The Elstar apples sales season is off to a good start, according to Marius van Arkel of the Dutch company Fruitstation Van Arkel. "I think every Dutch supermarket is currently benefitting. The apples are tasty and have a good display life. Elstars' quality is excellent this year," he says.
Fruitstation van Arkel sells some 15 million kg of fruit annually, of which it cultivates a third. Marius estimates Elstar yields at 80%. "Last year, we went through the orchard four times; now, that's only twice. There were many large apples last year, though; this year's sizes are better."
Regarding apples, Fruitstation Van Arkel focuses entirely on Elstar. "We believe Dutch consumers prefer them. There have been years with slightly mealy Elstars, but this summer was a true Dutch one, which worked out well for the apples' flavor," says Marius.
"If you can sort good Elstars now, you'll get between €0.65 and €0.70. That's 30% more than last year's average price of €0.35-€0.40. You can't farm for that. I'm optimistic about sales, considering how smoothly they're already going. I don't see why prices can't rise even further later in the season."
Marius says that conference pear sales are also going well on the local market, though exports must still get going. "Except for Italy, countries haven't had true crop failures," he explains. "Many have their own fruit, so it'll be a few weeks before exports take off."
"All in all, the fruit year shouldn't be bad, though cost control will probably be the magic word. Fruit growers need plenty of power and workers, and those two things have become very expensive. Finding pickers and sorts is especially challenging. Despite increasing automation, there's still much manual labor involved. Many Polish workers who've done this for years are getting older and, so far, I don't see anyone replacing them," Marius concludes.