Northern Italy has seen strict measures being imposed. These are to prevent the further spread of the Coronavirus. For example, several cities have been sealed off. The Italian government has decided to close all schools and universities until mid-March. What impact will this have on fruit and vegetable trade with Italy? We spoke to a few importers and exporters, as well as a Dutch radish farmer in Italy.
Clockwise, from the top left: Willem-Jan Coolbergen, Sandra Bogaard, Frits de Mooij, Gabriel Ghita, Rob de Lijn.
Sandra Bogaard, Fris-Co
"This disease, unfortunately, has a reasonably significant impact. We have clearly noticed that holidays and restaurant reservations are being canceled. This has been happening especially in this week," says Sandra Bogaard of the produce wholesaler, Fris-Co.
This company is based in the Dutch city of Venlo. "We have clients who supply companies in the hospitality industry. But we also have clients that service institutions such as schools and company canteens. They are now getting no orders because these places are closed."
"Several business trips have also been canceled. This is to prevent people from ending up in quarantine. All in all, it is not a great situation. But, sadly, we have no influence over it. So, for now, we are remaining calm. We are not panicking."
Rob de Lijn, Unitrade Holland
Rob de Lijn of Unitrade Holland exports exclusively to Italy. He has noticed that things seem a little quieter. According to Rob, there have not yet been serious consequences. "It is not as if we are doing 50% less trade. Italian schools and restaurants are, indeed, closed."
"But, the supermarkets remain open. People have to eat," he says, level-headedly. "It also helps that the bulk product season has not started in earnest yet. In this concern, it is a blessing in disguise - this happened at the end of February, rather than at the end of May."
Rob says his clients are not in a panic about the spread of this virus. "Of course, it is causing unrest. And no-one can guarantee that we might not be in the same situation here in the Netherlands in two weeks. I was planning to visit Italy this month. But, the travel advice to Italy has been officially amended. I have, therefore, now put these plans on hold."
Gabriel Ghita, Alegriafruit
“We are certainly being affected by the situation in Northern Italy," says Gabriel Ghita of the Belgian company, Alegriafruit. “The wholesale markets in the north of that country are still open. But they could just as easily close next week. We, of course, hope that does not happen."
“Sales are continuing at the moment, and loads are frequently being sent to Italy. We do, however, have fewer orders than usual. The situation is very uncertain, with reports changing every five minutes. No-one knows what is happening. We will just have to wait and see."
Frits de Mooij, Vita Verde
Frits de Mooij of Vita Verde gets a lot of his assortment from Italian farmers. This company is located in Maasdijk, the Netherlands. He also describes trading as quieter. "It is always a little quieter at this time of year. But, until now, trading is as per usual. I have one German client who does not want to buy any more Italian products. But that is it."
"The farmers can all load their wares, even in Northern Italy. So, we are not experiencing any supply problems. It is, however, currently extremely quiet on the Italian wholesale markets. But, that means more products are available for the export market."
Willem-Jan Coolbergen, Ortolanda
Willem-Jan Coolbergen works at the Italian radish nursery, Ortolanda. This farm is in Borgo Grappa. He has noticed the spread of the virus has had 'o,o%' effect on trading. "We are now fully focused on exports. But, we are not seeing any reservations from our clients. They still buy Italian radishes. People will, after all, keep eating vegetables."
The decision to close all the schools in the country is typically Italian, according to him. "That, of course, makes no sense. They have just found an excuse for an extra vacation. No-one is panicked here, at all. I think the virus is a hotter topic in the Netherlands than in Italy. In the region we are located in, everything is continuing as normal. The only thing we have done is to place a few additional hand cleaner dispensers in the greenhouse."