It is quiet on Brussels' early market. Groothandel Michel nv, specializing in strawberries, awaits December's larger volumes. "We can sell, but the summer crop has almost completely run out. The Sonatas from the winter crop are starting to trickle in, but there aren't large volumes yet," says Stefan Bosmans.

That is driving prices up considerably. "There's demand, but you'll pay around €8 for a 500g tray this week. Those are sky-high prices for the time of year. There's not much overseas supply, either. There have been some Egyptian strawberries on the Belgian market since last week but at €4.50 per 500 grams."

"The quality of these is always slightly lower, so we still opt for Belgian and Dutch products. The Spanish supply also isn't yet on the market, so strawberries will remain expensive for now. Towards the holidays, they always get more popular for a while, so I hope we'll have access to some more volumes then," Stefan explains.

Other soft fruit is selling quite well, too. "We currently get most of our raspberries from Portugal, and their quality is truly excellent. They're slightly pricier, but people are willing to pay a bit more for that quality. Then we have Peruvian blueberries. Even though somewhat less product seems to be coming to Europe, we work with good trading prices."

There is not much to complain about, business-wise, says the wholesaler. Groothandel Michel, though, is slowly becoming a unicorn at the Mabru market. Where many wholesalers center themselves under a single group, the strawberry specialist remains independent.

"That's how we want it," says Bosmans. "It's hard to keep swimming among the big fish, but we don't want to depend on any brand, cooperative, or umbrella group. That, I think, is also one of our strengths, and it's working well so far."

That is evident from the fact that early this year, the company took over fellow wholesaler Valckenier. "We were a good match, and it fitted in well with our growth model. We're delighted with how the integration went. Now we employ 12 people and, thus, should hold our own nicely for a while," Stefan concludes.

For more information:
Stefan Bosmans
Groothandel Michel nv
22-23 Werkhuizenkaai
Warehouse E123/124/129/130
1000, Brussels, Belgium
Tel.: +32 (0) 224 17 044