French carrot production has been in decline for some time. Last year the total acreage used was just shy of 13,000 hectares, while in 2000, it was still 17,000 hectares. Yannick Chevray of Bejo in France says, "Many winter vegetables have been under pressure for a long time. Carrots were an exception to this trend for a while, but that is no longer the case." He expects a further decline in the future. In a best-case-scenario of the production of this vegetable will remain stable.
"In France, carrots are a typical winter vegetable. They are steamed, cooked and used in soups", explains Yannick. "They are often used in combination with peas on menus." Carrots are still well-regarded in France, but nowadays people eat fewer fruits and vegetables. This is why Bejo has started promoting the vegetable in the foodstuffs industry. Carrots need to be put back on the menu. "Last year, for example, we organised an exhibition for the foodstuffs industry he says. "I know this is an unusual thing for a seed company to do, but I think it will help Bejo achieve a higher market share." The total acreage used for carrots is slowly shrinking, but the demand for organic carrots is actually increasingly rapidly. Organic carrots currently amount to 4% of French carrot production. Bejo is regarded as a market leader in this growing segment. About 20% of Bejo's turnover in France originates in the organic market. This is a large share, with only Germany coming close to this. Carrots are seen as an important product to stimulate interest in organic vegetables in general.
Carrots of the larger varieties
In recent years, carrot prices have also dropped. This is due to a decline in fresh consumption. The demand for carrots from the industry may be increasing, but this does not translate into good prices. Yannick estimates that the relationship between 'market share, fresh consumption' and the 'industry' is 50/50. This is reflected in the choice of carrots being cultivated. "Growers are more likely to choose high volume varieties. Recently, I opened a container of carrots and peas, just to find pieces of diced carrots. In the past, the small Amsterdam carrots were always used for this in France. Now they prefer the larger Naval variety, which they then dice." Yannick admits that they still taste good. "This is because, here, they use baby carrots for this."The French politicians want to blame imports for the bad prices. The Bejo manager disagrees. He analysed the market figures and found that in import and export balance was no less favourable. In 2015 and 2016, it even benefited France. The low prices are, according to him, mainly due to the decline in consumption.
Storage in the field
"The French way of producing and harvesting carrots is the same as in other countries. There is, however, a marked difference in storage methods", says Yannick. "The growers simply store the carrots in the field over winter. This differs to other northern countries. In Les Landes, in the south-west of France, this form of storage is very common. There, temperatures almost never drop below freezing. Carrot cultivation is also concentrated in Northern France (the third is Normandy). "This is a very interesting area", says Yannick. In recent years, some French farmers have been illegally leasing land to Belgian growers. "Leasing land to foreign farmers is allowed in France, but there are rules concerning this. So, the rental contract has to always be for a minimum of nine years, and you must get official permission for the lease. We noticed that some foreign companies were bypassing these rules. This made it difficult to get a realistic overview of French carrot production. But now, the French are organising the production themselves again, and they are investing in the processing of this product. They are now, for instance, building a new processing plant with a capacity of 10 000-15 000 tonnes per year."
According to Yannick, there is space in France for more carrots to be cultivated. "France is big enough. There was a shift from the west of the country to the south. However, the processing industries' infrastructure limits the opportunities to grow carrots in less traditional regions." Nevertheless, there is a clear need for good soil. "The quality of carrots in the south-west is worsening because there is no crop rotation. A usual 'rotation' is in this area is corn-carrots/corn-carrots and so on. This makes it more difficult to produce good quality carrots. Since the use of chemical pesticides is also being limited more and more, the need for new land is increasing."
Source: Bejo Carrot Magazine
For more information:Bejo Zaden
1749 CZ Warmenhuizen
T + 31 (0) 226 396 162
F + 31 (0 226 393 504www.bejo.nl