In Belgium, Tomato Masters began with lit tomato cultivation at the beginning of August again. This kind of cultivation used to put pressure on the early season. However, Johan Vlaemynck is not concerned about that this year. "We saw in the media that, this winter, the Spaniards have a smaller than usual tomato acreage."
"Spain is not only feeling the pressure from Morocco and Turkey. They are feeling it from European lit cultivation too. Revenues from lit cultivation are much higher than from unlit Spanish cultivation. That means a lot of growers switched to cucumbers and bell peppers this winter."
Team Tomato Masters, f.l.t.r. is Herman, Johan, Tom, and Dirk Vlaemynck
Julien Vlaemynck founded Tomato Masters 53 years ago. His sons, Dirk, Herman, and Johan, joined the business. They decided to start growing some of the tomatoes hydroponically. They also modernized the company. The Vlaemynck family currently has 20 hectares of tomatoes. They plant to add another four within the next three years.
“Land is very scarce in Belgium. It is difficult to expand. We started Tomeco a few years ago. This was done with other tomato farmers associated with Coöperatie Hoogstraten. The Tomeco growers have a total of 79 hectares of tomatoes”, says Johan.
“Alone, we are far too small to approach retailers. But, as Tomeco, we are large enough. We ask which products they want on their shelves next year. They also tell us how they want the tomatoes packaged. We do all this in partnership with Coöperatie Hoogstraten. Once all the volumes the retail sector wants are known, these are divided up among the member farmers."
"We try to have a maximum of three tomato varieties per company. This is to keep the processes as efficient as possible," continues Vlaemynck. Tomeco is large enough to negotiate with retailers. Despite this, all tomatoes are marketed through Coöperatie Hoogstraten. "We believe in the cooperative approach. Fragmentation is never a good thing. Certainly not for supply - then the retail sector benefits."
The new cardboard crates bearing the Tomeco logo.
Brexit and ToBRFV
“We do not supply any products to England. We are, however, curious to see how Brexit will turn out. The tomatoes that usually go to the UK may end up on our market. This surplus will certainly put the prices under pressure. But, for now, we can only wait and see what the outcome will be."
“We are less concerned about viruses. We take all the necessary precautions in our greenhouses to prevent these. But we are in a good location. There is not that much glasshouse horticulture here in East Flanders. This reduces the chance of infection by birds or insects considerably. You get entire glasshouse villages in the Netherlands. The risk is much higher there than here," adds Johan.
Cubelo tomatoes, ready to leave.
“We are both Global GAP, and KKC certified. This mark of quality from Carrefour carries far more weight than Global GAP. All the TOV in Belgian Carrefour stores come from Tomato Masters. We also supply some of Delhaize and Meat and More (formerly Buurtslagers)'s products."
“Belgian tomato consumption remains stable. This is so, in spite of the effort being made to increase it. Tomatoes are the most popular vegetable. It is followed by carrots. But, we are still not seeing a growth in consumption. Belgium can learn something from Greece. There, people eat dozens of kgs of tomatoes a year. In Belgium, this consumption is only in single figures," concludes Johan.
TOV with Carrefour's KKC label of quality.
The Cubelo tomato.