“A year is often measured by the turnover of a company. Our turnover was six per cent lower than last year,” says Gaston Opdekamp of Coöperatie Hoogstraten. “I don’t think just us, but everyone in the sector was considerably affected by the long-lasting heatwave and the accompanying dry weather this year. This definitely left its marks. Initially because of the reduced productions, but also through oversupply as a result of product ripening too quickly, which led to low prices. For strawberries, prices were good on average, but a lot of differences could be seen among various production companies. Returns among strawberry companies are larger than ever before.”
For vegetables, Coöperatie Hoogstraten left quite a few kilos unharvested as a result of bad setting in the hot period. “Because of this, less volume arrived on the market this year. Bell pepper had a year of average pricing, perhaps a bit lower than the prices growers would have preferred, but with fair volumes,” Gaston says. “Besides influence on volumes and pricing, the warm weather also affected the spirits and systems of the growers. These were difficult months, but fortunately, all of Central Europe was affected by this as well.”
“If warm and dry summers won’t be exceptions in the coming years, people will eventually start looking for varieties that are better adapted to the weather. But growers will also start investing in larger water supplies and better water techniques. You can’t stop the weather, and growers will look for solutions when patterns emerge. The suppliers of techniques will also eventually start offering solutions,” Gaston continues. “Quite a few growers didn’t have enough water these summer months. Surface water could no longer be used in Belgium and the Netherlands, it was being rationed. Water is and will remain a challenge.”
Demand for tomatoes around Christmas measured by pricing isn’t great, according to the manager. “The vine tomatoes had good prices, but while we once had great Christmas prices, that hasn’t been the case in years. For strawberries, we had barely half the volume we had last year. In 2017, we had 174 tonnes of strawberries in week 51. In 2018 we didn’t even have 70 tonnes of supply. This means we had considerable prices this Christmas. The illuminated productions have also started, but we’re not at the volumes of previous years.”
2018 wasn’t an easy year, and it had many unexpected turns. Both large and small problems occurred. “2019 will be a year in which we from Coöperatie Hoogstraten will be devoted to professionalising. This means investing in people and IT. This is a challenge we will resolutely be dedicated to, but it will take years, although results should already be seen in 2019. The recently acquired strawberry growers from Zundert also require our attention, but also challenges us to continue growing. This should also spur us on to continue expanding our volume, and strengthen our presence on the market. It’s nice that the counter is reset when a new year starts, so that we can start over,” Gaston concludes.