"If you reflect on the last few months, everything went well," says Jan Vermeiren of Exofi in Belgium. "When COVID-19 broke out, we panicked a bit because the hospitality industry had to close. But we were able to compensate for that with our other clients. So, we lost almost no revenue. Transportation, however, posed problems."
"All products were available, but some countries had no airfreight facilities. Thailand, Vietnam, and Malaysia haven't been able to send any products for ten weeks now. Freight prices have increased by 60% to 80% too. You need know-how and experience in a crisis like this. You must be able to switch quickly and find solutions."
"Citrus and kiwis have done exceptionally well in recent months. Exotics did less well. In general, there was a lot of demand for standard and 'healthy' products, like ginger and turmeric. Ginger's sky-high prices have rapidly fallen. They're now below normal," says Jan. "We're currently focusing on summer fruits."
"Stonefruit is selling very well. There's a lot of demand. The supply is, however, a little lower than usual. That's due to the damage they sustained in Spain. We also sold a lot of Spanish cherries this year, despite their high price. In contrast, we've seen barely any French cherries this season."
"There's a lot of Hass avocados currently available. That's because there are several countries in production now. That means Hass prices are quite low at €2.50/kg. Greenskins are going for €2.00/kg. Hass prices are usually 40 to 50% higher. Greenskins are currently coming from Peru and South Africa, with normal supplies. There was a lot of demand for greenskins during Ramadan. That meant prices reached a good level," explains Jan.
In contrast to avocados, there is a limited supply of mangos. Kent mangos are currently coming in via container from the Ivory Coast. "The limited supply means this variety is reasonably expensive at the moment. Prices are at around €2.00/kg," adds the importer.
"There are also relatively few flown-in mangos. Currently, 80% comes from Mexico and 20% from Senegal. Mexico's halfway through its season and Senegal's just begun. Despite the crisis, there is a high demand for flown-in mangos. Even if they're selling at high prices."
"We could compensate for our lost hospitality client revenue. I am, however, concerned that we're facing an uncertain time. Hospitality businesses are slowing reopening. But, they're expecting one to three of four restaurants to go under. They missed out on one of the best times of the year. An estimated 200,000 Belgians are also expected to lose their jobs."
"Not everyone's doing well financially either. We've noticed we sell less toward month's end. Many people are going to be affected financially by this crisis. The crisis will also affect consumer behavior. People are going to cook more themselves. Health is also going to become increasingly important," concludes Jan.