The French banana market is largely in hands of a number of small players. The number of wholesalers with a banana ripening chamber is decreasing. Lomme Primeurs from Lomme in the north of France, just south of Lille, is an exception. The wholesaler has recently invested in a ripening chamber for tropical fruit.
“Three or four companies control the French banana market,” says Pascal Gourmez of Lomme Primeurs. “Fewer and fewer wholesalers like us are ripening bananas. It’s a specialised market and you need special skills.” Experience is another requirement, Pascal explains. “You have to be recognised as a banana specialist by the customers. It’s a competitive market, because the bananas are used to draw customers to the shops. Price is important, but so are quality and service.”
Difficult banana market
The French wholesaler has been in operation for 23 years. The company can be found on the wholesaler’s market near Lille, where 50 companies can be found in total. Lomme Primeurs trades about 25,000 tonnes of fruit and vegetables per year. “We’re a traditional wholesaler with 14 salespeople,” Pascal explains. “Each of them buys and sells products independently, and they are responsible for their own product group. The majority of our customers are specialists in fruit and vegetables.”
Six months ago, the first ripening chamber was taken into use. Per month, about 100 tonnes of bananas are ripened, both conventionally and organically. “It’s important to be considered a ripener on our wholesaler’s market,” Pascal continues. For the supply of the bananas the trader works with other companies. “We don’t have our own direct import from banana countries.”
Pascal admits the current banana market is difficult. “It’s very difficult to find conventional bananas,” he says in week 6. “Prices are high, and there are currently problems in Latin America, because there’s so much demand.” The situation isn’t much better for organic bananas. “Demand for organic bananas is increasing rapidly,” Pascal concludes. “Even shop chains that don’t do organic because they don’t believe in these products, see organic bananas as a product group with the potential to increase sales.”
Besides the conventional assortment of fruit and vegetables, Lomme Primeurs has an organic version of some products in their range. These products are marketed under the Labella brand.