Last Wednesday, many Dutch and Belgian fruit growers attended the Bonita Day at TripleF Fruit in the Netherlands. They were received in the Experience Center. In Benelux, Apple Select - a Cuvelier Fruit (Belgium) and TripleF Fruit (The Netherlands) collaboration - owns the Bonita apple variety. This partnership focuses on developing new apple varieties for the Dutch and Belgian markets.
"The day went well," reflects Matthijs Nijhoff. "We had a nice turnout, and there was great enthusiasm for the variety. Apple Select works with parties such as Fruitconsult and Wageningen University. But also with Veiling Zaltbommel, whose members are welcome to plant Bonita. I'm proud of this cooperation with groups that can strengthen each other. After the meeting, Fruitconsult's cultivation advisors and we visited the Oskam orchard where several hectares of this promising variety are planted."
"The Bonita apple is a Topaz/Cripps Pink cross. I see Bonita as a true apple of the future with a good flavor, beautiful color, hard bite, and displays well. The variety's strong features are that it's more frost and scab resistant, less prone to fruit tree cancer, and has an excellent shelf-life. The Bonita is sweet, fresh, and crisp, the ideal combination for an apple. It's also sustainably grown, which makes it popular with everyone. It's a tangy, local apple." Matthijs continues.
In Europe, Bonita cultivation currently covers 360 hectares, with 35 in Benelux. "That's definitely not enough in the Benelux to provide the right retailers with sufficient product. But, there's plenty of growth potential."
"With European coverage, we can already offer this apple for at least seven to eight months. We also have deals in Chile, South Africa, and New Zealand so we can have a year-round supply," explains Matthijs.
Can be cultivated organically too
"You could even grow this apple organically like in Italy, where that's done on about 120 hectares. Given the regulations the sector faces as 2020 approaches, you can offer a fantastic alternative to some growers. These are presently cultivating club varieties that will soon no longer be grown in the Netherlands. It was good to see that many growers showed interest in the Bonita variety."
"Also because the regular variety market seems to be saturated. And it's becoming increasingly challenging to cultivate those varieties. The Bonita offers them a variety that's ready for the sustainability goals being imposed on us. We're explicitly using this apple as an alternative to the current club varieties, like the European Fuji. Though, it's certainly an alternative to the less expensive Jonagold, too," Nijhoff adds.
For marketing, the focus is on local. Here, says Mattijs, sales to Dutch and Belgian retailers are key to reaching consumers. "We also market premium varieties such as Pink Lady, so we know what shoppers, but also growers, want. The top fruit sector is in dire straits. At first glance, it's logical not to invest in new varieties. But let's be honest, say the Dutch sector only focused on Elstar and Jonagold, the latter of which can be grown much more cheaply in Eastern Europe, you have to wonder if it's worth continuing ahead like that."
"That's exactly why Apple Select decided to think twice in these difficult times. We rebranded ourselves with an excellent alternative that can go directly to local consumers. One that creates real opportunities. Our vision of the market is one where growers have healthy cost prices and can invest in the future, but at the same time, the fruit has to be affordable for the general public," says Matthis.
"So we don't consider the Bonita a Pink Lady or Jazz, but an integral cultivation concept aimed directly at customers." He is optimistic about the new season. "The expectations for the coming season are good. We're looking forward to a good productive season. But as you know, anything can happen before the fruit's harvested, so fingers crossed," he concludes.
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