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Charlotte Buyck, Calsa:

"After a challenging fall, leek prices are low due to good growing weather and milder temperatures"

At Calsa, they are looking forward to the upcoming summer season. The abundant fall rain made it challenging for many Belgian winter products, like cabbage, leek, and celeriac. But, as Charlotte Buyck from the Flemish exporter states, "Fall was still fairly reasonable; we could move our winter vegetables well."

Charlotte Buyck, Jeroen Buyck and Pol Dendauw

In the fall, the news was full of images of flooded fields in Flanders and Northern France. "It started raining in October and essentially didn't stop until the end of the year. Growers struggled to harvest their leeks, and the prices reflected that."

"In January, everything arrived at once. It was suddenly freezing, and there was plenty of demand for, for example, cabbage and leeks. These are important product groups for us in the winter. Despite the extremely unfortunate, always regrettable, consequences for growers and the resulting higher prices, we can't really say that it went badly," says Charlotte.

Export product
However, this sector always depends on the weather, as evidenced by the leek market's turnaround in February. "Temperatures were much milder and conducive to growth. In the past two months, more market supply combined with less demand rapidly reduced prices."

"Producer prices are slightly low for this time of year. So, things changed quickly, and the market is now difficult, sales-wise. Yet, Belgian leeks remain a strong export product. Spain and France have good local markets in the spring, but I think people will always want the quality of Belgian leeks," Charlotte explains.

She says these challenges have extended to celeriac. "After the New Year, we had unexpected frost, which caused quite a panic. With some effort, we could still harvest, but here, and also with white cabbage, it was hard to get everything off the field. These were genuinely unprecedented scenes, but most of these products have thankfully been harvested."

"Now, we must wait and see how the wet conditions will affect the quality, especially in long-term storage. No crop benefits from too much rain, certainly not for an extended period. So, we're waiting to see how everything comes out of storage. That's something we must face, but that's always the fear after such a fall," Charlotte admits.

Dependent on the weather
Yet, she remains optimistic. "It was a tough time for growers and traders alike, but I think we dealt with it well. Ultimately, our sector depends on the weather. Even now, in the spring, it's quite wet. Everyone is quietly hoping it will dry up so we can start preparing for the new season. It's too early to start panicking, but hopefully, everyone can start getting ready for the planting season in time."

"We love the local product, so we'll deal with things as they come. However, you can conclude that long periods of drought have alternated with extreme rainfall in recent years. That naturally causes some frustration. Especially for growers who are also confronted with certain deadlines from Europe," says Buyck.

"You can't grow according to the calendar; you must follow the weather. You must look at the land to see if you can start harvesting. Our sector has indeed become somewhat more vulnerable, and it's essential that those making the decisions, especially, realize that."

Beautiful summer season
For now, Charlotte and Calsa are looking forward to another beautiful summer season. "It's still a bit early for the true summer range," she says. "We've already cautiously started with some of the greenhouse assortment, such as strawberries, cherry tomatoes, and eggplants."

"But we'll get the large volumes in a few weeks. The leek market should also strengthen again. It's all a little unpredictable because you depend on what the producers are preparing. I, however, believe the summer will be great. We're eagerly anticipating it; it's always a wonderful time of the year," Charlotte concludes.

For more information:
Charlotte Buyck
9b Roeselaarse Street
8850, Ardooie, Belgium
Tel.: +32 (0) 51 747 374

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