"It's up and down," is how Ad Verkerk, MBF (Meadowbrook Farms) Savannah describes Dutch fruit and vegetable trading of late. "There's currently little control. Many people in the trade sector are waiting to see what will happen. Nevertheless, I expect good sales in the coming weeks. Consumers want to serve something special during the festive season. It must, of course, be of excellent quality. Cheap works for a while. But a bad taste experience outlives how much you pay."
MBF Savannah specializes in importing exotic products via airfreight. Its location near the arrivals terminals at Schipol airport is, therefore, no coincidence. Ad started specializing in this in the 1970s. "It started small. As the years went by, we expanded, adding more new products in our range. Airfreight mangos are an important product for us. We also import haricots vert, sugar snaps, deshelled peas, broccolini, and bird eye chilies."
"These are grown and packed at our farms in Kenya. Imports from not only Zimbabwe, Guatemala, and Peru (including asparagus and blueberries) complement all this. We also get produce from Mexico, Egypt, and the USA (including sweet potatoes). We supply our products throughout Europe. We focus on sales to wholesalers, exporters, and retailers," explains Ad.
"Most of the tastiest, best quality Kent mangos come from Peru. I think Kents, grown in Peru, combine perfectly for the best quality on the market. You can't compare airfreight and boat mangos. That's like comparing apples with oranges. You use a boat mango for grating, in dishes, or for chutneys. You eat mangoes that are flown in, fresh. Their flavor is unrivaled; they're deliciously juicy. The Peruvian mango season runs from November to May. After that, from June to September, we import Kents from Mexico."
There's a reasonable demand for mangos at the moment. "We expect sales to increase around Christmas" continues Verkerk. "When asked about competition from nearby Spain, Ad says you can't compare the two. "Not only is this a different variety (Osteen). The parties and channels that trade in inexpensive mangos are also very different."
Peruvian mangos are more expensive. "That's because of the airfreight tariffs. COVID-19 has limited passenger and cargo flights. As a result, airlines have drastically increased their fares. I don't expect this to change any time soon either. But it's all guesswork. The products we import are fresh and haven't been at sea for three to four weeks. Consumers have recently become more concerned about quality and health. You can see this with certain fruit and vegetable retailers. They can distinguish our products from the cheaper mangos supplied by reefer containers."
But, this health trend goes hand-in-hand with a desire for local products, right? "Yes," Ad agrees. "But fresh Dutch mangos? There's no such thing. We import products that you simply can't grow in the Netherlands. But, there are green beans in the Netherlands, people say. That's a misconception. Our beans - EXF haricots vert from Kenya - are of a completely different variety. They're grown outdoors and harvested and packed by hand. That's very different from Dutch cultivation."
"Most of the green beans and peas that are grown outdoors in the Netherlands are mechanically harvested. Cultivation costs are high. So, far higher yields/m2 are needed to supply an affordable product. Unfortunately, this does nothing for the flavor. We, however, can supply tasty, affordable products from Kenya. These are supplemented with produce from Zimbabwe, Guatemala, Peru, Mexico, and Egypt. All-year-round."
When asked which products he recommends as part of a Christmas meal, Ad proudly names his Peruvian mangos. But vegetables like Kenyan haricots verts, beans, sugar snaps, and shelled pea won't go amiss. "You won't believe it when you taste these. All our products are grown in good, fertile, black soil. They're carefully sorted and packed by hand. You can taste that attention and purity," Ad concludes. (TD)