The top fruit season has started positively at Bel'Export with the Corina pear, which will be sorted until the end of the week. As of Monday the company will start with the first Conference. "The season started a lot earlier than last year. The average sales price for the Corina is around 1 Euro and for the better grower the price is around 70 cent per kilo. This is a good price to start with both for the grower and the trader," says Tony Derwael of Bel'Export.
"Hoping for a good price formation"
"The prospects for the coming top fruit season are a lot more positive than last year. Less apples and pears are expected this year. Poland has a lot less apples than last year, but Belgium also has a lot less. Due to the heat we already had to sort out between 15 to 20 percent of the apples," according to Tony. "The heat in Belgium didn't affect the pears quite as much, but Italy has a lot less this year as a result of the extreme weather conditions. The lower harvest of Abade Fetel could be good for Conference in Germany. Although the European productions are still quite high, we hope the price formation will make up for a lot of this.
Sunburn on the apples as a result of the the heatwave in July
"Seven plagues of Egypt"
Yet the trader isn't confident it will be a carefree season. "No one knows what will happen with the impending Brexit. But I don't think it will be good for the fresh produce industry. Thankfully we have experience with exporting to 'third' countries, but it's like going 40 years back in time," continues Derwael. "It's like the top fruit sector is going through the seven plagues of Egypt. In 2013 we have the 'Pukkelpop' storm that didn't just take out the harvest, but entire plantations. The year after that Russia suddenly closed on August 7 as a measure against the EG boycott. In 2015 and 2016 we had huge hail storms that destroyed harvests in Limburg. In 2017 we had night frost in spring and last year the harvest was so big that the prices plummeted due to oversupply. Hopefully we can close off the seventh year of bad luck with the sunburn that damaged many young apple and pear trees!"
"Our cultivation is like a race in which each hurdle has to be jumped in order not to be disqualified. The worst thing that could happen to us would be for NOTHING to go wrong during the cultivation period, resulting in an overproduction like last year. Back when the Dutch were better at football than the Belgians there was a great man from Amsterdam who said: "Every disadvantage has an advantage!"
Investment in new markets
At the start of next week the first Conference pears will be picked, sorted and sent to the customers. "The Conference look good. The size is larger than last year and we expect a better quality product will a longer shelf life. We hope to export a lot of Conference to Germany this year, but also to new markets like Mexico and Asia. It takes a few years before a new market has fully accepted the product, but when you put the work in as a chain it is possible to open new markets," concludes Tony.
Kevin Derwael, Bernd Jager, Tony Derwael and the dog Nixon
A large portion of apples were sorted out
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