For citrus, especially oranges, 2020 has, so far, been extraordinary. Demand rose because of the global coronavirus outbreak. This fruit is known as a rich source of vitamin C. The pandemic means more people needed this nutrient. The increasing demand from wholesalers and retailers replaced the failed demand from the hospitality industry. That even led to juicing orange shortages in stores. How did things look for citrus on the Dutch market at the beginning of August?
The Dutch company, Farmforte, was originally based in Nigeria. It’s big in primarily cultivating and selling sweet potatoes. In recent years, it focused more on trading in other fruits and vegetables like citrus. Wim Boon is Farmforte’s sales manager. He says it was quiet during the holidays, but products like oranges were also wildly popular.
“That counts for other produce like limes as well," he says. "We get weekly shipments of these from Brazil, Mexico, and Colombia. We were very busy setting up a citrus sales channel. In the coming years, we’re going to build on this. We started the season with a few fixed Spanish citrus brands. We want to grow from there.”
“Oranges were hard to come by in the trade sector. In Argentina, they had a lot of rain and cold temperatures at the start of August. That’s disastrous for orange cultivation. Things were also difficult in South Africa. Not only was the capacity limited at many fronts due to the coronavirus. There were strikes in that country too.”
The situations in Argentina and South Africa were combined with high demand. That resulted in a hunt for good-quality juicing oranges at the beginning of August. “It was, therefore, sometimes challenging to fulfill retailers’ contracts," admits Wim. "Prices were at around €17 - 18 per 15kg of juicing oranges.”
Wim kept an eye on the situation. But Farmforte soon started with oranges from Spain. “We want to import oranges from the Sevilla and Valencia regions. There are no volume estimates; it's far too early for that. We see how the market was developing in Spain, and citrus prices are estimated to be high. But, we have to see if these prices hold. After all, it remains a question of supply and demand.”
FarmForte has another important product in its assortment - sweet potatoes. The company grows these itself in Nigeria. “Harvesting was in full swing there. COVID-19, however, threw a spanner in the workers regarding export to Europe. Sweet potato certification for the European market is a good example. Our inspectors couldn’t journey to Nigeria. So, they couldn’t do the correct audits to get such certification. No-one was allowed to leave or enter the country at that time. That makes it tough to say when the first sweet potatoes will arrive in Europe,” says Wim.
“The first tests show their quality is excellent at least. They have minimal pesticide residue, so they’re leaning very close to the organic segment. We hope the quality we saw in the fields is retained during transport. We will quality-check the sweet potatoes both before and after shipping. These products aren’t solely earmarked as fresh produce. They’re also marketed as sweet potato beer and chips. We will have sweet potato fries on the market in the future too.”
There are mostly sweet potatoes from the US on the European market. Egypt will soon come with high volumes too. “Three years ago, I wouldn’t have thought sweet potatoes would become such a big-ticket item. But it’s huge now. The coronavirus pandemic hit our sector quite hard. But we see that trade’s slowly picking up again,” concludes Wim.
T: +31(0)6 38690796 (Wim)
Farm Forte Europe
T: +31(0) 522726681