In 2018, BelOrta reached a turnover of 450 million euros. Because of this, the cooperative realises a slight growth of 2.4% compared to 2017 with branches in Sint-Katelijne-Waver, Borgloon and Zelik. The sold volume decreased slightly to 635 million units, amounting to 475 million kilos. The difficult weather circumstances BelOrta growers were faced with are part of the cause of this product decline.
Again the weather
The weather conditions have now become a permanent item in annual surveys regarding the production of fresh fruit and vegetables. In 2018, the top fruit was still affected by the severe night frosts of April 2017. Because of this, the supplied volume of apples and pears was at a considerably lower level during the first half of the year, and stocks emptied more quickly than usual. The warm, dry summer had consequences for the production of the 2018 season. The harvested volume of apples and pears was the highest in Europe in several years. This, combined with the larger apple sizes and smaller pear sizes, caused problems for smooth marketing. However, we can conclude that the good, sunny weather had a positive influence on the flavour of a lot of fruit and vegetables.
The different waves of very warm weather in spring and summer caused extra large peak productions of certain fruit and vegetables. For example, growers of, among other products, white asparagus and outdoor strawberries had incredibly large production amounts in spring. This phenomenon didn’t just occur in Belgium, but also in neighbouring countries, so that they were confronted with a congested market – resulting in weak pricing. During the summer period, our tomato and aubergine growers, among others, had to deal with a similar phenomenon. The beautiful weather, combined with ideal production circumstances, ensured large productions for weeks on end for both us and our neighbouring countries.
Despite great efforts from a large number of growers, the record dry weather of 2018 affected productions of quite a few products. Examples are lettuce crops and celeriac in summer, but also leek and cabbage crops during the autumn and winter.
Vegetable range continues to increase
This year, more than 150,000,000 kilos of tomatoes were produced by BelOrta growers once again. Within the range, we can notice some shifts. Areas of beefsteak tomatoes and speciality tomatoes continue to grow. The area of illuminated production and winter production also increases. More and more customers choose these locally grown tomatoes because of quality and freshness.
Although the supplied number of cucumbers is declining, the product is still in second place regarding volume with 130,000,000 units. Compared to 2017, 2018 was a better year for this product. The warm summer ensured an increased demand for this thirst-quenching vegetable. This, combined with slightly smaller areas internationally, resulted in smooth marketing.
The volume of butterhead lettuce and lettuce varieties declines, but is still in third place, followed by chicory, bell pepper, a rapidly increased volume of aubergine and courgette.
The total range of vegetables and herbs now consists of more than 120 varieties, but is still increasing every year. At the Tavola fair, BelOrta was awarded a prestigious Golden Tavola for the Friseline innovation (a new cross of various endive varieties), and during their own product show Bello this autumn, BelOrta presented a completely new assortment of new varieties, concepts and trends in fruit and vegetables.
Diversification in fruit range
As mentioned before, the severe night frost of April 2017 also affected the supply of apple and pear in the first half of 2018. Besides, the warm and dry weather of last summer caused the producers major challenges. The volume of pears decreased to 65 million kilos because of this. The same phenomenon also affected the supply of apples; with 35 million kilos, supply was much lower compared to 2017. Moreover, the market circumstances in the second half of the year turned out to be very difficult as a consequence of the very large European supply. With our growers we are working hard on our future now. For example, by developing new export destinations, new packaging, new sales systems and developing existing and introducing new club varieties we’re trying to change the tide and work on a sustainable future for our top fruit growers.
The supply of strawberries remains practically the same compared to the volume of 2017: 10.5 million kilos. However, we report large yield differences among the different production methods. In 2018, cherries had a record supply of 1.6 million kilos thanks to ideal weather circumstances. The central hydro-cooling and sorting ensured a qualitative, homogenous product with a good shelf life. This results in good faith among buyers. The volume of berries is also increasing, mostly because of an increase in the production of blackberry. These and raspberries are the biggest references of soft fruit for BelOrta, followed by blueberries and red currants.
In stone fruit, the BelOplum plum was introduced and presented at the Fructura fair in Hasselt. In cooperation with a tree nursery, growers and trade, BelOrta developed this segment in double baking-plum varieties. Responses from the market and consumers are promising, and moreover, for BelOrta fruit growers this is a chance for diversification of their company.
“BelOrta, a strong brand”
“For the third year in a row, BelOrta organised an extensive marketing campaign. Via TV, radio, print, social media and POS, both brand and product campaigns were held focused on Belgian consumers. That BelOrta has become one of the best known fruit and vegetable brands is apparent from recent surveys. As much as 60 per cent of the Belgians now knows BelOrta and associates this brand with fruit and vegetables,” according to BelOrta.