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Sven Roosen, Gerrit Fruit sorting company

"Sorting company grows while Belgian market shrinks"

Sorting and fruit company, Gerrits Fruit from Kortessem, Belgium, has grown fast over the last 12 years. Despite the loss of the Russian market, this business remains healthy. Even so, owner, Sven Roosen, is not sure of the future. "The Belgium hard fruit world has become more difficult over the past few years. I am apprehensive about what the future will bring for us", admits Sven. The business revolves around the sorting of apples and pears, a sector that has changed since the Russian export boycott.

Sven Roosen and Miet Gerrits of the sorting company, Gerrits Fruit.

Local market
"Thanks to Russia, for many years, we needed to do very little marketing", Sven says. "In the meantime it has been three years since we lost Russia as a market, and it is difficult. During this time, a lot of competition also popped up, not only in the pear market, but also for the apples. Yet, we still process 4 000 and 6 000 tonnes of apples and pears, respectively. We sort by size and quality. Since the problem with Russia, we have, however, seen that the local market, and other European markets, have become more interested. Yet, the future remains uncertain. I don't know what it will bring."

Different sizes of pears are placed in different crates.

The pears' sorting process at Gerrits Fruit.

No-one knows what the future holds. What is known, however, is that Gerrits Fruit has a total of 40 hectare of its own fruit. The largest part of that is pears. "We have 35 hectare pears and 5 hectare apples", says the owner. "When it comes to pears, we grow and sort mostly Conference. We have various kinds of apples. Here, we cool and sort our own, as well as other growers' fruit, that is destined for Europe and other parts of the world. In 2008, we, along with various growers, established a growers association called New Green. All the fruit is sold via this platform."

The fruit is washed during the sorting process.

After being washed, the pears are dried and sorted.

Sven is afraid that the Belgian sector that he works in will have a tough time in the future. According to him, the production process for fruit is slowly becoming more expensive in Belgium. "I expect fruit cultivation to keep growing in Eastern Europe", he says. "For a long time, fruit growing in the Eastern European countries was done a small scale. Since these countries have been receiving subsidies from the European Union, they have come a long way. While Belgium and the Netherlands used to be the front runners, this is slowly starting to change." While the Eastern European countries receive large subsidies, it is not, according to Sven, good for a business to receive too many subsidies. "Normally, you get a subsidy if a company or sector is not doing well. A healthy business does not need any financial help. In my view, this is not a healthy situation."

Gerrits Fruit has their own transport, which makes deliveries and offloading at suppliers and customers easy.

Although it seems the sector is not always doing so well, the company keeps growing. Sven and Miet, his wife, have been running the business since 2005. During the same time, the business' number of hectares of fruit has grown by about 150%. "In 2005 we still had 16 hectare fruit", says Sven. "Just two years ago, we took over another five hectares. At the moment we have 40 hectare. This is a sharp increase, compared to before. Looking at the future, I don't know if I want to grow more. At the moment, in any case, it is going well with our company. We will see what happens."

One of the businesses in Kortessem's owns pear trees.

For more information:
Gerrits Fruit
131 Hasseltsesteenweg
3720 Kortessem (België)
T: +32 (0) 11 37 60 17

Publication date: 10/12/2017


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