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Piet Meerkerk, Special Fruit in Belgium:
"Organic blueberries market growing faster than conventional market"Piet Meerkerk has been an integral part of Special Fruit for many years. He is the buyer for organic blueberries in the company, which makes him qualified to answer a few questions.
Do you think the demand for organic blueberries is growing?
We have seen a definite increase in the consumption of blueberries over the last three years. The main reason is that consumers are becoming more critical of the use of pesticides in agriculture. Blueberries have also become very popular in the last few years. Total consumption increases annually, which is also good for the organic farming sector. We have noticed that this market is growing faster than the conventional one.
Which varieties are popular now, and why?
Not to blow our own trumpet, but our blueberries from Mirtisul, our Portuguese company, are of very good quality. Each variety tastes different from the next. I, personally, prefer the Duke, but this variety is not suited for cultivation in Portugal. It is, however, an ideal variety to grow in Northern Europe. At present we, along with one of our Dutch growers, are working on developing a organic version of the Duke.
Which varieties does your company grow?
We cultivate five different kinds of organic blueberries. They are all Southern Highbush varieties like Sharp Blue, Misty and O'Neill. The season starts in May and runs through to July. Our average annual production of blueberries is about 160 ton. We also have a supplier in Northern Germany who harvests between July and September.
From which countries do you get organic blueberries?
To ensure that we have organic blueberries available year-round, we import them from all over the world. We begin the year with berries from Chile, then Spain and Portugal. During the summer we get them from Germany and in the Autumn from South Africa and Chile again.
Why does Special Fruit believe in organic fruit and vegetables?
We want our organic sector to grow; we see it as a valuable addition to our assortment. Why would we not want to help the environment and people's health at the same time? We can see a clear evolution in the demand for food that is "free of". Consumers are more aware of which products they are buying. It is only logical that we, as fresh food suppliers, follow these trends and give them the attention they deserve.
Publication date: 7/17/2017
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