André Schaap, Farm Forte Europe:

"Everyone considers sweet potatoes to be a growth market"

In 2018, Farm Forte Europe began a Nigerian adventure. They started cultivating no less than 5,000 hectares of sweet potatoes. This was done with the help of a Dutch shareholder, André Schaap. Now, almost two years later, this company's large-scale projects just keep growing. Albeit at an African pace.

“It is going well with the sweet potatoes. They are growing extremely well," says André. “In Nigeria, we are cultivating the Beauregard variety. We plant about 500 ha in rotation. At the moment, we are looking for good crops such as beans or maize. These will be planted after the sweet potatoes have been harvested."

"The most important factor that we face in farming there is the weather. It always rains during the season. This year, however, it rained more than last year. These weather conditions caused problems for us."

Farm Forte Europe is not only busy setting up major projects in the fields. The company is building an entire industrial park too. This is in Benin, Nigeria. They own 20,000 hectares there. To compare - that is half the size of the Noordoostpolder in the Netherlands.

The first building to be constructed on the site is a conditioning center for the sweet potatoes. “We decided to build this center because we want to deliver high-quality sweet potatoes," explains the shareholder. “Quality is if the utmost importance. It is the only way you can distinguish yourself."

"This is besides the price, of course. But, with that, you will never win. We are also hard at work improving the sweet potatoes' storage and shelf-life." There will not only be a conditioning center in the park. There will also be a processing center. This plant will include a sweet potato chips line for local use.

Growth market
“Everyone considers sweet potatoes to be a growth market," André continues. "As a result, more have been planted in Egypt. Spain has also planted a lot of this product in recent years. So, there is more pressure from that country too."

"We have made deals in other upcoming countries, including Columbia. They have 500 or 600 ha of sweet potatoes. With this, that country has taken a comprehensive approach. They can handle at least 40 containers.” 

Farm Forte Europe supplies sweet potatoes throughout Europe. "Mostly to the Netherlands. But also to Germany, Scandinavia, and the United Kingdom. These are very important markets for us."

"We can import this product from Nigeria as soon as the new curing coolers arrive. These will have a 1.000 ton capacity per two or three weeks. We will, therefore, only be able to go full steam ahead after they have been built," laughs André.

In December, the company will 'finally' get its GlobalGAP and Grasp certification too.

Farm Forte Europa will continue with its adventure in Nigeria. But, it is also focusing on its expansion in the Netherlands. The company now has a branch in the Dutch town of Barendrecht. This site has an entire fruit division. "We went live last month. From there, we concentrate on citrus from Spain, Egypt, South Africa (in-season), and Turkey. We also trade in vegetables from Spain."

"We do not only engage in traditional trade. We also supply our clients directly in various countries. The tempo of development in the Netherlands is much faster than in Nigeria. But, on the other hand - more haste, less speed," concludes André.


For more information:
André Schaap
Wim Boon
Farm Forte Europe
Mob: +31 (0) 638 690 796 (Wim)
Tel: +31 (0) 522 726 681 

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