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Harro van Dam, Carsol Europe, the Netherlands

"Our large-scale pot and substrate blueberry cultivation in Portugal makes us unique"

Carsol Europe's blueberry season in Portugal is about to start. In recent years, the Dutch cultivation company has invested heavily in two Portuguese cultivation sites. One is in the southern town of Odemira (90 hectares), the other just south of Lisbon. On that 60 hectares, only organic blueberries are grown.

They grow these berries in pots and substrate. That sets this company's farms apart. "This requires a substantial investment compared to traditional cultivation methods. But it offers great advantages. This way of farming is more efficient and sustainable," says Harro van Dam. "For example, we expect to save 35% water by growing the blueberries in pots." .

Available straight from the source
"We harvested the first volumes there last week. But, these are still very limited. The Portuguese season will really take off soon. That's at the end of March, beginning of April. We can guarantee our European retail clients four months of availability directly from the source. That's thanks to our two farms," says Harro.

"Portugal's season is similar to that of Huelva, in Spain. But Portugal's temperate climate means ripening is spread out a bit more than in Spain. We can continue for longer too." Besides the standard varieties, Carsol also focuses on exclusive larger, tastier varieties. Most also have a better shelf life.

The overseas berry season is now drawing to a close at the company's European sales office in the Netherlands. "It was a good season. COVID-19 did offer us some challenges. In Chile, for example, it wasn't easy to get enough pickers. During the season's peak, we have a 2,000-strong workforce."

"If 25% fewer of these people are available, it has a significant impact. At some point, you then get situations where the fruit remains on the plant longer than it should. Or you have to harvest more by machine for the industry," Harro explains.

"There were also the necessary supply issues. That was due to shipping delays. But it also meant the market ran empty before the next shipment arrived. As a result, there were no huge berry stocks. Prices didn't drop to a low point this year either. We've had hardly any quality problems this season. This month we'll receive the last containers from Peru. Then the overseas season will be over."

Focus on organic farming
Organic farming is one of Carsol's clear focal points. "Demand is still increasing," says Van Dam. "We're focusing heavily on these products. Not only from Portugal but certainly from Chile and Peru as well."

Carsol Europe sells 95% of its blueberries to Northern European retailers. "That's where our locally-grown model fits best. Our clients can buy directly from the source. But at the same time, they can stay flexible. Many retailers need to be so, locally. We've grown in all our major sales markets this past year. We're not yet as well-known in Southern Europe. So, we see the necessary expansion opportunities there," concludes Harro.

For more information:
CarSol Europe
Vlaardingen, the Netherlands
Tel: +31 (0) 107 632 683
Harro van Dam:   
Roberto Latorre: rlatorre@carsoleurope.n
Roelant Komen: 
Genesis Kester-Emers: 

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