"The coronavirus is certainly affecting us. But, for imports, things are not that bad yet. The supply of overseas products is still continuing. That could, however, change rapidly. Flights are being scrapped, and we hope the ports will keep functioning. Fruit and vegetables from Southern Europe are still coming in too," says Jurgen De Witte of the Belgian company, Group A. De Witte.
"But, transport is becoming more expensive, and the trucks take longer to get here. Producers are struggling to fill the trucks. They have too few workers. There is also only one driver allowed per truck. There are almost no return loads either. This is making everything costlier. Fortunately, the supply is continuing. But we will have to wait and see how things develop in the time to come."
Empty corridors at the European Center in Brussels, Belgium.
"Our buyers and sellers are all working from home. Sales at the European Center are, however, continuing as normal. But, selling is no longer taking place in the gallery. No samples are placed out either. The gallery remains accessible. We are, however, asking people to place orders telephonically or via email as much as possible. Despite the call to cease doing so, many market vendors still come to the market. But we have seen a serious decline in the number of visitors," says Jurgen.
When it comes to sales, De Witte sees two significant differences. "Sales to retail clients is going full steam ahead. There is enormous demand, and the figures are skyrocketing. On the other hand, sales to clients in the hospitality industry have just about stopped. All the establishments in this sector are now closed. We can, therefore, not deliver anything there."
"We hope this situation will normalize quickly. If it continues for a long time, I am afraid many clients may not be able to pay their accounts. If that happens, there will be a kind of snowball effect in the sector. Hopefully, the government will come up with a solution soon," concludes Jurgen.