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Interview with Marc Peyres, of Blue Whale

“More than anything else in the fruit business, the key is the orchard”

Last year’s apple season for the French exporter Blue Whale, which accounts for around 22% of the country’s fresh apple export, started really well, with very good prices between summer and Christmas for many varieties. In the second half, however, the market came under pressure and some prices dropped, although on average it was a good campaign.


Marc Peyres from Blue Whale

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Marc Peyres affirms that “this season, however, with a better crop in terms of both quality and size, will not be as good, mainly for two reasons: firstly, because last season finished with a bad trend, and secondly, because of this year’s poor balance between supply and demand. We hope it will improve for the second half.”

Blue Whale focuses on the three apple varieties that yield the best results in the area and which, according to Marc cannot reach the same quality in other places of Europe: Gala, with 64,000 tonnes; Pink Lady (the most profitable in the area for the past five years), with 42,000 tonnes, and Granny Smith, with 34,000 tonnes.


Chantecler

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“We also produce Chantecler, which has a nice niche market in France, and our Fuji premium is very successful in Spain and France. Additionally, we have some other smaller and newer varieties, like Canada Gris or Joya.”

In recent seasons, there has been a dropping trend in the volumes of Southern Hemisphere apples imported to Europe. Marc Peyres says that “this is due to rising costs, which is reducing their competitiveness. Europe is also one of the few areas where imports have been massive and this is changing.”

Regarding the Russian ban and the Polish oversupply, Marc Peyres says that “the question is whether the Polish produce is suitable for Western consumers. They produce perhaps a good Elstar or Jonagored, but not a good Gala or Golden. There is a market for price and another for quality, and although we cannot compete on the former, we can on the latter.”


Coldstore

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Marc Peyres says that Blue Whale exported just 10,000 tonnes of apples directly to Russia, last season, so for them, in this respect, it is not such a big deal. “It is certainly not as big a problem as that of peach and nectarine producers, who of course don’t have as long to adapt. But it will be really worrying for some varieties, if the ban continues after Janurary.”

Many sources also state that China’s production this year will drop by 10 to 20%, so there is no pressure on that front. “Additionally, India’s harvest this year is also not so high, so maybe they will start importing in December instead of March,” explains Marc.

He believes that the biggest problem for the Southern Hemisphere next season will be finding markets for their fruit, as “Europe will be full, and although there will be a bigger market in China or India, their conditions are not as easy as Europe’s.”

“Additionally, when you look at the volume Russia imports, you see that they purchase mostly cheap fruit, and they will not replace cheap Polish apples with expensive South American produce.”


Big boxes for far destinations

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Blue Whale currently exports to 50 countries outside Europe. “We prefer 10 small markets rather than just one large, because it gives you more options to ship your fruit depending on its characteristics. Last season, for example, we managed to ship our small fruit to Southeast Asia,” explains Marc. “Although selling outside Europe is always riskier.”

In terms of cultivation, Blue Whale has partnerships with growers in South America to be able to supply the Middle East and Asia during the off-season, packing in Chile and Brazil. Marc states that “more than anything else in fruit, the key is the orchard, and growers in that area are very competitive. With a good orchard and good growers you can accomplish a lot.”

When it comes to long-term expectations, he believes that Blue Whale will continue increasing its production volumes, but also remain involved in projects to renew its varieties, as “in the fruit business, you can sell cheap and survive for 10 years, but if you don’t renew, you have no future.”

For more information:
Marc Peyres
Blue Whale
Tel +33 563 215 656
Email: Marc@blue-whale.com
www.blue-whale.com


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