The coronavirus created its fair share of work at Tino's Fruit in Belgium. "The shop's been very busy in recent months. I estimate we've sold about triple as much as usual. We brought in stringent hygiene rules at the beginning of the crisis. That made customers feel more at ease. Shoppers weren't allowed to touch anything - if you pick it up, you buy it. We continually disinfected everything, and only one person was allowed to shop. We were strict, but we noticed people didn't find it annoying. They felt safe in our shop," says Geert Baecke.
"The hospitality industry was closed during the lockdown. And I have ten drivers who work every day. So, we started with home delivery to private individuals. Initially, we had standard boxes. But, after a lot of demand, we started taking orders too. It's nice that we've kept a lot of customers. In the Netherlands, we were able to serve clients too. At that stage, they weren't allowed to cross the border. You have to come up with creative solutions in times of crisis. You must keep everything running."
Usually, Tino's Fruit sells masses of asparagus during the season. This year, however, the asparagus season fell entirely flat. "This year was a bad year for asparagus. That's very unfortunate, but it is what it," sighs Geert. "We were a bit indignant about one thing - we had to stop selling flowers. This is a by-product that people like to take along, in addition to fruit and vegetables. We had to stop selling flowers because the garden centers had to close. The supermarkets, however, could keep selling flowers."
"The hospitality industry is up and running again. So, we've managed to recover much of the turnover we lost during the lockdown. The restaurants and beach pavilions on the Dutch and Belgian coast have had a great season. People couldn't go away on holiday, and the weather was super. So that's been very positive."
"The Netherlands has imposed new measures. Thirty people, at most, are allowed in a restaurant. That's hit us quite hard. Large businesses only have a third of their usual occupancy. That also means far fewer orders for us," says Baecke.
Now it's not so sunny, and temperatures are falling. The demand for autumn products is, therefore, increasing again. "There's a lot of demand for wild mushrooms. That's because it's game season again. But supply is limited, and prices are high. Winter vegetables such as Brussel sprouts and parsnips are also starting to sell again."
"Just like apples and pears. What's remarkable is the high demand for Belgian top fruit. People increasingly want to know where products come from. That's becoming more and more important to them. That's a nice development if you ask me", concludes Geert.