"The weather entirely determines our fruit sales," says Ellen Sebrechts of the Belgian company of the same name. "March, April, and May are the true high season when prices were excellent. Anticipation of the upcoming vacation has been noticeable for the past few weeks. But, because the weather's so great, the past week has still been hectic."
"People are going on vacation more, post-COVID. So, we'll have to wait and see how the summer vacation goes," says Ellen. There is currently a big switch in the market to cherries, she sees. "Everyone's switched. March and April are when everyone wants strawberries, but that's getting a little harder now. Supply has halved, so prices have shot up. Our customers who came for strawberries are now all choosing cherries."
She says that just about all the cherries being of good quality is a major reason for this change. "We already had Spanish and French cherries, which are of great quality. Now we've added Belgian cherries, and here, too, there's nothing to complain about," adds Ellen. However, the large supply of high-quality fruit does affect prices. "There's a large supply coming onto the market from three sides, so prices are dropping quickly. In a price war like this, Belgian consumers will always opt for the best quality. In Belgium, quality still trumps price."
Tough start for Spanish stone fruit and melons
This wholesaler's assortment currently includes plenty of local soft and Spanish stone fruit. "With blueberries and redcurrants, the 500g packages are doing particularly well. People prefer the larger punnets, which are, obviously, proportionally cheaper. The current raspberry supply is causing those prices to drop sharply. Across the board, however, we have no complaints about quality," says Sebrechts.
However, this season, the Spanish stone fruit got off to a tough start. "The adverse weather means smaller volumes came from Spain. Plus, the quality was somewhat lower. We're now starting with nectarines, which are simply delicious. It's, therefore, slowly recovering; the rest of the stone fruit is also selling better and better."
"Spanish melons started very pricey, but larger volumes are beginning to come onto the market. They started a little later this year," Ellen continues. This year, these coincide with the arrival of Belgian melons, which Sebrechts also has in its range. "People are becoming more familiar with these small, very tasty melons from Tomeco."
"But they're now coming at the same time as the Spanish ones, which are also top-notch. We'll have to wait and see what that means. We'll have the Belgian melons available by the end of this week. Coöperatie Hoogstraten has already widely advertised them, and we've already had a few queries about when they'll be available," she says.
Everything all year-round
Ellen has also noticed that, nowadays, people want the assortment to include all kinds of fruit all year round. "For example, this winter, our white grapes sold well. The quality was good. Now, some lower-quality volumes are coming in from Egypt and India, but everyone still wants them. Even if something is more expensive or less tasty than in full season, you still want to be able to offer it to clients. Simply because people expect you to have everything throughout the year. So, for some products, the seasons seem to be less important," she concludes.