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Belgium The future of the apple trade

Many growers in Holland and Belgium tend to see Poland’s apple production as a threat. Some of them state that there can be a future in hard fruit still, but that some changed have to be made.

Laurent Beckers van Belgian fruit company Herwi finds it odd that the EU is shooting itself in the foot by stimulating Polish trade the way it does. “Production in Poland grows every year. Over here, I’m struggling, but if I set up business in Poland 75% of my costs are covered by government support. That I don’t understand. I’m all in favour of Polish growers doing well, but not at our expense.”

Supplier Jackie Boussier of Boussier agrees. “Polish producers get CAP subsidy, causing our producers to suffer.” Boussier doesn’t think moving activities to Poland is a realistic option: “We have shared our expertise with Poland and now they don’t need us anymore. There’s no point.”

“The only thing left to do is to distinguish yourself in quality,” says Boussier. “Fact is, the quality of Belgian produce is still better than that of Eastern Europe. Pears in particular, like the Conférence, are not something that Poland or Russia can compete with. Unfortunately this quality isn’t always promoted by retailers. My experience is that proper care and presentation of fresh produce is often neglected by wholesalers and supermarkets. That way you lose some of your investment. A lot of hard work is undone.”

Exporters, they say, have to explore new territory, create new markets. “We see some opportunities in places like India, Brazil and Kazakhstan,” says Beckers. Boussier is searching for new outlets in Africa. “There is some room there, but not much. Finding a niche there is precarious business.”

As far as the future is concerned, EU legislation is called into question: “Europe has to determine where the limits of CAP subsidy lie.”

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