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Michiel Vermeiren, Coöperatie Hoogstraten:

"The season will start again properly for us at the start of March"

After a long winter period during which Coöperatie Hoogstraten worked with 10 percent of volume compared to other years, the first larger volumes of Hoogstraten strawberries are slowly but surely coming back into sight. "We have one grower harvesting now, but at the beginning of March, the season can really start again for us. From next week, the first new crops will quietly come into production," says Michiel Vermeiren of Coöperatie Hoogstraten.

Coöperatie Hoogstraten celebrated its 90th anniversary at the last Fruit Logistica with an event at its newly designed stand.
TV chef Roger van Damme had framed the event with pralines based on Hoogstraten strawberries for the occasion. This anniversary came at a time when the cooperative has experienced one of its most challenging winters in a long time, but the end seems to be in sight now. "In terms of plantings, we are seeing the same pattern as other seasons. The past few months, January and February, have been rather dark, so next week's predicted sunny weather is certainly welcome. In fact, at the moment, it seems to be a bit slower to get going. Based on the info we are getting from the growers, and the extension, we can assume at the moment that the season start of the exposed and unlit crops will be fairly staggered."

And production is actually not a moment too soon, as the market seems to be craving strawberries from local crops. Due to climatic problems in southern Europe and northern Africa, supplies of the soft fruit are stagnating, and prices are rising to high levels. "Moreover, we notice a demand from our customers for the familiar quality again, which people seem to appreciate more than the southern European product anyway. It's nice to finally be able to get back to full swing with our growers and customers." The 'official' season launch in Hoogstraten with the symbolic 1st printing is scheduled for 31 March. The radio advert will also be revamped to further attract consumers to Hoogstraten Strawberries."

The team from Coöperatie Hoogstraten at the last Fruit Logistica

Heading into next season, Coöperatie Hoogstraten expects fewer problems in exposed cultivation. "Based on the current energy prices, we expect more growers to light their greenhouses again next year. But it remains an expectation because if we learned one thing last season, it is that no cost can yet be predicted."

To herald the 'restart' of the season, the national Strawberry study day, organized by the Department of Agriculture & Fisheries in cooperation with Proefcentrum Hoogstraten, was already held at the cooperative in early February. There, current and future challenges were discussed, and the drive for circularity in cultivation was established by some 190 participants.

For more information:
Coöperatie Hoogstraten 
Loenhoutseweg 59 
2320 Hoogstraten, Belgium
Tel.: +32 33 40 02 11      

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