Wout van Es, Wilko Fruit:
"Ethiopian strawberries are in our warehouse 24 hours after being harvested"
Ethiopia is not the first place that springs to mind as a country of origin for strawberries. Yet at the IlanTot Strawberry Farm, about an hour's drive from Addis Ababa, a few hundred tonnes of this fruit is produced on an annual basis. Wilko Fruit in Breda is one of the Dutch importers that distribute these Ethiopian strawberries. "We have supplies from week 48 all the way up to week 14. We get three shipments via airfreight per week. With these strawberries, we fill the gap between the Spanish and Egyptian import season and the Dutch greenhouse season", says Wout van Es.
Although the IlanTot Strawberry Farm has started growing raspberries on a small scale, Wilko Fruit is, at least for this year, limiting itself to strawberries. "It has been going very well for a number of years now", says Wout. "There are no problems with these strawberries. They grow the Rotami, Tamar and Roky varieties, and these tasty strawberries are well received by our customers. At this farm, the cooling chain is in place within 20 minutes of of the strawberries being collected from the fields. It continues with us delivering the fruit, with our own trucks, to the cooling rooms at the Addis Ababa Airport. Despite the distance, these strawberries are in our warehouse within 24 hours, making them even fresher than the Spanish product. The main buyers of these Ethiopian strawberries are supermarkets and higher-end green grocers."
"We are proud of the impact the farm in Ethiopia is having on the local community", says Wout van Es. "IlanTot Strawberry Farm employs more than 550 people, most of whom are women. Besides the owner, who comes from Israel, all the farm personnel, workers and managers are 100% local. The workers have free access to drinking water on the farm and in the nearby school. They also receive English lessons, and the farm supplies electricity to the local church which is connected to the farm's generator."
For the past eight years, the farm has been BRC and GlobalGAP certified and holds a social SMETA certificate. Wout sees a lot of potential for these Ethiopian strawberries. "Ethiopia offers fantastic climatic conditions for year-round cultivation. The farm is situated at 1 800 metres above sea level, with 12 hours of sun per day. It has an year-round average temperature of between 22 and 28 degrees centigrade. In addition, over the past few years, a lot of attention has been paid to packaging, sorting and presentation."
Publication date: 11/29/2017
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