Reichenau, June 2021. Sales slumps in the food service sector, but also the entry ban on harvest workers from other EU countries shortly before the start of the 2020 fresh vegetable season, presented major challenges for Reichenau-Gemüse eG in the first year of the Corona pandemic. The cooperative's sales nevertheless increased. Consumers are rediscovering organic-quality vegetables during the crisis, and sustainably produced regional fresh vegetables are gaining new appreciation.
The Corona pandemic also brought some challenges for the system-relevant supplier Reichenau-Gemüse eG. After the entry ban for harvest laborers from other EU countries took place shortly before the start of the German 2020 vegetable season, the comprehensive efforts for pandemic prevention characterized the entire cultivation year at Reichenau-Gemüse eG. This made itself felt not only at the cooperative but also at the individual 60 member farms through a disproportionately high increase in personnel and production costs, and ensured high cost pressure.
The closures of the catering and hotel business and, as a consequence, the decline in the wholesale business, which specializes in supplying the catering trade, caused a drop in sales for Reichenau-Gemüse eG, which fortunately could be compensated by increased sales in the retail trade and weekly markets.
Despite a lack of harvest workers, temporary border closures and lockdown-related supply bottlenecks, the producer organization, which consists of 60 member farms and 80 employees at the central marketing facility on the island of Reichenau, was able to consistently supply customers and partners in the food retail trade with seasonal fresh produce from the island and the gardener settlements in Hegau.
Sales climbed to a total of 28.5 million euros in 2020
The vegetable cooperative's pure sales totaled 28.5 million euros. Compared to fiscal 2019 (€27.8 million), sales increased by 2.4% year-on-year. Around half of the value-based sales came from the gardeners' cooperatives in Singen/Beuren, Aach and Mühlingen. Despite a lack of harvest workers and the resulting lower harvest yields in all major crops, Reichenau-Gemüse eG was able to achieve producer prices in line with the market for its affiliated member farms, especially at the beginning of the season.
New appreciation for sustainably produced regional fresh vegetables
However, Johannes Bliestle, managing director of Reichenau-Gemüse eG, is very pleased about one specific development during the Corona pandemic: "The new trend towards home cooking means that very many consumers are rediscovering and appreciating nearby, sustainable cultivation, short delivery times and top-fresh vegetable specialties, very often of organic quality, along the seasonal calendar!"
It has meant that consumers in Germany are increasingly opting for organic products. According to a survey on the Ökobarometer 2020 by the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MBEL), 32% of consumers frequently buy organic products.
More regional organic vegetables from southern Germany
Thus, the decision to increase the organic share from 40% in 2020 to 50% in 2021 is consistent and forward-looking, says Johannes Bliestle. "When it comes to organic, we are one of the leading producer organizations in Germany and have been able to continuously increase the organic share of our produce in recent years. In 2020, we will have supplied people with 4 million kilograms of high-quality organic vegetables, and almost exclusively of organic and Naturland quality."
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78479 Insel Reichenau
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78479 Insel Reichenau