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According to Geert Claes there is no more supply and demand
"Growers have become modern slaves"
According to Geert Claes of Belgian Fruit Innovation Farmers, fruit growers and the entire agrarian sector are modern slaves to society. "Mafia practices are used by the trade. The sales price usually doesn't cover the costs anymore. It's impossible to survive with these bad prices." He believes producers thought for too long that all kinds of organisations and auctions would defend our problems and interests. "Those who still believe in this as growers, don't realise what they're doing to their company. If we as fruit growers and the rest of the agrarian sector don't take matters into our own hands, we will just keep treading water."
Trade pressures growers
He believes there is no more demand and supply. "This was true 50 years ago, when the companies were still small. People had to sell their products on the local market and this is how the auctions were created. In the past there were a lot of small stores that had to sell and offer on the auction clock. If there were better parties or less fruit, these traders had to bid against each other through the clock. The small shops were slowly replaced by large supermarket chains, where people prefer to sell all year round for the same price. As a trader you had to make a price from a longer period of time and preferably cheaper than the next trader. The fruit is really already sold before its bought. This is where the problems start. The traders pressure fruit growers to sell at an increasingly cheaper price. It's a downward spiral that certainly has nothing to do with demand and supply."
Geert says that there is no one who is really fighting for them. "Who in government or farmers organisations fights for us? No one! People are leaving the agrarian sector to it's fate. There used to be a lot of small farmers and this is what created the farmers organisations. They were listened to by the governments. Farmers organisations are now multiple companies that have stakes in multiple retail companies. They've really become buyers and sellers. Yet they are still the talking point and mouthpiece for the government."
Who decides the price?
"We are still stuck with a 50 year old sales system even though it no longer fits with our companies. The trade has organised itself into large store chains and we fruit growers are standing on the other side, unorganised. Yes, we have larger companies where people can do everything all year round, but we let others decide the price for our product. This apparently only happens in the agrarian sector. When I need new tyres the tyre traders tells me how much I have to pay for them and I can take it or leave it."
Are there solutions?
The grower says there are solutions. "First we have to realise that we have a product someone else wants. From here we should be able to collaborate to have a larger stock with which we can supply large supermarket chains for an entire year. This is all easier said than done, but I believe it's the only solution to remain viable. As fruit growers, everyone is too focused on themselves. Every company is getting bigger and will have to grow. Everyone is trying to do all the work themselves which means one thing is suffering from the other. If we want to work together, people have to be convinced that some work has to be done centrally, so we can supply a uniform product. The trade is a demanding party for this, but it also makes space to discuss a price and space to get the best from the growth in everyone's company."
Geert hopes that his opinions will be a reason for other to discuss this and look critically at their company. "If other people think I'm wrong, they can respond. The only hope is that people stand up to unite and try to find solutions!"
For more information:
Fruit Innovation Farmers
3800 Zepperen - Belgium
T: +32 (0) 495 99 76 86
Publication date: 8/9/2017
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