"The good weather forecast is contributing to the rising demand for greenhouse vegetables," says Barry Michiels of Gebroeders Michiels in Belgium. "Prices have been dismal for the past fortnight but are now gradually increasing."
The exporter, who mostly has customers on the German wholesale markets, admits the prices are not anything special yet. "We prefer good rather than cheap prices. That way, both the producers and the exporters can make a bit of money."
"Supply-wise, there are more than enough tomatoes, zucchini, bell peppers, and eggplants for the next few weeks." There is not currently much competition from foreign products, according to Barry. "Last month, there was still some evidence of that. But by now, all that produce has disappeared from the market," he says.
At Gebroeders Michiels, until last week, it was mainly the lettuce varieties that were faring exceptionally well. "Now, however, the outdoor supply from the Netherlands, Belgium, and Germany is building up again. So, more volumes are coming back to the market, resulting in prices halving this week."
LAVA, the umbrella cooperative of Belgian fruit and vegetable producer organizations, too, reports that greenhouse vegetable volumes have risen sharply in recent weeks. They run through their greenhouse vegetable supply in their market update. For tomatoes, there are large numbers, both loose and vine, at auctions. Zucchini production is starting to ramp up, and prices, thus, remain fairly stable.
As for winter cauliflower, the transition to greenhouse cultivation is well underway, and prices are picking up. The leek season is ending, and volumes are decreasing while prices are rising slightly. Lamb's lettuce prices are highly volatile, with varying daily supplies. The asparagus season is about to peak, so these are available in abundance at stable prices. The chicory supply is steadily declining, and prices remain very consumer-friendly.
Barry says specialties remain noticeably popular. "Demand for mini cucumbers, for example, increases every year. And small and colored tomatoes are doing very well again this year. People are becoming more familiar with them, so interest continues to grow."
"Our biggest challenges are delivering quality at good prices and maintaining customer service. Here, transport is becoming the toughest link in our sector. The labor shortage means there'll be driver shortages. You, therefore, need to provide good working conditions and take care of your drivers. Otherwise, ensuring that quality and reliability becomes increasingly hard," Barry concludes.