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Specialized trade sees opportunities in the organic sector

"Few consumers still grate horseradish themselves"

This year's horseradish harvest started last week (CW 45). In many places there were crop failures due to the dry summer. In Poland, almost the entire harvest had failed, said a specialized wholesale business in a Freshplaza interview. In Poland, there is little irrigated cultivation and so growers knew from the beginning they had to think about new strategies because of the weather conditions. Early on, traders started to buy older lots from -for example- Austria and Hungary in order to have any goods available at all.

At the moment there is no good information about the outcome of the season. Due to the extreme differences in precipitation -with floods in some places and droughts in others- yields are very different this season. Producers who had no irrigation now harvest much smaller products than usual, which also leads to losses.

Niche product
There are no big differences between horseradish varieties. Very important is a rod length of about 25-30 cm. The European average is about 25 cm. For food retail (LEH) only A-Ware are desirable, according to the size specifications of 30 cm in length and a weight of 300 gr on average.

Apart from this, in recent years there has been a trend towards smaller grades: "Supermarkets are more often demanding stems weighing 220-280g, and nowadays only a few consumers grate their own horseradish, and if so, only in small quantities," says one trader.

With an annual turnover of 250 tons of fresh horseradish, these vegetables are a niche product. In northern Germany horseradish is mainly used for dishes with fish. In southern Germany and Austria, it is seen as more versatile. Horseradish is most often served around Christmas and Easter. In July and August a lot of horseradish is used to spice up cucumbers. At Christmas and New Year's Eve, demand increases threefold. Horseradish is traded throughout the year at mostly constant prices.

Organic horseradish
As with many fruits and vegetables, the demand for organic products continues to increase. "Now that big supermarkets are asking for it, demand is growing. But nowadays the various requirements and specifications make the product very expensive. Since horseradish is more of a luxury product anyway, it can not keep up with the market." Organic horseradish is a little over twice as expensive as the conventional product.

In the organic sector, which has very small production volumes, it is particularly difficult to sort out sufficient quantities of small-scale horseradish for retailing. "However, if demand continues to rise despite the prices, producers will certainly be prepared to do this and expand their production."

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