average, a consumer has 9.8 supermarkets at their disposal within a three-kilometre radius. Germany has an even higher density. After the Netherlands come Belgium and France, folAGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2018


Opinion lowed at a distance by the UK. The options of getting more square metres due to new buildings is limited in the Netherlands, so takeovers are a logical way to continue growing. On the other hand, Jumbo is opening more Food Markets, so building new shops is a possibility.”

Dutch retail is also quite concentrated, does that play a part? “In the Netherlands, we have three parties with a large share in purchasing. In sales, it’s more fragmented. Although the Netherlands has a fair degree of concentration, the formula diversity is large. That’s also because Superunie has a market share of about 30 per cent. In Germany, the market is much more concentrated with Edeka, Rewe, Aldi, Lidl and Kaufland. In the UK, the top five has a market share of more than 80 per cent.” Lidl and Aldi are presenting themselves as service markets more and more, and less as hard discounters, how will this affect the supermarket landscape? “In recent years, Lidl gained much of the market share. Aldi lost market share and the question is whether they’ll recover, although quitting isn’t in their culture. Lidl is growing faster than Aldi is shrinking. Together, these discounters have a market share of around 17 per cent. In coming years, that could grow to 20 per cent.”

What is Lidl doing well, or where did Aldi miss the boat, to explain the different trends? “The biggest difference is that Lidl started refreshing and expanding their formula earlier. Aldi followed later. In Germany, that development is running parallel. There, Aldi Nord also fell behind compared to Lidl and Aldi Süd. Aldi Nord is also the Aldi we have in the Netherlands, so it’s not surprising we see the same trend as in the mother country. Aldi Nord has presented a new formula in Germany, and this was received very positively, by competitors as well. It appears as if Aldi has found the way up again.” Does the repositioning of Aldi and Lidl create space at the bottom of the market for a new hard discounter formula? “Technically, yes, but I think it’s mostly a theoretical vacuum that can’t easily be occupied. The number of places of business is limited, so that it’s difficult to realise scale. That’s needed to really make an impact on the market. Locally, regionally or provincially, room can be created for a new hard discounter, but I have doubts about its feasibility. These often include long projects before a new supermarket can be build, and existing chains naturally also follow these plans.” 110

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“Additionally, Lidl is very strong with its image of low prices and good quality. Lidl scores high on both points, and that’s favourable. That’s thanks to its high turnover rate, but they’ve also got good buyers that can make high demands due to the volumes they’re buying. Lidl’s price image is very good. Consumers experience Lidl as cheap, even though the actual price difference is much less big. That image is solid as a rock, despite the additions of more luxury.” Supermarkets are also often labelled as parties putting pressure on the market by buying at the lowest prices. “You can’t put all supermarkets in the same box. That all buyers try to get the lowest prices is an oversimplification of the market. That’s just the free market system. It’s very annoying, but if more product is available than can be consumed by the market, a market dynamic is created. When operating on a commodity market, like fresh produce, this is common behaviour on the market. Of course exploitation and the like shouldn’t happen. That’s the ethical side of trade. On a market on which you’re not very distinctive, the free market system plays a large part.”

How can you create a distinctive character for your product in fresh produce? “That’s tricky, because it’s difficult to distinguish from which grower a bell pepper came from, for example. They look the same, and they taste the same. In that case, you can be distinctive by saying you’ll do large promotions for supermarkets, that you’ll supply 24-7, that you’ll never supply rotting product and that the lorry will always be on time, but if you’re operating on a price market, the value of this is relatively limited.” Could a brand make a difference? “Imagine you’re in a supermarket and there aren’t any Pink Lady apples, would you go to another supermarket? Or would you buy a different apple? I think the ‘branding potential’ isn’t very large in this category. It wasn’t successful in dairy either, despite the fact that only one large company was left over. Looking at, for example, Friesland Campina, which invested tonnes and they only really managed to build a brand with Mona. That’s because consumers can’t taste the difference between Campina and another brand of milk. You need a noticeable difference, and the claim you make has to be manageable over a period of time. With Eat Me from Nature’s Pride, the company responded to a very relevant theme within fresh produce, by offering ripened avocados and mangoes. The question then is if the claim is manageable, after all, how

often does it happen that consumers buy a product that isn’t completely ripe?”

SanLucar claims it only offers fruit at its best. That works until a consumer takes a bite of one of the products, and the claim turns out to be false. Maintaining such a claim is tricky in fresh produce due to fluctuations on the market and the large volume. The topic ‘branding’ has been relevant in the sector for years, but it doesn’t have an impressive track record. “

“It’s also important to stick to the rules of ‘branded goods.’ You have to be consistent in that. Someone who did that well is Rob Baan, because his cress won’t be found at the Dirk supermarkets. The product isn’t meant for that. I once asked at a garden centre what the buyer thought of a certain brand. The buyer handed me a leaflet of the discount competitor, which offered the brand. That’s why this garden centre no longer wanted this brand. It’s the hog cycle, something is profitable, so more is made of it which ends up in cost price competition, this is also a danger for fresh produce.” How do the fresh produce shelves of the future look? “We’ll see even more processed products. Convenience will go even further, and, for instance, the recipe boxes of Albert Heijn are a major success. The question is what growers can do with that, because the large cutting plants aren’t owned by grower cooperatives. You’re always affected the most when your in raw materials. Grower cooperatives could get added value from processing the products. There’s still room in fresh meals, the share of fresh products is smaller in these products, but the margins for the final products are much more interesting.”

Is the takeover of a cutting plant by HAK in June an example of this? “That’s an interesting question, because HAK was already active in the convenience segment, but they’re now headed towards fresh convenience. Tomorrow’s fresh is processed fresh. We’ll also be talking about this during the Fresh Congress on 21 November.” Will there be room for exotics, for example, in supermarkets? “I’ve seen careful signs for more renewing in the Netherlands than during the peak of the price wars. Supermarkets are looking for a new distinctive characteristic, and exotics are a part of that. However, staff and customer-friendliness are also potentially distinctive. For Dutch full service supermarkets, it’s their only right to exist.” 

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Jules Klerken:

“In 2025 we’ll be in the cosmetics department” Frozen mushrooms, appetisers with mushrooms or the Ecopouch are well-known products from Scelta Mushrooms. However, the company continues to search for new applications of mushrooms. To that end, they look at mushrooms on a chemical level to develop new products. Jules Klerken, sales manager at Scelta and third generation in the company, talks about the ambitions, while not losing sight of the existing products.


or the supply of mushrooms, Scelta is dependent on 17 suppliers. “We have seen much consolidation, and growers don’t have many successors,” Jules says. That will be a challenge in future. The number of mushroom growers in the Netherlands has rapidly declined in recent years, from about 1,500 to between 120 and 150 growers. However, volume has risen in those years, so fewer growers produce more mushrooms. Dutch cultivation has additional


AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2018

advantages. Jules mentions the short supply chain and the good track-and-trace system as important factors. “Dutch growers don’t use pesticides, while the rest of the world does,” he mentions as a third advantage.

GRILLED MUSHROOMS Frozen mushrooms are still the most important part of the assortment. The mushrooms are mostly used for further processing, but are also on shelves of retailers abroad. Dutch retailers aren’t interested in frozen mushrooms, while sales are much larger in, for example, Belgium, Germany, the US and the UK. According to Jules, that’s mostly a cultural difference: Dutch consumers use the mushrooms differently. Besides,

focus is on fresh vegetables in the Netherlands. The consumption pattern also has regional differences. “That difference can even be seen between Walloon and Flanders,” Jules knows. Consumption is much higher in Walloon than in Flanders.

“We have developed a technique for pizzas so that the mushroom loses less moisture during defrosting, resulting in the pizza base remaining crispier,” says Jules. About 18 months ago, Scelta started grilling the mushrooms before they were frozen. “We showed the product to customers, and it offers perspective.” Production of large volumes will start late October, and these will find their way to airplane catering services, pizza and salad industries, among others. FIRST PRODUCTION DRIED MUSHROOMS With German partner Worlée NaturProdukte, Scelta introduced dried mushrooms in September. “We want to reach a new target audience with this,” Jules says. “In Asia this drying process is used for mushrooms, but we’re the first to do this in Europe.” The

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most important reason to also introduce this drying process in Europe is the better track-and-trace possibility at product locations in Europe. “Tracking and tracing can’t be guaranteed in China, and growers there use more pesticides than Dutch growers. During the drying process, moisture is removed from the mushroom. After adding boiling water, the mushroom recovers its original shape. This production process is more sustainable than conventional methods.” “Consumers are more and more aware of what they’re eating, and mushrooms fit that trend,” Jules continues. Another trend the mushroom market has discovered is the growing number of vegetarians and flexitarians. “Due to the high protein content, mushrooms are an excellent meat replac-


AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2018

er. Mushrooms are increasingly added to meat. Because of this, meat is becoming more sustainable, more economic and flavour is comparable.” For that market, Scelta developed the Ecopouch, for which a new factory was recently opened. Quick-service restaurants that process the mushrooms in their burgers are the target audience for this product. MEDIMUSHROOMS For the Dutch company, a mushroom isn’t just a mushroom, but a “collection of content components with interesting characteristics.” That is also expressed in other products in their range. For example, using flavour enhancers based on mushrooms, Scelta tries to force back he salt usage in the industry. “With the flavour enhancers we managed, for example, to lower the amount

of salt in bread by 40 per cent, without changing the flavour,” Jules explains. “It boosts a product’s flavour so that fewer spices and herbs are necessary.”

Scelta works with universities to continue researching how mushrooms can contribute to better health. These activities have been classified under Medimushrooms, which include only products that “contribute to health.” Jules thinks these products will have much potential in future. “In 2020 our products will be available in 100 countries, and in 2025 we’ll be in the cosmetics department with products in which mushrooms have been processed.” 

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The rise of IT players in the fresh produce sector

Large online players such as Amazon and Google are entering the fresh produce sector. Realising margins on fresh isn’t their most important revenue model.


his year in June, Amazon announced the acquisition of supermarket chain Whole Foods. Whole Foods is a supermarket chain with many organic and regional products. It’s not just about the food, but also about the experience and convenience. And, let it be clear, it’s quite an expensive supermarket, it obviously belongs to the higher segment.

The takeover was finalised in August. After the takeover, Amazon started selling Whole Foods products online. This is done via, among other things, AmazonFresh, the retailer’s delivery service. This makes it possible to order groceries in the morning, so that they’ll be delivered on the same day before dinner, among other things. The website works with fixed subscription costs and according to a minimum ordering value, and with free delivery. What’s even more remarkable, immediately after the takeover, Amazon announced they were lowering prices of fresh products considerably. This includes fresh produce: bananas (from $0.79 to $0.49/pound), hass avocados (from $2.50 to $1.49/piece) and kale (from $3.99 to $3.49), for example. According to consumers, this resulted in savings of more than 20 per cent. It seems like an answer to the rise of discount supermarkets Aldi and Lidl. This year, Lidl opened its first ten branches in the US, and they have extensive expansion plans. Aldi has been present longer, but is still relatively unknown. This year, Aldi announced an investment of five billion dollar (900 shops). It’s expected that 116

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the low prices of the discounters will disrupt the market considerably. Large chains such as Walmart have already lowered their prices in response.

GOOGLE AND WALMART Amazon isn’t the only large online player

entering the fresh market. Google entered into a cooperation with Walmart, one of the largest companies in the world, and the largest supermarket chain in the US (although they had to close 154 shops last year). This summer, the cooperation plans were announced and late September the new service was launched. Via Google Home, Google’s smart speaker, customers can place orders with Walmart. However, Amazon also has such a service: Echo. And it’s not the first time they’re following in

Amazon’s footsteps. In 2016, when they started a pilot with their grocery service Google Express to deliver fresh products, Amazon was far ahead of them with their delivery service Amazon Prime. Moreover, the pilot didn’t last long. In September, barely eight months after the pilot was started, the reach of the delivery service was scaled up considerably, but fresh products were taken from the assortment. The third remarkable cooperation between IT and fresh of the past year was announced this summer. Nine companies from the fresh sector, including Dole and Driscoll’s, started a cooperation with retailer Walmart and blockchain producer IBM. Blockchain is a type of gigantic database which can couple user data and information to each other. It works according to the successive chain: the second user can add information, but they cannot adjust the information of someone else. Because of this, data can’t be falsified or manipulated. The players from the fresh sector can close their production chain because of this: all information is shared from the beginning of the chain. It’s about the origin of the product, the storage circumstances and the distance travelled. Blockchain can also play an important role in matters surrounding food safety.

Walmart worked with the technique before, in Mexican mangoes. Cause for this was that Walmart’s food safety department needed almost seven days to find out where part of the sliced Mexican mangoes came from. If something were to be the matter with the product, it would’ve cost them millions, and an enormous recall action would have to have been started.


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Chris Depooter and Filip Fontaine:

“BelOrta isn’t a lonely bride” Five years ago BelOrta was founded after the merger of two Belgian auctions. Coöbra and the Mechelse Veilingen decided to start working together in 2013. One year later, Veiling Borgloon also joined the cooperative. Filip Fontaine, who has been co-manager with Chris de Pooter from the very first, looks back on five years, and towards the future. You were manager of chicory auction Brava, which was absorbed by BelOrta. At the time, did you dream BelOrta would become this big? “I could never have predicted this. It’s not entirely true to say it was all a coincidence. BelOrta was born out of necessity and common sense from all auctions that were absorbed by BelOrta. In our sector, you need a certain size to be more appealing for retail. You might be interesting as a wholesaler with one pallet of tomatoes, but that’s not the case when it comes to our level. We need large volumes.”

“Besides, we also had to stop taking each other’s work. Only through a merger with the approval of the competition authority could we achieve a fair price for our growers. None of the separate companies had the opportunities that BelOrta now has, but it’s not a wild dream.” How important is growth for BelOrta? “Since the merger we have continued to 118

AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2018

grow. Our members continue to grow, and growers decided to join us, even though we never had a recruitment drive. BelOrta is one of the largest auctions in Belgium by far, and one of the larger ones of Europe, but that has never been our goal. The goal is to be good to our members. We’re open to new members, but not everyone can join BelOrta. Because of BelOrta’s size, we have sector-responsibility, which we are trying to fulfil.” Not every grower can join BelOrta, can you say something about your criteria? “Growers must have a minimum level of quality. It’s often the very small growers that can’t meet the requirements of professional trade. We naturally offer guidance for that, but companies have to be professional and they need certain certificates. We’re not a hobby club.” Isn’t BelOrta in danger of becoming too big within the sector? “Our customers source throughout Europe

for vegetables, and globally for fruit. BelOrta has no more than 1.5 per cent of the market in hands, so we’re relatively small. Besides, there isn’t a supermarket bound to Belgium. Delhaize is partially Dutch, Aldi and Lidl are German, Carrefour is French, Colruyt is the only supermarket that’s still Belgian. Furthermore, a company like Ahold-Delhaize, for example, achieves most of its turnover in the US.”

Are you open to another merger? “”I’m open to it, but we’re not actively looking for one. Not every party will have an added value. The members of both parties have to gain something from it, only than is a merger an option. BelOrta isn’t a lonely bride calling out in the desert, it’s more like a happy family. If we can make others happy, we’ll do so. If it serves a higher purpose we’re open to another merger, and everyone is welcome to talk to us. It could be a party from the Netherlands, Germany or France as well, although that seems improbable to me. There are other ways of cooperating. We have good partnerships within Lava with Veiling Hoogstraten and REO Veiling. Together, we’re taking steps forward.” Why did the merger plans with Veiling Hoogstraten fail? “No reason. I once said: the mayonaise was

rejected. We get along with Veiling Hoogstraten, but we didn’t click. Recently, the manager of Hoogstraten and I defended our testing gardens to local authorities.The fever for merging just wasn’t there, perhaps that’ll be different in a few years. We can’t marry everyone, it’s an organic process, and it’s no use if the click’s missing.” Does that have anything to do with the healthy financial status of both BelOrta and Veiling Hoogstraten? “No, that financial necessity wasn’t a factor with the earlier mergers either. If you look at annual accounts of the Mechelse Veilingen, Coöbra and Borgloon, you’d see they were doing quite well. BelOrta and Veiling Hoogstraten are both financially healthy as well. A merger based on poverty is possible, but the result is often not the prettiest company. If you merge because of mutual poverty, you still won’t have a filling for your sandwich.” “A merger should serve a higher, mutual goal. The benefits of a merger with Veiling Hoogstraten exist, but they’re not very visible. It’s like gravity, you can’t see it, but it’s there. It’s more difficult to explain the disadvantage to growers who would otherwise benefit. You have to make it work together, or it is unnatural.”

What are the challenges of the sector? “I see the world becoming tougher, and individualism is increasing in importance exponentially. That is at odds with the traditional model of cooperatives. Besides,

retail tends to individualise growers too much. There’s nothing wrong with that, but you have to do things differently within the cooperative model. At the same time we can see the cooperative gaining popularity against the tide. It’s a combination of this trend and the rise of new techniques that are the challenges in the sector. To be honest, cooperatives or auctions as a collective aren’t exactly the frontrunners in the fields of , for example, information technology. We have to catch up to be able to meet the pressures from retail, and for that,we have to combine the collective and the individual. These contradictions will only become more pronounced.” Will that leave any room for cooperatives or auctions? “The auction is an obviousness, a bit like health; once it’s gone, it’ll be practically impossible to get back, and it will be missed. It’s crucial that cooperatives exist, for large growers as well. The added value isn’t just the price, it can also be found in the fields of logistics or IT. If we as a cooperative think IT is tricky, it’s even more so the case for growers. Individual growers often look at the short term, and that’s necessary, but the long term is important as well.” “Twenty years ago, all of the volume had to be heaped onto one pile, nowadays, there are plenty of growers large enough to supply to retailers independently. A cooperative could have an added value with packaging, certification, improving new varieties, developments in the field of pesticides and

other R&D. As an auction, we’re deeply involved in these matters. Besides, we are now more globally-focused, and our people travel the world. Ten years ago, we might have booked one intercontinental flight per year, but they’ve become innumerable nowadays.”

BelOrta isn’t an exporter, why is it important to invest so much in overseas markets? “We can gain knowledge there, build relationships and develop markets. We’re also working on protocol developments for entering new markets. We’re working on a number of dossiers, that’s a major investment that has to be made before an exporter can set up a line. We also offer marketing support. and we’re involved in setting up protocols. We make sure the protocols on the export-side match the Belgian protocols. It’s therefore important to know what is expected on the other side of the supply chain.” Isn’t that the job of the exporters? “We boost export. Our commercial employees often travel with the exporters to the final customer. That is effective. We aren’t passive in this, the knowledge of the supply chain is more extensive abroad than it is in Belgium. We also have more insight into what’s possible. Exporters have knowledge of the market, BelOrta has knowledge of production or growers. If we sign an import agreement with India, for example, trade goes through an exporter. We’re now working on gaining access to India for

Aubergine area quickly increasing Shifts can be seen in the areas every year. One year the changes will be large, the next it will mostly concern small movements in production. For 2018, the area has remained at the status quo. Jo Lambrecht talks about the limited shifts in the area. “In tomatoes, the area of round tomatoes is decreasing, but beefsteak tomatoes Baron remain stable. In vine tomatoes, the Princess area is decreasing slightly, but there will be a nice expansion in Elite. Furthermore, the area of specialities is also increasing. We’ve noticed an evolution towards varieties with red flesh, both in vine, plum and cocktail tomatoes.” For cucumbers and bell peppers there have been hardly any changes, although sweet pointed peppers are decreasing. A quick grower in the vegetable segment is aubergine, which has reported an increase of 25 per cent. “The interest in aubergines is also increasing because

2017 was a good year for our aubergine growers,” Jo says. “That is because the 2017-18 season started slowly in Southern Europe, among other things. Besides, we have promotion campaigns for aubergine.” The area for beans, which are mostly marketed in Belgium, is also moving, for example, there’s more room for wax beans. The area of French beans remains stable. “For butterhead lettuce we’ve seen a decrease in greenhouse production in soil,” Jo continues. “However, hydroponic production has increased considerably in recent years.” Lettuce is a broad segment, with a range of 35 varieties. “It’s very broad, but we’re also getting new opportunities, such as with little gem and by working with processors.” In strawberries, some changes can also be reported, but these shifts are often the result of a better balancing of

supply. “For example, more will be grown in greenhouses and on substrate, but the supply of outdoor strawberries that BelOrta has been distinctive with for years also continues to be very interesting.” It’s not just Elsanta that does well. Although it’s still the most important variety, Jo also mentions the originally British variety Malling Centenary, Portola, Harmony and Elegance as some important varieties. “The frost in April 2017 definitely hurt us in top fruit and cherries,” Jo continues. “Some growers were hit hard. We were ready to sell a considerable volume of cherries, but the frost threw a spanner in the works.” The Belgian auction invested in, among other things, a new sorting machine for the fruit. “We hope to fully utilise that line this year.”

AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2018


Opinion a number of vegetables, but it’ll take some time before the first trade can be sent that way. An exporter doesn’t have to take those preparatory steps, they can just get started. We also point out new markets to our exporters. For example, it sometimes happens an exporter is visiting one of their customers abroad with one of our commercial workers, and while they’re still there, the first lorries are already leaving Belgium. Otherwise, the exporter first has to come back to Belgium with the final customer’s wishes, in order to discuss it with us, causing momentum to be lost.” Do other auctions have enough of an eye for export? “It’s not up to me to say what other auctions should be doing, everyone has a different model. BFV, for example, does its own exporting, and we don’t. Everyone chooses the model that suits them best. The Greenery handles their retailers differently than us as well, and if you give ten crates of apples to Leonard Kampschoër from Fruitmasters, he’ll be able to sell them in eight different countries. We choose to be partners with our customers, that goes hand in hand with exporters. You have to keep in mind we’re a different company. BelOrta has 160 different product groups that we position in 70 countries. For certain products it’s important to have a broad sales market.” What do growers think of BelOrta? “I always refer to our satisfaction poll, from which we can conclude growers are satisfied. Of course there’s some habituation to the administrative merger of the auctions, about how an invoice is made, for example. When people have to adjust to changes, it could result in some problems, but we’re working on more unity within the organisation. The challenge is to stay close to your growers as an auction, and that’s not always the easiest thing to do.”

7|8|9 FEBRUARY 2018 | BERLIN

Hall 7.1b / B.03

Small growers will feel like they’re being overlooked in the whole quicker. How do you try to stay involved with these growers as well? “We have to stay alert to that. For example, we always have ‘one man one vote’ rules during general meetings, which means the votes of small growers count for as much as those of large growers. Besides, we have various consultation platforms for which growers meet a few times per year per product group, to talk about all that is happening. This could also result in recommendations for the auction. Last year, we had a road show and we went to the growers. For young growers, we have a youth platform with about 150 members.”

But there has been some discord with, for instance, organic growers in the past, hasn’t there? “That was when we first started. A number of things happened at the same time, so that a number of organic growers lost faith and decided to go in a different direction with a trader. The organic department within BelOrta has grown considerably now. It mostly concerned outdoor vegetables and top fruit back then, but chicory and vegetables are also in the top ten nowadays. We started looking at the market in a new manner, and have given our organic assortment new élan. We could say we have achieved nice results in the organic segment.” Does BelOrta have room for new growers from neighbouring countries? “We have room for growers from the Netherlands, Germany or France, although I don’t see it happening for the French growers anytime soon. The French market is focused on local product, and we have good relationships with buyers in that country.” And further away? Spanish growers, for example, to close the season? “Spain has a very different climate in terms of employment. We’re more reserved in

that. It’s not a goal in itself. Seasons in Belgium have been extended for most products in Belgium, for instance, Belgium tomatoes are now available at all times. Because of that, the higher peaks in production in the summer months and lower lows in winter months have been levelled. Besides, retailers are very capable of doing their own buying in Spain, and probably under better conditions than us.” What is BelOrta planning for 2018? “We’ve taken a new sales hall into use in Borgloon, and on the site opposite our premises, a new building will be realised for companies related to the fresh produce sector. Much is also happening in Sint-Katelijne-Waver, it’s starting to really turn into a centre for fruit and vegetables. The two traffic lights on the access road from the R6 are going to be replaced by fly-overs, which will improve accessibility. With the development of 60 hectares for Veiling Zuid, much will be newly constructed, and there will be room for, for instance, packing suppliers, processors, exporters and distribution centres. The first companies have already bought land there. We’re also going to build on six hectares, where we’ll build three modules that will have a link to the auction.” What does the future hold for BelOrta? “It will be bright and shining. We have a good group of growers, and the organisation is doing well. We hope to take leaps in future. Internally in the fields of IT and communication, externally we’ll devote ourselves to innovation and quality of the products. We will continue to work on special products and fewer commodities, the market is heading in that direction as well. We want to excel in what we’re good at. For new varieties, we’re focused on good quality, we mostly invest in new top and soft fruit varieties we’re marketing. We partially own these varieties.” 

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Taste more important than seedless in grape market According to Carlo Lingua of the Italian company AVI, the future lies, “without a doubt” with seedless grape varieties. “The market increases year-on-year, and consumers preferences are moving towards seedless grapes”, begins Carlo. As examples, he mentions England and the Northern European countries.


he demand for seedless grapes increased fastest In the Northern European markets. Southern European countries have, however, started catching up. “This market is developing rapidly in, especially, Spain and Italy”, Carlo continues. “It started small, but the younger generation wants seedless grapes.”

SEEDLESS GRAPES HAVE A FUTURE Traditionally, Italy and Spain are known as markets for seeded grapes, but this is changing. “We used to have varieties like Italia, Victoria and Red Globe, being the most popular. Now the market for seedless grapes is overtaking these”, explains Carlo. This also means growers have to adapt. “The volume of seedless grapes has always 122

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been lower than that of seeded grapes with pips. Now, hardly any varieties of seeded grapes are being planted.” Ninety percent of the new plantings are seedless grape varieties. Avi markets their seedless grapes as the grape breeder, Shachar Karniel. “Arra 15, Arra 29, Arra 19, Arra 13, Arra 32,” Carlo sums up a number of varieties. Seventy percent of the grape market in the south consists of white varieties. Another 20% is made up of red varieties and the remaining ten percent is for black grapes.

Although consumers are starting to prefer the seedless varieties, Carlo emphasises the need for quality. “Consumer preferences

are not only moving toward seedless grapes but also toward quality”, he says. “Quality comes first, regardless of whether it is a seeded or seedless grape. Good taste, good


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Grapes packaging, good marketing - it is a mix of a number of factors. The younger generation does not want to eat seeded grapes anymore.” INCREASED ACREAGE FOR SEEDLESS GRAPES “In Italy, especially, the biggest volumes are still made up of seeded grapes. We are, however, moving more toward seedless grapes. In Spain, the largest volume is made up of seedless grapes and this is also developing fast in Greece.” The south-eastern region of Europe is home to the Thompson Seedless. “Greece is known for the Thompson. We are now seeing a shift to new varieties that are better than the Thompson.” The most popular varieties in Greece are the Thompson, Crimson and SugarOne, but new varieties that are performing better are being added. “In three years, we will have a minimum of 600 hectares in Europe,” says Carlo. New vines bear fruit from the third

year after being planted. For next year, the acreage is still at half of that intended area. The 300 hectares is divided almost equally in Italy, Spain and Greece, with Italy having a somewhat larger area than the other countries. Carlo says there are also opportunities available in Bulgaria, Georgia, Serbia, Slovakia, France and Turkey. MORE FOCUSED ON TASTE “There is room in the market for good quality grapes. The decrease in consumption is also due to the fact that not all the grapes taste good”, says Carlo. “Growers should work with consumers because consumers will return if the products taste good.” The taste of the product is even more important for fruit than for vegetables, he continues. Vegetables can be incorporated into dishes; fruit is eaten on its own. “Children do not eat fruit because it is healthy; they eat fruit because it tastes good.” “The European market demands good quality. If we

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can provide that then there is room to grow”, says Carlo. “The challenge for grapes is the taste. With a specific taste like Muscat, there is room for growth.” This means growers must change their behaviour; switching their focus from volumes to quality. “This is true for all types of fruit. If you focus on volume, it is done to the detriment of quality.” They also argue for a good price that covers production costs. Otherwise, growers lose their livelihood. WATER SHORTAGE IS A PROBLEM IN THE FUTURE “We must set up a good organisation and cooperation between growers in order to position ourselves well in the market. Currently, it is only a buyers’ market because the suppliers are so fragmented.” This is another challenge since there are many small-scale farmers in Italy. “It is a challenge because it is difficult to have a uniform product. A large vineyard is advantageous because the product is more uniform and costs are lower.” He does, however, see a future for Italian farmers, even if it just means that a farmer benefits from two hectares, rather than one. “There are sales cooperatives and associations; that is not the problem.”

The weather is the determining factor when it comes to cultivation. Carlo does not rule out the possibility that production could move to different regions. “There are new varieties that 124

AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2018

can be cultivated in these new regions. They are more resilient and are able to grow in those regions.” He uses cultivation in Northern Italy, where Avi sees possibilities, as an example. The agriculture, generally speaking, has to face one of the most important problem of our day: the shortage of water. “It looks like the climate is changing, but the shortage of water is a bigger problem”, according to Carlo. “If it doesn’t rain, we have a problem. If we have water, we can turn our attention to other challenges. No water, no fruits.” In December there were protests in Murcia, Spain, about water usage. It is imperative that the appointed Authorities have to find out the best solutions in order to overtake the water problem. This is not only the case in Europe but also in countries such as America and Africa.” EVALUATION ON THE ARRA GRAPES 2017 SEASON IN EUROPE The ARRA grapes 2017 season, as stated by Carlo, was “very satisfying and positive, above all regarding the ARRA 15 that represents the biggest part of our volumes. Important European retailers have remarkably increased the consumption of the grapes, thanks to the ARRA 15. We believe in the ARRA seedless varieties, because of their organoleptic quality the grapes have great prospects for the future.” 

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Illuminated production gaining more and more ground

The area of illuminated production is growing considerably, both in the Netherlands and internationally. By illuminating crops, growers can be assured of a constant production, and they can also supply outside of the season. Daniela Damoiseaux of Philips Lighting, one of the largest grow light suppliers: “Using LED for illumination makes the production predictable. You can make better agreements with buyers and guarantee good quality. LED also ensures a higher production, resulting in more cucumbers or tomatoes.” CONSIDERABLE GROWTH Paul van Dijck is Crop Sales Manager Cucumber for Enza Zaden. Paul: “In the Netherlands, an increase of 25 hectares is expected in illuminated cucumber production this year. That is from about five growers. They mostly work with SON-T illumination. Most of the illuminated production is traditionally in Scandinavia. In Finland in particular the area of illuminated production is growing very quickly, but tests are now also being done in France and the UK, with LED in these cases. In Russia and Ukraine, the area of illuminated production is growing even quicker. In the past ten years, 200 hectares were added over there, and that’s just in cucumbers. These countries want to be self-sufficient. That’s why the government is encouraging growers to invest in modern and large companies. That results in appealing prices.” GLOBAL INCREASE Illuminated production is becoming a global phenomenon more and more. Daniela: “We’ve seen much is already grown with LED in the Netherlands, Belgium, the UK and North America. This is now expanding 126

AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2018

to Germany, France, Russia, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Illuminated production is even gradually gaining ground in China and Japan.” ILLUMINATED EGGPLANTS In the past, mostly tomatoes were grown with illumination. Other crops are now added to that increasingly often. Cucumber, lettuce and strawberries are well-known examples. Last month, production company Purple Pride from Dinteloord, the Netherlands, supplied Dutch aubergines from winter production for the first time. The company expects to harvest 100 tonnes in total this season. Growers of ornamental plants, basil and other herbs are also choosing to invest in illumination increasingly often.

LED AND SON-T Traditionally, crops are illuminated by SON-T lamps. By now, LED lighting is also used in illuminated production. Daniela: “In recent years the sales of LED have taken flight. We still see an annual increase. LED lighting is more low-energy, produces no heat compared to SON-T lamps, and it’s easier to control the climate because of

that. With LED, the plants can be given the exact colour of light they need for optimal photosynthesis.”

SPAIN Normally, the Dutch market is almost completely taken over by Spain in the winter season, but thanks to illuminated production, domestic products now also remain available. Harm-Jan Eikelenboom from The Greenery feels positively about this. “We have noticed Dutch products have a very good reputation for our customers. Illuminated production makes it possible for growers to meet this demand year-round. We want to ensure them as much as possible of good sales, and we therefore couple growers and buyers to each other, preferably in advance.” Paul confirms that it’s very important growers make agreements with buyers about production, quality and price before the winter season. “Otherwise you’d still be bothered by Spanish competition. You have to make very careful calculations to see if it’s worth the investment.” HIGH-TECH HORTICULTURE Daniela mentions the growing global population as one of the world trends at the basis of illuminated production. “Besides, sustainability is becoming more important, just like responsibly using raw materials such as water. High-tech horticulture fits this image. By means of LED lighting, you can grow tomatoes and cucumbers on your own soil year-round. This requires far fewer food miles to transport the food to the place where it’s consumed.”

nach Russland kom- Norwegen Belgische Äpfel waren europaweit nach Image istRückverfolgbarkeit. in Frankreich gestiegen. Positive Gemüselieferungen Polen und Großbritannien. Die steigenden und Dänemark kompensiert. rolle und Das Flandriapensieren die rückläufi gen Obstexporte wie vor sehr gefragt. Ein deutlicher NachErgebnisse wurden dabei in den Bereichen Belgische Äpfel waren europaweit nach Image ist in Frankreich gestiegen. Positive Gemüselieferungen nach Russland komist, dass vonEin Frankreich Im Qualität, breites Sortiment, pensierenAuffallend die rückläufi gen Weißrussland Obstexporte frageimpuls wie vor sehr ging gefragt. deutlicheraus. NachErgebnisse wurden dabei inProfessionalität den Bereichen dorthin. als neue Exportdestination für Obst und Gegenzug orderte Russland weniger Äpfel und Service der Branche erzielt. Qualität, breites Sortiment, Professionalität dorthin. Auffallend ist, dass Weißrussland frageimpuls ging von Frankreich aus. Im Bedeutung gewinnt. Im RanBirnen.orderte Weißrussland wiederum ein Interesse an belgischen als neue an Exportdestination für Obst und und Gegenzug Russland wenigerist Äpfel undDas Service der Branche erzielt. Produkten Gemüse king der wichtigsten Drittlandsmärkte für Wachstumsmarkt für Birnen. Belgien hat steigt in Ländern außerhalb Europas. DesDas Interesse an belgischen Produkten Gemüse an Bedeutung gewinnt. Im Ran- und Birnen. Weißrussland wiederum ist ein Frischeprodukte belegt Weißals Spezialist für für Birnen. Conférence-Birnen halb VLAM die Werbekampagne king der wichtigsten Drittlandsmärkte für sich Wachstumsmarkt Belgien hat steigthat in Ländern außerhalb Europas.‚Taste Des- belgische russland bereits den zweiten Platz. profi liert. In Deutschland hingegen ist diese of Europe‘ initiiert. Die Kampagne zielt auf halb hat VLAM die Werbekampagne ‚Taste belgische Frischeprodukte belegt Weiß- sich als Spezialist für Conférence-Birnen Birne noch hinreichend bekannt. In Kanada, dieinitiiert. Vereinigten Staaten, Russland, profiliert. In nicht Deutschland hingegen ist diese of Europe‘ Die Kampagne zielt auf russland bereits den zweiten Platz. Kooperation mit den Niederlanden hat BelJapan, China sowie die Vereinigten ArabiEntwicklung 2013 Birne noch nicht hinreichend bekannt. In Kanada, die Vereinigten Staaten, Russland, gien deshalbmit dieden Kampagne ‚Conférence. schen Neben mit Entwicklung 2013 Kooperation Niederlanden hat BelJapan, Emirate. China sowie dieMesseauftritten Vereinigten ArabiImmer eine gute Idee‘ auf dem deutschen Produktverköstigungen stehen WirtschaftDer Handel mit Tomaten legte in den ersten gien deshalb die Kampagne ‚Conférence. schen Emirate. Neben Messeauftritten mit hastreffen, Workshops und Events auf der drei Quartalen sowohl aufinImportals Markt Immerlanciert. eine guteDeutsche Idee‘ aufVerbraucher dem deutschen Produktverköstigungen stehen WirtschaftDer Handel mit2013 Tomaten legte den ersten ben so die Möglichkeit, Bekanntschaft mit Agenda. auf Exportniveau zu. Neben den unmittelstreffen, Workshops und Events auf der drei Quartalen 2013 sowohl auf Import- als Markt lanciert. Deutsche Verbraucher haConférence-Birne zu schlieBelgisches Gemüse wird schwerpunkt- baren Nachbarländern orderten auch Ita- der benvielseitigen so 2018 die Möglichkeit, Bekanntschaft mit Agenda. Exportniveau zu. Neben Fruitauf Logistica Berlin 5den| 6unmittel|7 February ßen. ■ mäßig in die Nachbarländer Deutschland, lien, Tschechien und die Slowakei mehr Belgisches Gemüse wird schwerpunkt- baren Nachbarländern orderten auch Ita- der vielseitigen Conférence-Birne zu schlie■ mäßig in die Nachbarländer Deutschland, lien, Tschechien und die Slowakei mehr ßen.

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Richard Schouten, GroentenFruit Huis:

“GMO recognition requirements are out-of-date”

Almost one year ago, Richard Schouten was appointed manager of GroentenFruit Huis. After working for years for growers’ associations, commercial enterprises and boards, the work now comes together at the branch organisation, for which his responsibilities are the issues at the start of the supply chain, among other things. The following interview is about topics including crisis management, environmental certifications, GMO and lobbying. What is your background? I’ve always been interested in fruit and vegetables. I sold fruit and vegetables on markets from a very early age, I was the manager of Champignon Bemiddelingsbureau Holland and Vers Direct Netherlands, and I also worked for The Greenery. In recent years, I was active at ZLTO and LTO Netherlands, with responsibility for the interests of plant sectors. I’ve always been very interested in administrative work, and take great pleasure in bringing structure to organisations, but on the other hand, I’ve also experienced trade practices to quickly sell mushrooms from a cooling cell in the short term. You have two business cards, as manager of DPA and GroentenFruit Huis. Are the interests different? No, that’s not my experience. Previously, a 128

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number of DPA members had joined Frugi Venta. On 1 January 2016, both companies merged into GroentenFruit Huis. Because of the GMO regulations from Brussels, growers’ organisations have to be recognisable as such, and that’s one of the reasons DPA continues to exist. The time of growers and traders opposing each other is in the past, we work with competitive supply chains much more nowadays. The supply chain integration is implemented much more in the Netherlands than in other countries: growers and traders bring Dutch and domestic product together to offer a complete assortment. Various models are possible for this. For example, growers’ associations such as Van Nature work with exclusive trade partners, but other parties, such as TNI, have been founded by growers. In Southern Europe, you are only now seeing an increase of that organisation, and in

Eastern Europe, it still has to be completely developed.

Is it a goal to combine even more supply? In the Netherlands, sales organisations already have a considerable size. The strength is not so much in uniting as much supply as possible, but mostly in developing a broad assortment of sufficient size to be a serious player. In the Netherlands, growers’ associations and their trade companies ensure a broad assortment from the Netherlands and combine this with import product by cooperating with the supply chain parties. At least one or two more steps can be made between like-minded parties in that field, but there are more reasons to be an interesting chain partner than to focus on size.

How do you assess the developments of FVO and Coalitie HOT? The FVO (Federation of Vegetable Organisations) is made up of members who are also our members. They all have their own strategy and culture, but are convinced of the importance of working together in non-competitive matters. And we naturally gladly support that. Coalitie HOT was mostly founded for matters concerning the environmental planning of the company, and


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the necessary restructuring in greenhouse horticulture. For that, they call on horticulture to start working with innovations and sustainability, and that’s a good thing. What is GroentenFruit Huis doing regarding sustainability? A lot , we even named sustainability as a spearhead this year. I think we as a sector are doing quite well in the field of sustainability. You can be sustainable, but you also have to tell people about it. Over the past year, we did that at the Grüne Woche and the Fruit Logistica, among other things, where, in a greenhouse with our members, we talked about how efficiently we produce in closed systems and how little water we use to grow our tomatoes. In the field of labour, we call on our members to be much more transparent about how they operate, which we also mostly guarantee with our GRASP or Fair Produce certificate. After all, effort should be rewarded for producers both far and near, so that there will be returns for all supply chain parties in the long term. Fortunately, some supermarkets are also doing this.

As an interest group, are you powerless when retailers make agreements directly with environmental organisations, as was the case last summer? Of course, we try to do everything possible to make agreements with NGOs and retailers, but they also have to understand that we can’t jump from basement to attic suddenly. As a sector, we want to dedicate ourselves to put less pressure on the environment, but it also has to be practical. That’s why we are in consultation with stakeholders, in collaboration with other parties like LTO Glaskracht and NFO, to see how we can best respond to those requirements. That’s why it’s so important to communicate about everything we do in the field of sustainability. I think the mandatory water purification that is picked up by gardeners’ 130

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collectives locally is a great example. But they also have to communicate about these efforts!

You have GMO under your care. What is its function when fewer sales organisations use this? I always say: GMO is a means, not an end. But with GMO money — we calculated that 1.2 billion euro has been granted over the years — we’ve been able to do many wonderful things. A number of boards from growers’ associations have actually put GMO monies on hold, or even stopped it because it became too difficult for them to meet the recognition requirements. The GMO regulations are suffocating for many associations. It’s out-of-date that growers can’t make decisions about prices and customers of your product. That’s why we are lobbying to expand these recognition requirements in the run-up to the new Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). It is truly astounding that Brussels and The Hague tell us we’re not well-organised. As if that depends on getting GMO money! As much as 95 per cent of the sales organisations are our members. We have been perfectly organised, but some members choose not to claim GMO money. Ruud Huirne from Rabobank recently said it was a waste to leave two or three percent GMO when you only have a margin of only a few per cent ... We agree, but when GMO is a millstone around your neck, and you can’t practically keep your agreements, choices will have to be made. Isn’t the Dutch greenhouse vegetable cultivation too dependent on production problems elsewhere? I definitely don’t believe we are too dependent on that. Of course, in this trade, one man’s breath is another man’s death, but the same is true when other countries prof-

it from the weather extremes we deal with in the Netherlands. The Netherlands should be devoted to a distinctive, sustainable cultivation, and we should use our excellent logistical position and import and export flows to make a difference.

Wouldn’t it be logical to also promote the potato interests and to merge NAO into a fresh produce House , like Frugi Venta and DPA? That might seem logical at first glance, but potatoes have a completely different role, all the way up to the shelves. In general, the farmers are more in the fields of grain and beets, and we from GroentenFruit Huis have hardly any connections to that. Onions are a product that are more in the middle of that, but I definitely don’t foresee a merger with NAO. What do you want to achieve as manager? What’s on the horizon for you? I would like to explain to everyone, from consumers to policy makers, how hard our 350 members are working, and I want to tell the story honestly. In fresh produce, people often want to take care of business on the very same day, is it frustrating that it often takes longer in politics? My predecessor Hans van Es always said: “Half your time will be wasted lobbying, but you’ll never know which half.” And I agree with that. Being right and being proven right are two different things. I naturally notice a bit of impatience with some members, but never incomprehension. Everything we do, is done for and by our members. What are the issues for the lobby with the different authorities? A number of dossiers are headed our way. For example, we would like to see another Minister of Agriculture and Food Sup-

ply. As the second exporter in the world, we owe that to our standing. The State-Secretary might call himself Minister in Europe, but during meetings of the Cabinet, he won’t be present. On the European level, we mostly focus on the Brexit, that could turn out to be of much influence on us, because the UK is a major trade partner. Europe is negotiating with the UK, but we naturally try to be influential. That’s also why we went to the UK with various horticultural parties this month, and we entered into talks with the embassy, the authorities and the business community. No one knows what the consequences of the Brexit will be. The country isn’t self-supporting and will continue to need imported products. Trade relations with Russia are currently in status quo, which means that these efforts are currently zero.

You were a member of the Core Team Crisis Management during the EHEC crisis. Are we now better prepared for a similar crisis? I was appointed crisis manager from LTO Netherlands at the time, with manager Nico van Ruiten from LTO Glaskracht. If I learned one thing, it’s that MORE OVERSEAS you can never be prepared Improved competence = for a crisis like that. But even more direct contacts to if you can’t, you still have to the countries of origin and do everything possible to be Gesteigerte Kompetenz = Mehr Direktkontakte addition of exotic fruits to our prepared and to have the right in den Ursprung und Sortimentserweiterung portfolioum information at your disposExoten al. It’s therefore good that we have a communal crisis team with six organisations from the fruit and vegetable chain; MORE ITALY CBL, GroentenFruit Huis, LTO Glaskracht Netherlands, LTO Increased volumes and more Netherlands, NFO and Planvarieties thanks to direct tum. Moreover, last year we purchasing from producers introduced the website www. to communicate communally during periods of crisis in the fields Mengen- und Sortimentserweiterung durch of food safety and plant health. Direktbezug von Erzeugern At the time of the EHEC crisis, almost six years ago, social MORE ORGANIC media was still very different from what it is now. Nowadays, As of now, we offer not only we follow everything that’s bananas and kiwis in organic happening on social media, so quality but also cucumbers, that we can quickly respond zucchini, peppers, tomatoes, as a combined spokesperson ginger and more of the sector. There’s always someone on call, and they leave their phones on at night. We also know how to find the Neben Bananen und Kiwis bieten wir ab sofort right contacts in government. That might seem logical, but auch Gurken, Zucchini, Paprika, Tomaten, Ingwer VISIT US AT FRUIT LOGISTICA: at times of crisis, many people und weitere Produkte in Bio-Qualität an HALL 21 / STAND E-11 will shout the loudest, even mayors, and you start wondering who is actually part of the government.





Do you recognise the reproach that the Netherlands tends to be the ‘teacher’s pet,’ while other countries look for detours? Well, we can try to open Russia, but at the moment it’s really not working, we’re better off putting our energy into different matters. Perhaps you’re referring to the intervention measures, which are copiously being used by other countries, but the price offered wasn’t interesting for the Dutch situation, our cost price is too high for it. For that matter, these intervention measures did have an effect on the total market, because prices rose both Port International GmbH in the Netherlands and abroad Lippeltstraße 1 - 20097 Hamburg after the measures were What do you like best about - implemented. But it should be your job? a temporary tool during cri- I like the contact with people sis situations, and it shouldn’t most, whether they are our result in the butter mountains members or people in our of the past. We should produceAUF management network.LOGISTICA: Since BESUCHEN SIE UNS DER FRUIT HALLE 21 / STAND E-11 oriented on the market and my appointment, I have visited anticipate when there’s no lon- all the members of the boards ger a demand for our products. of DPA and GroentenFruit Huis Port International GmbH I think a wonderful example at their company, so in their Lippeltstraße - 20097 of 1this are Hamburg the apple growers, own habitat. That gave me who, because more compe- the chance to see what they’re tition from, among other plac- doing, and what I’m doing with DE-ÖKO-039 es, Poland, switched to new them.  varieties and the cultivation of pears. And that definitely had an effect!


AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2018


To p f r u i t

“Biggest competitor in top fruit trees is Italy” In Eastern Europe, much is planted in the field of top fruit, and in large numbers. Russia and neighbouring countries are trying to become more self-supporting in growing the fruit. “In these countries, planting is done on a different scale than in Western Europe. Here, 10 hectares is a major expansion, in the east, 50 to 100 hectares is more common,” says Han Verbeek, sales manager for Verbeek Boomkwekerij. In this article, he talks about the developments for the coming years in more depth.

sold all over the world. Some additions to the Conference will become popular as well, such as Xenia and Lucas. As a tree nursery, we have good contact with sales organisations and growers’ associations, so we can know what the expectations are and what is about to happen. Trees are planted in consultation, to limit shortages or surpluses of trees. For free varieties,people have to trust their own discretion, and it comes down to market knowledge and experience. Even

Verbeek definitely sees the market in Eastern Europe growing, and demand for apple trees in particular. The company is also active over there. “Because we started our own tree nursery in Serbia years ago, we can quickly respond to this increasing demand. They’re expanding considerably in Serbia, and sales happen with thousands of trees at once. It won’t matter much for the Dutch tree market that so much is planted in Eastern Europe,” says Verbeek. “They mostly plant well-known free varieties.” According to him, competition is more likely to come from Italy. “They can offer cheaper trees than we can, and that affects us more. Italians, however, can’t come anywhere near the quality we can offer. Of course, that doesn’t come cheap, but we’ve seen our customers appreciating our quality.”

after all these years, this is one of the most difficult aspects of the trade.”

ASIA Demand for trees isn’t just growing in Eastern Europe. Verbeek also sees an increase in Asia. “China and India are major players, and large orchards are planted here in one go.” He has noticed that the flavour orientation is becoming more varied in Asia. “For example, Chinese consumers only ate sweet Fuji apples a few years ago, but now more varieties can be found in Chinese supermarkets.” EXPERIENCE In the Netherlands and Belgium, demand for pear trees has increased considerably, and it’s expected this will continue for a 132

AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2018

while longer. “For a long time, the Netherlands was a frontrunner in apples, but more pears than apples are produced in the Netherlands at the moment. This will continue to grow,” Verbeek says. “In Eastern Europe, the apple market is growing, so that the market is becoming quite full. In the Netherlands we have the advantage that the climate is incredibly suitable for growing good-quality pears. Because of this, we can be distinctive compared to the rest of the world. The price for pears has been stable for years, and this means many growers are replacing their apple trees with pear trees. There will naturally always be a market for Dutch Elstar and Jonagold, but probably not for export as much.” Verbeek expects club varieties will increase. “This market is much stabler than that of the free varieties.” He has noticed that sales of varieties are organised more often nowadays. “For a single grower it’s more difficult to create an added value for free varieties. In Western Europe, we’re currently near the max regarding costs, not much more can be gained in that regard. That’s why we have to try to get a fair price for our final product. This is more easily achieved when sales are organised, and when you bring an exclusive product on the market. Nowadays it’s all about marketing and the experience of the product.” CONFERENCE PEARS Regarding pears, Conference will remain the main variety, according to the tree-nurseryman. “It’s a very good pear that can be

CONSUMER According to Verbeek, the purchasing behaviour of consumers has changed in recent years, and will continue to change. “In the past, every village had a greengrocer who told customers to try certain apples or pears because they had a good flavour. The people ended up buying these products, even if they didn’t look all that good, just because they tasted good. People returned for these products. Nowadays, fruit is bought based on appearance and smell. Appearance and packaging will only become more important due to the increase of online supermarkets.” He mentions Pink Lady as an example: “Why do people buy a relatively expensive Pink Lady apple that’s beautifully pink and is packed per four in a nicer packaging? Due to the experience and added value created for the product, because its flavour is similar to that of Elstar apples.” Ordering online doesn’t yet play an important part in the tree nursery. “Customers actually always come to look at the trees when they’re buying from us, after all, it’s an investment that’ll last you for years. There’s hardly any competition among Dutch growers,” he says. “We work together in various fields, and we’re all responsible for propagation fields. Occasionally someone will drop below the price when there are large quantities, but that just makes sense.” 

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AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2018


07-01-17 16:24


Leon van Meir: “When the harvest drowns every other year, it’ll soon be over”

Will potatoes still be grown on a large scale in the Netherlands in 25 years? Nothing is as changeable as the weather. While potatoes were affected by the consequences of drought in early summer, they got so much water in late summer it became impossible to grub them up, and quality of the potatoes was much affected by this. “These kinds of extremes didn’t exist in the past. If this continues, it’ll be impossible to grow potatoes in the Netherlands in 25 years. When the harvest drowns every other year, it’ll soon be over,” says Leon van Meir of the potato and onion packing station of the same name from Steenbergen.


he older people from the potato sector might remember this. In the past we also had the occasional weather extreme, but the effects on the product were much smaller. I can remember the year 1974, I was 14, we went onto the fields with tractors, but we had to grub up the potatoes by hand, because it was too wet. We ended up grubbing up the potatoes in spring, because due to a lack of mechanisation, we couldn’t get the potatoes from the ground earlier than that. Fortunately, no potatoes had started rotting yet. That’s difficult to imagine nowadays.” SPREADING RISKS For the production of onions, Van Meir went to Walloon to spread the risks. For potatoes, the packing station has no own production in the French-speaking region of Belgium, but they do have farmers who supply them with product. “Spreading risks is an important part of our strategy. A major customer that represents a large part of your turnover might be nice, but it also


AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2018

makes you vulnerable. The same is true if your production is only in one location. In production, you also see great entrepreneurs who spread their sales by having part done based on contracts, part in a pool and part on the free market. And make no mistake, it can also rain heavily in Walloon, but the water flows down the hill within an hour. In the Netherlands, fields are sometimes flooded for five days straight.”

“In onions, you can see production areas spreading out to the north and to the peat districts, but in potatoes, that shift happened years ago. Production in sandy soils in Brabant compared to 20 years ago might have multiplied by 14. In fact, potatoes can be grown anywhere, as long as there’s plenty of — and not too much — water,” Leon continues. According to him, the type of soil is less important. “The best soil is the one that hasn’t had too much rain. The difference in yields between the southwest and the polders is purely due to weather this year. If it had been as dry in the pol-

ders, yields would have been reversed. But this time, the southwest didn’t have any rain for three months. You then have a large problem if you can’t irrigate, as is the case in Zeeland.”

SITUATION IN STORAGE SHEDS WORRISOME For this season, potato trade has to mark time. “Right now, there’s plenty of supply, and it will take some time before the market recovers. A season with much supply and low prices offers good export opportunities. Chips factories have expanded their capacity enormously, but the harvest is so large, I wonder if the season can land on its feet. Not for a while, in any case,” Leon says. “Furthermore, I think the situation in many storage shed is worrisome. You can just smell the rot when driving into yards, in seed potatoes as well. That could result in a major debit.” “The market for table potatoes will only decline even more. The older generations might buy a bag of 10 kilograms of potatoes on occasion, but young people who work all day don’t peel potatoes in the evening. The growth therefore has to come from the chips industry, and from the ready-to-cook segment. Slices and small potatoes, that’s where the market is headed,” Leon concludes. 

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Primeur • English Edition • Fruit Logistica 2018  
Primeur • English Edition • Fruit Logistica 2018